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THE NBA IN CANADA When the city of Toronto was granted an NBA franchise the team was faced with a very unique challenge How can a team which plays a winter sport effectively market itself in a hockey-crazed country Although basketball was popular in small pockets around the province despite the lack of an NBA team most sports fans were hockey fans first and foremost Critics claimed that Canadian teams lacked the essential requirements to sustain a successful NBA franchise and would struggle just to stay afloat in the corporate dominated sports world Despite the recent demise of the Vancouver Grizzlies the Toronto Raptors have overcome the widely held belief that a Canadian city could not adequately support an NBA franchise They have accomplished this task through effective marketing to fans strong corporate partnerships and effective management of player salaries One of the main concerns of the NBA was that Canada lacked sufficient fan support and would not be able to provide enough revenue to continue operation But as the Raptors enter into their sixth year of operation fan support and revenue is at an all-time high Situated in the recently constructed Air Canada Centre the Raptors drew an average of 19 348 fans a game last season just 552 short of capacity By winning games the Raptors have established a strong and loyal fan base that continues to grow as Canadians gradually learn about the game of basketball The fan support is not just evident in Canada but has also spread across the border at a frantic pace Vince Carter of the Raptors has blossomed into one of the leagues brightest young stars and has played a major role in making the Raptors the sixth best road attraction in the NBA By signing their marquee player to a long-term contract the Raptors have fortified a team that almost made the Eastern Conference finals last season and increased the value of their
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