The Canadian basketball scene is growing in Toronto, and it’s not just on the hard court.
On Saturday, Toronto’s professional NBA 2K League team Raptors Uprising GC in partnership with Tangerine hosted a Finals Viewing Party at the Bell Fibe House, the home of its players along the Lakeshore, where fans and local competitors gathered to enjoy an afternoon full of NBA 2K entertainment.
In addition to a living room live stream of the NBA 2K League Finals, those in attendance were treated to complimentary food, drinks, and an exclusive in-person seat to watch the finale of Raptors Uprising’s FIVEs for $5k in the VI series that has taken place over the course of the summer. Raptors Uprising and their partners like Tangerine have been hosting popup gameplay events around the city where teams could compete to earn points to qualify for the $5,000 finals.
And what an engaging finals it turned out to be on Saturday.
Hosted by second-year players Kenny Got Work and TsJosh live on stream, local teams Witness The Grind and 6GL battled it out in a best-of-three series at the Bell Fibe House where both sides were ecstatic with the exclusive, behind-the-scenes experience.
“It was a fantastic opportunity for us, especially to showcase ourselves,” said Witness The Grind’s Harsminder “Dhuggz” Dhugga, who also currently plays with PS4 Pro-Am team Self Taught. “The setup was great. The connection [at the house] was just amazing. The timing on our release was better for our jump shots. I mean, right when you start playing, you can tell the difference with our movement.”
In the end, Witness The Grind got the better of 6GL (2-0) to capture the title and take home the handy $5,000 prize money, but as Dhugga mentions, the NBA 2K community as a whole wins with events like this.
“It’s amazing that the community can come together at these events and show that we’re really something,” said Dhugga, who is trying to make the NBA 2K League for the first time in Season 3. “And I believe this is just the beginning of it. We’re really going to grow. Toronto and the 2K community as a whole in Canada is just starting to expand.”
Another player who knows a thing or two about the Bell Fibe House was also in attendance, as local Scarborough-native and former Raptors Uprising player Yusuf “Yusuf_Scarbz” Abdulla joined some of his old housemates to enjoy Saturday’s festivities. The now-Kings Guard Gaming player and a member of the 2019 NBA 2K League All-Defensive Team is thoroughly impressed with how much the game has grown in Canada — especially after witnessing Saturday’s showcase event.
“The 2K community grew bigger this year in Canada, particularly in Toronto,” said Abdulla, who took part in a lot of community events with Raptors Uprising last year. “I’ve seen a couple of top players getting even better and they’re probably as good as [NBA 2K] League players. And I see it just expanding. I think we have five Canadians in the league right now? I see that being maybe 10 in Season 3.
“Last year, I didn’t notice that many Canadian players other than the [NBA 2K] League players. But now, especially when I see some of them play tonight at the [FIVEs for $5k in the VI] tournament, it opens my eyes to that, you know, some of these Canadian competitors out here can really play and they’re hungry to make it to the League.”
One of those players that really opened Abdulla’s eyes was Witness The Grind’s Aidan “Lightskin” Reynolds, who even left some Raptors Uprising professionals impressed after finishing with a staggering 52 points in the second and final game of the night.
“My teammates are really good at setting me up,” said Reynolds, as he broke down his performance after the game. “I just kept ducking behind screens and they just kept finding me off it. Honestly, the player guarding me on the other team gave me a bit too much space — even when I was hitting my shots — so I just kept taking advantage.”
Reynolds, who mentioned that he couldn’t imagine an event like this taking place 10 — or even five — years ago, says these types of competitions hosted by Raptors Uprising allow him to showcase his ability as he also attempts to make the NBA 2K League in Season 3.
“It’s very cool to get the chance to play for $5,000,” said Reynolds. “These types of events are usually for Call of Duty and those types of games. But now that you can win money playing 2K at local competitions here in Toronto, it’s just really cool.”
If Saturday night was cool for Reynolds, it must’ve been a lot of fun for T-Wolves Gaming, who went on to secure $360,000 USD for capturing the NBA 2K League title and officially signal the end of Season 2.
With that said, the grind for Season 3 starts now — and it’s one that’s looking like it could include a lot more Canadian talent.