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GLOBL JAM an 'ambitious' part of Canada Basketball's plan

GLOBL JAM, the brand-new event announced by Canada Basketball on Tuesday, has been top of mind for Michael Bartlett for a while now.
Canada's Aaliyah Edwards (15) goes up for the shot against the Dominican Republic during second half action of FIBA Women's Olympic Pre Qualifying Tournaments Americas 2019, in Edmonton on Nov. 17, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

GLOBL JAM, the brand-new event announced by Canada Basketball on Tuesday, has been top of mind for Michael Bartlett for a while now.

Even before he joined Canada Basketball as chief operating officer last February, Bartlett was told to start thinking big. 

"It was kind of a Day 1 conversation for me," said Bartlett, who became the organization's CEO and president in October following the retirement of Glen Grunwald.  "It was made clear to me as I was interviewing to join Canada Basketball through last winter that this was a goal of the organization."

Taking place from July 5-10 in Toronto, GLOBL JAM is an international under-23 basketball invitational tournament for men and women.

A Canadian national 3X3 tournament will also be held at Yonge-Dundas square and will feature festivities "that celebrate the intersection of sport, art, and culture," according to a statement released by Canada Basketball.

"We need to be in the event business," Bartlett said. "So, we've got to create our own opportunities so that we can bring our players to play more often, so that we can bring our fans to games in Canada to cheer more often."

Canada Basketball has historically had financial problems — attracting homegrown NBA stars to play for the national men's team has been cost prohibitive in the past due to high insurance fees --- but if GLOBL JAM is successful, it could become a major revenue-generator for Canadian hoops. 

"That's where every dollar that we raise on this net is going back into. Making us better competitively," Bartlett said.

GLOBL JAM is an extension of a partnership between the Canada Basketball and Sportsnet that began last February.

The two entities are splitting costs on the event with the mutual benefit of it receiving national coverage on Sportsnet while providing content for the network.

" (GLOBL JAM) is an important way to cement our commitment and investment in growing the game of basketball in Canada and give fans more entertaining content featuring the sport they love," Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley said in a statement.

The men's competition will feature host Canada. the U.S., Brazil and Italy, while women's tournament will pit Canada against the U.S., Belgium and France.

Despite it being a FIBA-sanctioned event, the under- 23 format of the tournament itself is a bit odd since FIBA age groups normally cap out at "under-19" and then jump to the senior level.

Canada Basketball saw a gap to be filled and created the under-23 category to showcase young burgeoning pros.

"Through this joint venture, we are able to provide these men and women a platform to showcase their skills — most before they hit the professional scene — and help make Canada's basketball talent household names," said Yabsley.

As part of the agreement to play in the GLOBL JAM, all participating athletes — not just the Canadians — will be expected to perform some community outreach work, such as helping out with basketball clinics, during the week of the event.

GLOBL JAM games will be held at Ryerson University's Mattamy Athletic Centre. Canada Basketball hopes to make it an annual event with the future possibility of touring it around the country with stops in Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver and Edmonton.

The timing of GLOBL JAM this year could prove to be very fortuitous for Canada Basketball.

The senior men's national team is scheduled to play World Cup qualifying games between June 30 and July 4, with a location still to be determined.

Bartlett said his organization is hard at work trying to see if Canada can host those qualifiers, something that would be the perfect lead-in to its new basketball festival.

"That would just be the cherry on top if we could pull that off," said Bartlett. "I don't know if it's possible, but we are ambitious at Canada Basketball right now."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2022.

Steven Loung, The Canadian Press