25 memorable assignments from 2017

Toronto Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia. (Credit: Maggie Naylor)

In 2017, I had the pleasure of covering some of the biggest events and most interesting characters in sports. Here’s a list of some of the work that stuck with me, including some context as to how the stories unfolded.

1. Itty Bitty Ballers (Jan. 13)

Before Norman Powell was revealing his hidden singing talents with “no problems,” Jonas Valanciunas was the Toronto Raptors starred in his own “Itty Bitty Ballers” campaign.

I talked to Jonas about the genesis of the campaign and if the website was in fact, real.

2. Why Tom Brady is the most hated QB in football, in nine tweets (Feb. 3)

In the sports world, tweets often tell the story better than the actual games do. Here’s an explanation via Twitter as to why the Patriots quarterback is so hated.

3. Best Super Bowl Commercials (Feb. 6)

Often times the Super Bowl commercials are more memorable than the game itself. In the event you don’t remember the best of the best, I rounded up the commercials that everyone was talking about on advertisers’ biggest night.

4. Stephen Curry and the growing athlete revolution against Trump (Feb. 10)

I feel like I could have written about Donald Trump sparing with athletes all year. Stephen Curry was an unlikely figure to go after, but the two-time NBA MVP didn’t back down to the POTUS.

5. Last days of the Joe Louis Arena (Mar. 30)

This year the hockey world said goodbye to the Joe Louis Arena. In a fun story I headed to the Motor city to learn what the hallowed building meant to not just the Red Wings greats like Mike Babcock, but the hard-working people of Detroit too.

6. A day in the life of Nav Bhatia, Toronto Raptors “Super Fan” (April 24)

The story that most people gravitated to and read/watched was my profile of Toronto Raptors “Super Fan” Nav Bhatia. I had no idea how intricate his game day routine is and how much the game of basketball helped him assimilate to Canada as a Sikh immigrant.

The “Super Fan” is a truly Canadian story on how we can be “United by Sport.”

7. Why the Raptors should trade Kyle Lowry (May 8)

The most controversial story I wrote by far was why the Raptors were better off trading Lowry rather than re-signing him for $200 million. The thought was they could find a path to move on from an ageing point guard without blowing it up. What angered some angry was the fact the story dropped on his birthday, which was a complete coincidence. Luckily, the Raptors were able to re-sign him for much less than $200 million ($93 million guaranteed).

7. Blue Jays Bautista, Stroman snap up Toronto artist’s sports collages (June 6)

How do you go from being homeless to creating art for the Toronto Blue Jays biggest stars? Toronto native Daniel Mazzone shared his incredible story to me with the help of Jose Bautista and Marcus Stroman.

8. Why the CFL is integral to Canada’s sporting identity (June 23)

It is no secret that the CFL is close to my heart. In conjunction with Canada 150, I made this case for both Sportsnet and Maclean’s as to why the CFL is integral to Canadian sports culture.

9. Georges St-Pierre 1-on-1: On walking away, comeback plans, legacy (July 14)

Before Georges St-Pierre beat Michael Bisping he lost to me during an intense Nintendo Switch battle. We talked about legacy, trash talk an how he became a gamer during his time away from the UFC.

10. Photo Essay: A day at the office with Russell Martin (July 26)

Russell Martin does play a sport for a living, but the Canadian attacks his duties as a MLB catcher with a 9-to-5 workmanlike attitude. In conjunction with him being named to our list of the 40 Greatest Blue Jays, I documented all that goes in to his daily preparation.

11. Jamaal Magloire morphs into a leader for Caribana (Aug. 11)

While covering the Caribana parade for Flare and Maclean’s I hopped on Jamaal Magloire’s float to learn why one of the best basketball players Canada has produced is producing a Mas Band at one of Canada’s biggest cultural festivals.

12. Bennett incident shows why athletes should never ‘stick to sports’ (Sept. 7)

When Michael Bennett was a victim of the same police brutality NFL players were protesting about, I felt compelled to write about it due to my own experiences.

13. New NBA jerseys blend fashion, tech to bring fans closer to the game (Sept. 20)

Two of my strongest non-sports interests are technology and fashion. Both play a role in the NBA’s new uniforms engineered by Nike. I headed to Los Angeles for the launch of the jerseys that have changed the content and licensing business.

14. Photographic Memories: Jose Bautista on routine, media, legacy (Sept. 21)

We all know where we were and how we felt during Joey Bats’ bat flip. In his last feature interview as a Blue Jay, before it was certain he wouldn’t be back, Bautista recalled his best moments with the club.

15. #DayoftheGirl Q&A panel with elite Canadian female athletes (Oct. 11)

I thought I had a sense for the plight of Canadian female athletes, but I learned exactly how naive I was on the subject when I did a roundtable with some of our best female Olympic athletes.

16. REPRESENT: A VIDEO ESSAY BY DONNOVAN BENNETT – (Oct. 15)

The Raptors like no other professional sports team represent Canada’s multicultural nature. Here’s why.

17. Lanni Marchant’s run for gender equality (Oct. 16)

Canada’s best marathon runner is a trial lawyer by day and activist for women’s rights by night. I tried to keep up with her long enough for her to explain how the gender gap in sports impacts us all.

18. Patrick Chan on PyeongChang Olympics, life after skating – (Oct. 26)
Before he headed to South Korea, Patrick Chan allowed me to hang out with him as he threw out the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays game where he described the pressure of performing for a country once every four years.

19. Photographic Memories: Mike Babcock and his Saskatchewan Roughriders (Nov. 4)

It’s no secret that Mike Babcock is a diehard Riders fan. The Maple Leafs head coach told Sportsnet what Rider Pride means to him.

20. Inside the real reasons why R.J. Barrett chose Duke (Nov. 23)

The year of R.J. Barrett saw him become the top prep player in his class while also making the honour roll and being named MVP while winning Canada’s first FIBA Gold and then taking his talents to Duke.

We were there along the way to watch him mature before our eyes.

21. Randy Ambrosie: A day in the life of the CFL’s commissioner (Nov. 26)

Covering the Grey Cup is like reporting at a Canadian football version of Mardi Gras with a championship game in the background. This year I saw the festival through the lens of Canadian commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

22. Swimmer Kylie Masse shows us how to break a world record (Dec. 1)

The most talked about U Sports story was lack of parity in playoff football, but it should have been swimmer Kylie Masse setting a world record. In case you missed it, here is how the world’s fastest female backstroke sprinter was trained on Canadian soil.

23. Ujiri’s Giants of Africa platform draws inspiration from Mandela (Dec. 4)

When I previously spoke to Masai Ujiri it was about the culture change around the Toronto Raptors. But this time I relished the opportunity to learn how he drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela and how his Giants of Africa foundation is changing the future of Africa.

24. Photo Essay: THE REDS GET REVENGE – (Dec. 9)

The most fun projects are live event photo essays, embedded in the camera bay close to the action. Soccer is the most photogenic of sports and the MLS Cup Final was no different.

25. Donovan Bailey unplugged: On Kaepernick, ’96 fallout, legacy (Dec. 15)

On the eve of his 50th birthday, Bailey sat with me for a candid conversation on the current social climate in North America, differences between Canada and the United States, racism, Colin Kaepernick and his legacy.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.