For the first time, the NBA champions are from Canada. And, to the surprise of many, the man who invented the sport is from there too.
The Toronto Raptors won Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors to become NBA champions, and all across Canada fans are celebrating the historic victory.
About a four-hour drive from the Raptor’s home city, the small town of Almonte, Ontario, gathered to watch the game live, as they had for two other games in the series. They were especially proud, they said, because they have a special connection to basketball.
James Naismith, the man who invented the game in 1891, was born there.
Almonte Mayor Christa Lowry told CNN that Naismith grew up on a farm just outside of the town and attended the local high school.
He didn’t invent the game in Ontario, that would come when he was a physical education teacher at what is now Springfield College in Massachusetts. He said in an audio recording that he nailed up peach baskets to the wall and made teams to try to get an old soccer ball into them to quell rowdy students who couldn’t go outside to play while it was snowing.
The students asked to play again, and then Naismith said he had to make up some rules to form a game.
“He didn’t make millions from it,” Lowry said. “He invented the game because he wanted to keep young men busy in the winter.”
In just 10 years, the sport had spread all over the country, Naismith said. By 1936, it was debuted in the Summer Olympics in Berlin.
But wherever the game officially shaped, the town is proud to have a piece of the origin story.
“We wear it very proudly on our sleeves that we are the hometown of basketball,” Lowry said. “It’s a really special time to share Canadian basketball with the country and the world.”
Lowry said that with one team in the NBA, the whole country is behind the Raptors. She says that now they are Canada’s team.
CNN’s Jill Martin and Paula Newton contributed to this report.