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Just how big a deal is the All Native Basketball Tournament?

The 62nd edition of the Prince Rupert event feels very special after being cancelled last year
For your consideration - Thom Barker

You’ve probably heard that the All Native Basketball Tournament held annually in Prince Rupert is a big deal.

But until you’ve actually been here, you have no idea just how big a deal it is.

Here’s just a few tidbits to give you an inkling.

The tournament is such a big deal, it has a permanent office on the main drag (Third Avenue) of the city, which is open year-round, except during the week of the event.

This year’s edition is the 62nd time the thing has been played.

In 2022, there are 52 teams in four divisions from all over the province and beyond competing for hardwood glory on two courts. By Sunday a total of 190 games will have been played.

The bleachers in the Main Gym at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre where the tourney is held were bought and paid for by the ANBT.

The portable floor they install in the arena used to be the floor for the NBA’s Vancouver Grizzlies practice facility in Richmond B.C.

By the end of the week, people end up having to park all the way up McBride Street (Hwy 16) and along Ninth Avenue because the civic centre parking lot is overflowing.

This was my first time covering this event and even after Day 1, I knew I was in for a very special experience.

The tournament is so much more than a sporting event, although there is some top-notch basketball being played. It is a celebration of culture, an expression of pride, an outlet for healing.

I have to admit, I felt very white there amongst the thousands of Indigenous faces, an expression, perhaps, of my inherent, middle-class, Catholic, liberal guilt.

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But I also felt very welcome, for which I am grateful to all the many Nations represented here.

This year, I feel particularly lucky for the opportunity to be here. I don’t know for certain, because I haven’t experienced it before, but after the tournament was cancelled last year, it feels particularly festive this year.

But moreover, despite a few nods to the COVID-19 pandemic — checking vaccine passports and a small minority of people still wearing masks — it just feels somehow normal.

Bottom line: If you live in Northwest B.C. and have not attended ANBT, put it on your bucket list. In fact, there is still time to get in on this year’s festivities.

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Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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