Only seven Canadians have won the NBA title.
Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops is aiming to add his name to the list, with his Miami Heat set to square off against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Game 1 will get underway at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Olynyk spent 10 minutes talking to KTW on the eve of the biggest game of his life:
KTW: Only seven Canadians in history have won the NBA title. What does it mean to you to be this close to adding your name to that list?
KO: It’s huge. Ever since you’re a little kid and pick up a basketball, you start watching the NBA and the playoffs and finals and you see the highest level. Winning a championship is the ultimate goal. To have that opportunity and be in the NBA Finals and in that moment, it’s big time and it’s something not a lot of people get the opportunity to do. Not a lot of Canadians get the opportunity to do or have done it and it’s something you can’t take for granted because that opportunity may never come again.
KTW: Nobody from Kamloops has ever been to the NBA Finals. How important is this city to you and what does it mean to you to represent Kamloops?
KO: It’s kind of like you’re hardly home, but always repping. Kamloops is a huge part of my life. My family still lives there. I run my camp there all the time, but just to be able to inspire kids and youth and bring basketball to Kamloops and have people strive to play at a higher level, that means a lot. The city of Kamloops has done so much for me. To be able to represent them on the greatest stage of basketball is something I’m proud of.
KTW: You got into four of six games last series. How much of that had to do with the way the teams matched up, particularly with size, and do you think you might see the floor more against a bigger Lakers’ team?
KO: You never know. That’s for the coaching staff to figure out. You just want to stay ready and make the most of your minutes. Whether it’s two minutes, three minutes, 20 minutes or someone might get hurt, anything can happen, and you have to play 25, 30 minutes. You never know, but you always want to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
KTW: There’s no back and forth from Miami to L.A. Maybe it’s nice to avoid that travel, but there’s also just not the same atmosphere as there would have been — the pageantry, playing an NBA Finals in a place like L.A., playing in front of your home fans. Do you feel like you’re missing out on that experience?
KO: Obviously, it’s way different. I’ve been in the playoffs and all the way up to the conference finals before. That’s a huge part of it — home-court advantage, travel, hotels, media and all that kind of stuff. All that stuff is kind of reduced in this bubble atmosphere, but we’re all dealt the same hand in the bubble. Nobody has to travel. Everybody is staying at the same hotel, eating the same food, doing the same routine, practising in the same gym and playing in the same arena. The playing field is as even as it comes. It’s time to go out there on an even playing field and see who the best team is.
KTW: Game 1 will be the 85th consecutive day on campus for both teams. How has time been moving for you?
KO: It’s weird. When we first got here, about 10 days had gone by, or like a week, maybe seven days, and someone said, we’ve been here a week. You’re like, a week? It felt like we’d been here for three years already. Time was going so slow. And, now, it’s kind of just going by because you’re literally just playing every other day. It’s play, practise and prep for the next game. It kind of just flies by now.
And now you’re at the end. You can see the finish line. But life in the bubble is different. It’s obviously very repetitive and kind of monotonous in the terms that you’re in your hotel room or in your team meal room getting food or the practice gym and then you go back to the hotel room. You can’t go anywhere. You can’t do anything. You’re kind of just here. Eighty-five days seems like a long time and it just kind of feels like this is our life now. It’s what it is. This is life. You don’t really know what the outside world is looking like or dealing with. You’re just kind of trapped in this bubble.
KTW: I just saw a clip on Twitter of Jimmy Butler taking issue with the underdog tab. Not that he doesn’t acknowledge others see your team as the underdog. You were something like 75:1 to reach the final before the season. What do you think of the underdog term?
KO: You can call it whatever you want. We know who we are as a team of basketball players and we’re going to go out there and compete. We believe every time we step on the floor we have a great chance to win and we believe we’re going to win. That’s part of the reason we’re on this stage right now. It’s because of that belief and that trust in our teammates, coaching staff and our whole organization.
KTW: I’m guessing you’re not pinching yourself. You’re a veteran player and the moment is not too big. But LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers in the NBA Finals. How big of a moment is this in your career?
KO: He’s one of the best players to ever play the game and one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. If you’re going to go in the finals, it’s not a bad person and team to go up against.
To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Right now, in the other conference, they’re the best, so we’ve got to go through them to get what we want.
Below are statistics and notes provided by NBA Canada:
Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Lakers
- 4 – Miami is seeking its fourth NBA championship.
- 5 – The Heat is the first fifth seed to reach the NBA Finals since the current playoff format was implemented in the 1983-84 season.
- 10 – Miami and Los Angeles both finished in 10th place in their respective conferences last season, making this the first NBA Finals to feature two teams that did not qualify for the playoffs the previous season.
- 17 – The Lakers are trying to win their 17th NBA championship, which would tie the Boston Celtics for the most in league history.
Players, Coaches and Executives
- 4 – Heat President Pat Riley coached the Lakers to four NBA championships during the 1980s.
- 5 – Miami’s Erik Spoelstra is making his fifth NBA Finals appearance as a head coach.
- 10 – LeBron James will play in his 10th NBA Finals, joining Bill Russell (12), Sam Jones (11) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (10) as the only players with 10 or more appearances.
- 15 – Fifteen players competing in this season’s NBA Finals have played in the NBA G League, including six Lakers and nine members of the Heat.
- 29.6 – Los Angeles’ Anthony Davis is averaging 29.6 points in his playoff career. Only two players have a higher playoff scoring average (minimum 25 games): Michael Jordan (33.4 ppg) and Allen Iverson (29.7 ppg).
- 2000 – Miami rookie Tyler Herro will be the first player born in the 2000s to play in the NBA Finals.
The NBA Campus at Disney
- 3 – Three hotels at Disney World have been used to house players, coaches, team basketball staffs, media, broadcasters and league personnel living in the Orlando campus.
- 12/85 – Both the Lakers and Heat are now in their 12th week living at the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs. Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Sept. 30 marks the 85th consecutive day on campus for both teams.
- 22 – Twenty-two NBA teams assembled in Florida to complete the 2019-20 season.
- 115 – More than 115 vehicles have been used to transport players, coaches, referees, support staff, venue operators, media and network television personnel throughout the campus.
- 150/100 – Close to 150 NBA personnel who work across various departments have each been living on campus for more than 100 days.
- 525 – There have been more than 525 fishing excursions booked on campus.
- 700 – On average 700 packages arrive daily on campus to the 28,300 square-foot distribution warehouse at Coronado Springs, including a one-day record of nearly 1,200 packages.
- 1,800 – According to league sources, there have been more than 1,800 pickleball games played on the NBA campus at Disney.
- 3,600 – The NBA has conducted more than 3,600 Zoom media availability sessions, streaming nearly 1.9 million minutes of player and coach interviews.
- 106,000 – An estimated 106,000 room nights were reserved for the restart.
ESPN’s Wide World of Sports
- 7 – The NBA campus featured seven practice facilities, which included state-of-the-art weight rooms and training facilities, as well as courts provided by the Heat, Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic.
- 30 – Beginning on June 22 until the first scrimmage was held on July 22, it took 30 days to assemble the game and practice courts.
- 66 – ESPN Wide World of Sports basketball arenas feature 66 microphones strategically placed around the game venues, both under and around the playing court.
- 92 – There are 92 family members who will be in attendance to watch their loved ones compete at AdventHealth Arena, where all the NBA Finals games will be played.
- 145 – ABC, TNT, ESPN and NBA TV have combined to televise 145 games (16 scrimmages + 52 seeding games + 77 playoff games) throughout the U.S. since play resumed.
- 199 – ESPN’s Wide World of Sports has hosted 199 games since play resumed.
- 320 – There will be 320 virtual fans watching each Finals game from home, seen inside the arena as part of Michelob ULTRA Courtside.
- 805 – The NBA campus has hosted 805 practices since training camp began on July 9.
- 1,120 – NBA national and regional partners in the U.S. have presented 1,120 hours of televised games over 428 telecasts.
- 4,627 – NBA game and practice facilities include 4,627 hardwood panels.
- 16,780 – Fourteen semi-trucks drove 16,780 miles to deliver all basketball floors to Orlando.
- 583,000 – The total weight of the courts on campus added up to 583,000 pounds.
NBA Finals Broadcast in the United States
- 1 – Doris Burke will become the first woman to serve as a game analyst for the NBA Finals on any platform when she joins play-by-play voice Marc Kestecher and analyst P.J. Carlesimo for ESPN Radio’s coverage.
- 1 – Rachel Nichols will serve as the NBA Finals sideline reporter for the first time during ABC’s coverage.
- 12 – ABC/ESPN’s broadcast team of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson will work The Finals together for the 12th time.
- Jackson has made the most appearances for an African-American game analyst for any major North American sports championship event.
- 14 – Jeff Van Gundy will provide analysis for his 14th consecutive NBA Finals, which is the most for a television analyst covering the event.
- 15 – Mike Breen will call his 15th straight NBA Finals – the most of any NBA play-by-play commentator.
- 18 – ESPN will produce The Finals on ABC for the 18th consecutive year.
- 18 – NBA TV’s Finals analysts – Charles Barkley, Kevin McHale, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, Steve Smith and Isiah Thomas – made 18 combined NBA Finals appearances during their playing careers. NBA legends Grant Hill and Chris Webber will round out NBA TV’s Finals team for Turner Sports.
NBA Finals Around the World
- 5 – There are a combined five international players on NBA Finals rosters: Kyle Alexander (MIA; Canada), Kostas Antetokounmpo (LAL; Greece; BWB Africa 2015), Goran Dragić (MIA; Slovenia), Kelly Olynyk (MIA; Canada; BWB Americas 2009), Chris Silva (MIA; Gabon)
- 66 – Sixty-six international media members from 23 countries and territories have participated in NBA player Zoom media calls since the start of the NBA Playoffs.
- 215/48 – The NBA Finals will reach fans in 215 countries and territories in 48 languages on their televisions, computers, mobile phones and tablets.
- 61 – To date, the NBA, together with players, the Orlando Magic and Disney, have donated 61 pallets of beverages, snacks, apparel and sporting goods following team departures from campus to local non-profit organizations and school districts serving the greater Orlando community.
NBA Social Media
- 3,000,000 – More than three million followers have been added across @NBA social accounts since July 1.
- 5,300,000,000 – Since the season restart on July 30, NBA social channels have generated more 5.3 billion video views.