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NBA

TRUE NORTH: Inside the Rise of Toronto Basketball

TSL speaks with Director Ryan Sidhoo about his 90-minute film on the roots and the rise of Toronto hoops.

As the anniversary approaches of the Raptors historic NBA Championship, the Toronto hoop dream is bursting with life and potential. Through a record-setting number of Canadian draft picks, the basketball community is thriving with home-grown athletes who have their minds focused on college scholarships and pro basketball.

In this NEW feature-length cut of True North, director Ryan Sidhoo shines the spotlight on 12-year-old Elijah Fisher (a top prospect for Class of 2023), 15-year-old Keone Davis and 18-year-old Cordell Veira as they navigate today’s youth basketball machine in pursuit of their own NBA dreams.

The film follows their coming-of-age stories as they unfold in an evolving city, sharing a unique Canadian experience that’s rooted in generational immigration. At its heart, True North is about ambition, the pursuit of full-ride scholarships, and the intersection of talent, opportunity and luck.

9-Part Docuseries

The True North 9-part docuseries, co-presented by Red Bull Media House and National Film Board of Canada, was recently produced into a 90-minute theatrical cut. This updated edit incorporates the Raptors improbable 2019 NBA title, the resulting parade, and provides some updates on the original participants.

The doc also features interviews with Canadian basketball stars Steve Nash, Jamal Murray and Cory Joseph, as well as Damon Stoudamire, the Raptors first-ever draft pick who helped usher in excitement for the NBA in Toronto.

The Shadow League spoke to Sidhoo about the film.

Why did you pick 12-year-old Elijah Fisher (a top prospect for Class of 2023), 15-year-old Keone Davis and 18-year-old Cordell Veira to feature?

SIDHOO: I really wanted to show the lifecycle of a youth basketball player of today from their first foray into the completive AAU world until their senior year where they are on the fringe of college hoops. It would be amazing to follow Elijah for 5 years but the production bandwidth didn’t allow for that so I felt showing case three kids at different stages of the AAU lifecycle could offer a complete picture of the journey, growing pains and triumphs of coming up in the cottage industry of grassroots basketball today.

What made you want to make a documentary about Toronto hoops?

SIDHOO: I grew up on a steady dose of basketball and documentary film – at some point in my life I knew I was going to make a film about the rise of basketball in our country since it was in my DNA. In regards to the specifics of the film, seeing the success of Canadians in the League coupled with the growth of youth basketball, the boom of social media mixtapes and the professionalization of grassroots basketball sparked a curiosity in me to explore what was going on behind the scenes in the Mecca of Canadian basketball. I was interested in the human side and emotions of families navigating this ever-changing landscape. 

 What impact did basketball play in your life and this eventual docuseries?

SIDHOO: Basketball has always been a joyous outlet for me since I was a kid. I came up in the 90’s and got to see Jordan pass the torch to Kobe which was special. I love the poetry of the game, the vintage gear… all of that. However, getting a peak behind the curtains during production opened my eyes to the power structures and exploitation at play that drives the basketball industry. This has made my relationship with certain elements surrounding the game more complicated. 

 How important was the Toronto Raptors Championship to the basketball culture?

SIDHOO: I think it was important from a support and awareness point of view. There has always been people in Canada who love basketball but this audience and community have been underserved – hockey always dominated. What you saw from the Championship is that corporations are finally paying attention to the basketball fan base in Canada who have been starved for content, infrastructure, and general support. The Championship galvanized the nation and nurture the game a bit more. When Canada medals at the Olympics, I am sure we will see another level of support.

 What does the world not know about Toronto hoops that this documentary brings too light?

SIDHOO: It’s well documented now that Toronto is producing a ton of talent today – that narrative has spread around the globe. However, Toronto has been producing talent for decades but without social media and the exposure kids have today, a lot of the forefathers of the game didn’t get their shot at The League. 

SIDHOO: My favorite part of the process was getting to shed some light on some of the names and institutions that paved the way for the wave of NBA players from the city today… which really stems from a wave of generational immigration in the 1970s. 

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