Basketball legend Clyde Drexler, NBA Big Tour deliver slam dunk in Scarborough

“The Raptors will make the playoffs this year.”

When a champ — one the NBA has acknowledged as among the best of all time — speaks, crowds take notice. Especially when that champ is Clyde (The Glide) Drexler and he’s talking about the hometown Toronto Raptors.

The NBA Hall-of-Famer and member of basketball’s original 1992 U.S. Dream Team landed in Scarborough on Sept. 28 as a key draw of the NBA Big Tour. The tour’s stop at Scarborough Town Centre also featured the NBA’s Larry O’Brien Championship trophy and the Raptors’ dance pack and mascot.

“People get more exposure, not only to the greats, but to the game,” said Drexler, who signed autographs for fans. “They get to see players they see on TV and it enhances their love of the game.”

Wheelchair basketball, an facet of the game not always showcased but equally as competitive, was also part of the event, something Drexler said he was happy to see.

“Everyone gets a chance to participate,” he said. “It’s all inclusive and that’s what the NBA is about.”

The Canadian men’s national wheelchair basketball team is currently ranked first in the world, thanks in part to a gold medal at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

The NBA Big Tour has also visited other cities across Canada, including Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. With the Raptors holding their training camp in Halifax this year, Jonathan Chang, associate director of events and marketing for NBA Canada, said it was a good chance to bring the event to Scarborough.

“The Raptors do a great job of marketing the sport in the Greater Toronto Area and since the people of Nova Scotia were getting an NBA experience, we decided to go to another smaller market that would get to experience the NBA first hand,” Chang said.

The Scarborough stop comes at an exciting time for basketball in both Toronto, which was recently awarded the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, and across the country, he said.

“Right now there is a lot of excitement about basketball in Canada, there is a greater familiarity with our stars,” Chang said. “Joel Anthony just won championships with the Miami Heat over the last two years. Steve Nash won two NBA MVP awards (in 2005 and 2006) and Anthony Bennett was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers at the 2013 NBA Draft.”

The NBA Big Tour’s next stop is set for Montreal later this month.