Montreal has been declared a basketball city by its own city council, and that makes sense considering it has a team in the national league, thousands of fans and three homegrown players in the NBA.
However, those three players came from the borough of Montréal-Nord where community advocates have been lamenting the lack of public sports facilities for years.
Declaring Montreal a basketball city is a good first step, but now it is time to invest in the community and ensure local kids have the resources they need to develop as athletes, said Sacha-Wilky Merazil, a community activist who is pushing to develop basketball facilities in Montréal-Nord.
"We have a lack of sports facilities in Montréal-Nord, and particularly in Montreal East," said Merazil.
"We need funding to build a sports centre."
Such a project has been discussed for some time, and still no concrete plans have been made at the municipal level.
Montréal-Nord residents spoke out earlier this year after the promised sports and recreation centre was placed on the back burner indefinitely, left out of the city's budget.
A CBC data analysis from October 2021 revealed a lack of access to sports and recreational facilities in low-income neighbourhoods in Montreal.
Merazil said east end neighbourhoods need a master plan for developing sports facilities, and the upper levels of government should be supporting such projects.
"A lot of citizens in east end Montreal feel really abandoned," he said.
'Let's be proud' of being basketball city, Plante says
On Twitter Monday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the municipal council unanimously adopted the motion to recognize the importance of basketball in the city.
"More than ever, Montreal is seen as a basketball city, and that's great news," she said. "Let's be proud of it!"
Basketball continues to grow in popularity around the world and Montreal is no exception, explained Marikym Gaudreault, a spokesperson for the mayor, in an email.
"Its accessibility and inclusiveness make it a sport of choice and the city is proud to support a number of initiatives in this regard," she said.
The motion was aimed at highlighting the positive impact of "this sport on the community and the vibrant projects that emerge from it."
Montreal's basketball history is 'rich'
And those impacts have been felt on the international level.
"We have always had great basketball players here in our city," said Dwight Walton, a former Canadian National Team member and basketball commentator. "Our history is rich."
It's about time Montreal recognized the local interest in basketball throughout the city, province and the rest of Canada. The sport is growing quickly with the success of the Toronto Raptors, and now the Montreal Alliance playing Canadian Elite Basketball for the first time this season.
It wasn't a great season as the team finished last, but audience attendance was one of the best in the league with nearly 3,000 fans showing up to games on average.
"The atmosphere was fantastic," said Walton about the team's first season, with fans showing up in droves to watch the games in person or online.
There is a groundswell of support for an NBA team to come to Montreal, said Walton, noting tickets to professional games sell out in minutes. Now it's time to put politics aside and make basketball a success in the city, he said.
"Basketball is on the rise and Montreal deserves an NBA franchise," he said.