The 36th Dolphin Basketball Classic is on the horizon, poised to deliver an exhilarating experience for players, volunteers, and spectators alike. The tournament’s roots can be traced back to a modest beginning—a day-long event organized by a group of classmates and teammates from Steveston High: Bruce Watson, Taj Johal, Bira Bindra, Tony Wong-Hen, and Garth Robertson. Unbeknownst to the boys, their quest for pick-up basketball would lead them to Dolphin Park, a hidden gem in their city that would soon become a transformative force in the West Coast basketball landscape.
Reflecting on those early days, Bruce Watson, one of the tournament organizers, shares how Dolphin Park emerged as a hub for talented basketball players. “We would go far and wide for basketball until we found a court in our city called Dolphin Park. We started congregating there and over time people from all schools and Richmond and all over would come by and it became a mini Kits beach, it didn’t have the beach of course but it was where great players knew to go to play,” Watson recalls.
With Dolphin Park as their playground, these passionate basketball enthusiasts unknowingly laid the groundwork for what would become a celebrated annual tournament. Their shared love for the game and the camaraderie forged on those courts would set the stage for the birth of the Dolphin Basketball Classic.
In those early days, the tournament’s format comprised a single day of intense basketball, devoid of a three-point line, a stark contrast to the expectations of modern-day fans. This simplicity, however, serves as a poignant reminder of the tournament’s humble origins.
Reflecting on those early years, Watson nostalgically shares, “That second summer out of high school we decided to start a tournament once a year. It was very organic and grassroots, there wasn’t much to it, and the first prize was a case of beer… year by year in a gradual way, the tournament began to grow.”
As time progressed, the Dolphin Classic evolved into a highly anticipated event, drawing the participation of notable basketball figures, including Canadian National Players, WNBA Draft Selections, and NBA Players, who graced the courts of Richmond, B.C., Canada. Attendees can expect a display of skill and talent from the crème de la crème of Canadian basketball, showcasing their prowess in scoring and dribbling. Alongside the fiercely competitive matchups, crowd-pleasers such as the dunk contest and the ever-popular three-point competition will further ignite the spectators’ enthusiasm.
Remarkably, the tournament has come full circle, embodying its theme of “Family, Fun & Hoops in the Sun,” as the young athletes taking the court today are following in the footsteps of their parents, who once competed in the very same tournament.
Watson passionately expresses this sentiment, stating, “As far as family and friends go, we have players that’ll be playing this year, and their parents have played in this tournament. That means the tournament has grown and it has kind of a legacy.”
Behind the scenes, a dedicated family tree nurtures the Dolphin Classic, ensuring its smooth operation. Sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews all lend their support to the tournament, emphasizing the spirit of camaraderie and familiarity that permeates the event.
“Our sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews are helping us with the tournament. We’re all about family and friends working together to make all of this happen; it makes it fun, and we know each other,” Watson added
With the approaching tournament, there will be a surge in size, matching the previous record of participating teams. This year, twenty teams will compete at Dolphin Park, each vying for the coveted championship title. As the player pool continues to expand year after year, the organizers and community maintain a player-centric approach, recognizing the key role they play in the Dolphin Classic’s success.
“The level of competition is what spearheads Dolphin, and I think the players want to play. If you do all the little things for them, like having first aid and providing food, it goes a long way. The players want to be a part of that, and we are grateful for the players that are putting aside days of their summer for us,” Watson explains, emphasizing the tournament’s commitment to ensuring a memorable experience for all participants.
As the 36th Annual Dolphin Basketball Classic beckons, Richmond eagerly anticipates the joy, excitement, and fierce competition that lie ahead, fostering a deep appreciation for the tournament’s rich history and the unity it brings to the basketball community.
The Dolphin Classic tips off this week, Friday, July 21st and will run through Sunday, July 23rd at the South Arm Community Centre. Find more details on the Dolphin Classic Facebook page.