Photos by Owais Qureshi
Vacay.ca Sports Photographer
MIAMI, FLORIDA — On Monday night, I turned to my brother-in-law and said, “You know, we’ll never have this in Toronto.”
He and I were watching Game 6 of the NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. We’d arrived by plane a couple of hours before tip-off and paid just $2 to hop on a commuter train that shuttled us straight to the venue, where we reached our seats just in time for a basketball game that will rank among the best ever played. At halftime, we checked out one of the arena’s outdoor plazas that feature a spectacular view of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami. Fans congregate to enjoy a cold drink in the hot June night and listen to cool tunes from a live band before hurrying back in for the second half.
The building was raucous, the stars were out in force, the electricity was manic. It was all enough to make a Torontonian mad with jealousy.
Living in Toronto, I’m starved for serious sports action. The hopes of ever seeing the Raptors doing what the Miami Heat or San Antonio Spurs have been doing for the past 10 days — namely, competing relentlessly for a championship — is nothing but an Xbox fantasy. Given the Maple Leafs‘ historic collapse in the first round of this year’s NHL Finals, who knows what will happen with that team in the future. The Blue Jays are on an eight-game winning streak, but they’re still in last place.
So, when I got a chance to see LeBron James and Dwyane Wade take on Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, I grabbed onto the ticket as if it were a rebound in the final minute. The experience of seeing a championship battle at the highest level of any sport is riveting. Even more so when the two teams are as evenly matched and highly skilled as the Heat and Spurs.
Sitting a few rows from the court, I was able to snap photographs throughout the game, which the Heat won, 103-100, in overtime to tie the series and force Game 7. Through the lens, you can take in the action from a perspective that shows the emotion and determination of these phenomenal athletes. Whether it’s a grimace from Parker as he drives to the basket or James’ notable sneer when he completes a dunk, these players are fighting with every ounce of muscle they have for a title; in essence, for immortality. They’re battling to the finish and that’s what is great to watch. The crowd feels the effort of what’s happening on the court. Their energy adds to an atmosphere that is bursting with passion for victory. At momentous sports events such as this, you can’t help but participate and be moved by surroundings you’re fortunate to be part of.
At this time of year, many Canadian sports fans are wondering when we might again see a Game 7 in our nation. The last time was two years ago, when the Vancouver Canucks lost at home to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals, setting off an infamous night of rioting and arson in the streets of the west coast city. Before that contest, there hadn’t been a Game 7 in any major sport played in Canada since 1987, when Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers beat the visiting Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup.
We are overdue, as we all know. But the prospects for a championship series with a calibre of competition similar to what we are seeing in both the NBA and NHL this June don’t appear strong for Canada. Instead, we may have to admire what happens in the United States from a distance for years to come. If we’re lucky, maybe now and then we can score a ticket to a big game. If that moment comes, cherish it.
Game 7 of the NBA Finals is Thursday night in San Antonio (9 pm ET, TSN). Wish I could be there.