The basketball court is where many female professional athletes call their workplace, but the legitimacy of their work is overshadowed because of their gender. The sudden loss of ambassadors to the women’s game, Kobe and Gianna Bryant has been a crushing blow on so many levels. For women’s basketball the hopes is their legacy will continue to propel the talent of the athletes and the work of those trying to elevate the women’s game forward until equal footing has been achieved.
A HISTORIC CANADIAN CONTRIBUTION TO WOMENS BASKETBALL
In 2010 over 6,000 fans pack the Air Canada Centre (now Scotia Arena) home of the Toronto Raptors as the girls Rumble in the T-Dot national high school all star game prepared to tip-off. The game was the largest crowd ever for a Canadian high school all star event. In 2004 the event also became only the second national high school all star game in North America to showcase the boys and girls on the same platform. The McDonald All American game was first in 2002. The 2010 All Canada Classic also featured one of the greatest assemblies of Canadian female high school ballers on one court. Including several future European professionals, Canadian Olympians and two WNBA Draft picks Nathalie Achonwa (2014 Indian Fever & 2015 WNBA All Rookie Team) and Michelle Plouffe (2014 Seattle Storm)
It is difficult believe the game would never have happened if event organizers, P.H.A.S.E. 1 Youth Association listened to the naysayer’s and sponsors in 2004. When it was first publicly announced that the All Canada Classic would be including a Girl’s Rumble in the T-Dot national high school all star game as a partner to the boys game, it was received with much skepticism. Many felt the girls game would be too much of a contrast to the faster more athletic boys game. Skeptics also believed fans would skip the girls game and if forced to stay they would leave disappointed. Even potential sponsors chimed in and cautioned they would not increase resources to accommodate a second event. In fear of not getting the full bang for their buck, other potential sponsors passed when they were told they could not put all their resources just into a boys event.
P.H.A.S.E. 1 Youth Association was not an organization exclusive to boys basketball and a celebration without showcasing the amazing girls talent in Canada did not make sense. Ignoring the negative murmurs and concerns for the future of the event, P.H.A.S.E. 1 stayed with the decision to integrate the All Canada Classic. The event moved forward into its 4th year and firmly established itself as Canada’s only national high school all star game and the final destination on Canadian soil for all of the nations top prep players.
The vision of the All Canada Classic was to highlight and celebrate Canadian basketball talent. We had an unspoken understanding that excluding girls in our events wouldn’t be authentic to our vision of providing a platform for ALL eligible players to display their skills and abilities. – Wayne Dawkins, Director P.H.A.S.E. 1
IMPORTANCE OF ACKNOWLEDGING AND CELEBRATING
It’s been eight years since Canada’s longest run national high school all star event, the All Canada Classic played it’s final game at the Air Canada Centre. The alumni of the game consists of over 30 players that have appeared on NBA/WNBA rosters and many who have represented Canada at the Olympics. By revisiting the history of the All Canada Classic-Rumble in the T-Dot we hope to encourage others that create platforms in basketball to also create equal platforms for the upcoming generation of female basketball players.
For the skeptics that may still doubt the possibilities that can come from giving everyone an equal opportunity, the All Canada Classic serve as an example. Each year the girl’s game brought athleticism and intensity in their own special way, earning the respect of the crowd with their competitive play. Games were constantly battling down to the wire. In 2007 the tension in the atmosphere was almost unbearable as the girl’s Rumble in the T-Dot game at the All Canada Classic event went into triple overtime for the second year in a row. The crowd was on the edge of their seats and standing practically the whole game as the West team led by Miss Basketball Canada, Chenel Harris hit jaw-dropping buzzer beaters.
THE TORCH MUST BE CARRIED
The inclusion of a Girls Rumble in the T-Dot all star game is what set the All Canada Classic apart. It is now 2020 and eight years since the All Canada Classic played it’s last all star game. Since ending it’s 12 year run at the Air Canada Centre other national all star games have since emerged in the equity race. In American the Jordan Brand Classic is now in their 6th year hosting a girls game along with the boys. Canada’s post All Canada Classic the Bio Steele All Star Game is entering its second year of providing an equatable platform. With the precedent already set by the McDonald’s All American Game and the All Canada Classic, we can only hope their will never be a move to exclude girls from sharing their talent on the same stage as their male counterparts.
Oprah Winfrey was right in her speech at the 2018 Golden Globes awards when she said that the injustices against women were not only in the entertainment industry. Specifically, in basketball, the playing field of equity has not reached a high enough level but moves are being made in the right direction.
The “WNBA and its Players Association announced a new collective bargaining agreement. The deal will nearly double the top players’ salaries, improve travel accommodations, and guarantee paid maternity leave, among other financial and wellness perks. Things are headed in the right direction, and the table is set for the next generation of women.” – Matt Ellentuck, SBNationhttps://www.sbnation.com/nba/2020/1/28/21111224/kobe-gigi-bryant-womens-basketball-uconn-wnba
IN CELEBRATION OF HISTORY
To celebrate Women’s month and the All Canada Classic’s historic effort for girls basketball our alumni women reminisce and share their memories from their experience at the All Canada Classic event.
I’m proud to be a part of All Canada Classic alumni along with fellow players such as NBA Cleveland Cavalier’s Tristan Thompson and WNBA Indiana Fever’s Natalie Anchonwa. Having a national all-star high school game is vital for the basketball culture to increase interest in the sport, especially with girls. – McKenzie Sigurdson, 2012 ACC Alumni
Canadian WNBA 1st round draft pick Kayla Alexander is also an alumni of the All Canada Classic. Kayla was the second girl to participate in the All Canada Classic Dunk Competition. Her male counterparts helped her practice and encouraged her to join and follow through in the dunk competition. Unfortunately, she never landed the dunk at the event, but she was provided a platform to expand her skill level and display it for many others to see.
The all star games are important because it created a sense of community for the players. Girls from all over Canada would be invited to play in the games and forge friendships that carried on when they went on to play higher levels of basketball. – Kayla Alexander (WNBA), 2007, 2008 ACC Alumni
The Canadian female baller that was the face of the first All Canada Classic -Girls Rumble in the T-Dot all star game is former professional and Canadian Olympian Alisha Tatham.
“Social media wasn’t as huge as it is today, you would hear whispers about the different talent throughout the city or country and how great these athletes are. The All Canada Classic was a time to come together and really get to see what all the hype was about. You got to see the best players in the country go head to head, and to be apart of an atmosphere of people who love the game it ultimately made the weekend that much better. The All Canada classic was one of those events you couldn’t miss, you were either vying for a spot to either be in it or watch it.” – Alisha Tatham (Canadian Olympian), 2004 ACC Alumni
In closing Kayla Alexander talks about a social media trend that resonates with her called the #seeher campaign with the philosophy “if you can see her, you can be her.” Like Oprah, Kayla says that even though this campaign is meant for the women who work in media that it can be applied to sports as well. As the global community expands the saying “seeing is believing” is going to become an important staple in many upcoming equity movements. In the words of professional basketball player Kayla Alexander “So much positivity can come simply from equality…”