Kawhi Leonard, Raptors dominate Google search trends for 2019, decade

NBA insider Blake Murphy joins Good Show to discuss what his lasting impact is of Kawhi Leonard in a Raptors uniform, and how the Scotiabank Arena crowd should handle his return.

There may be no more honest moment between us and our screens than those spent staring into the search bar.

With Google unveiling their Year In Search data Wednesday, we’ve been given the chance to look back at the names and topics that most often populated Google searches over the past year, granting us insight into where our interest collected in 2019.

In the digital titans’ eyes, the data shows us more than just the tidbits of information Canadians took to their phones to research in a pinch, though.

“Search reveals our honest relationship with our questions we have about the world,” says Google Canada’s Alexandra Hunnings Klein. “If you think about … your personal relationship with a search bar, it’s your one-stop shop. It’s your first place for asking a question. We often put questions into search that we might not ask our friends or family, personal questions or questions that might reveal some degree of ignorance or naiveté.

“It’s a very good barometer of what Canadians are curious about.”

So, what were we curious about in 2019?

It comes as no surprise that the Toronto Raptors dominated search across the nation in 2019, after their whirlwind run to the NBA Finals concluded with the country’s first union with the Larry O’Brien Trophy. But the degree to which Kawhi Leonard and Co. led the way is still staggering.

Overall, the Raptors and Leonard finished as the first and second top trending topics of 2019, respectively, drawing more interest than the national election results and even the cultural behemoth that is Game of Thrones. The Raptors finished as the top trending Canadian news topic as well, with the team’s championship parade also clocking in at No. 6.

But the Raptors weren’t the only Canadian sports story to garner major interest. When Bianca Andreescu became the first Canadian to ever win a Grand Slam singles title at the U.S. Open in September, she managed to shift #WeTheNorth to #SheTheNorth.

Despite her banner moment coming late in the year, Andreescu finished as No. 7 on Google’s top trending searches of 2019, and No. 3 among top trending Canadian news topics.

It should come as no surprise, then, that among all stories across all topics in Canada in 2019, Google’s top trending people of the year were none other than Leonard at No. 1 and Andreescu at No. 2:

Top trending searches of 2019

1. Toronto Raptors
2. Kawhi Leonard

3. Canada Election Results
4. Luke Perry
5. Cameron Boyce
6. Game of Thrones
7. Bianca Andreescu
8. Don Cherry
9. Thanos
10. Hurricane Dorian

Top trending Canadian news topics in 2019

1. Toronto Raptors
2. Canada Election Results
3. Bianca Andreescu
4. Don Cherry
5. Alberta Election
6. Toronto Raptors Parade
7. Hurricane Dorian
8. Nova Scotia Power Outages
9. SNC Lavalin
10. BC Fugitives

Top trending people in 2019

1. Kawhi Leonard
2. Bianca Andreescu

3. Don Cherry
4. Kevin Durant
5. Antonio Brown
6. Jussie Smollett
7. Kevin Hart
8. Lori Loughlin
9. Jordyn Woods
10. Billie Eilish

With the end of 2019 signalling the end of the decade, Google also compiled their list of the top 10 trending Canadian moments of the 2010s. Across all of the most poignant stories that had their time leading the news cycle over that span, the Raptors and Andreescu once again reigned supreme.

Two other sports-related stories ranked among the top 10 as well — the tragedy of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and Canada’s performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Google’s 10 trending Canadian moments of the decade

1. Toronto Raptors win the NBA Championship for the first time ever 
2. Bianca Andreescu becomes the highest-ranked Canadian tennis player of all time

3. Drake dominates pop music, beating the Beatles’ 50-year record for the most top-10 singles on Billboard’s Top 100
4. The Humboldt Broncos Bus Crash unites the nation in tragedy
5. Canadians watch the The Tragically Hip’s final concert following Gord Downie’s cancer diagnosis.
6. Canada meets its target to resettle 25,000 Syrian Refugees
7. During his third mission to space, Colonel Chris Hadfield becomes the first Canadian to command a spaceship
8. Justin Bieber becomes the most subscribed-to artist on YouTube, with over 20 billion views
9. Canada celebrates the heroes of the Fort McMurray wildfire recovery effort
10. Canada arrives on the world stage like never before at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver

That the Raptors and Andreescu reigned as the stories that drew the most interest from Canadians even with the scope expanded from 2019 to the decade as a whole speaks to just how significant those moments were in our country’s sports history.

“There’s an over-indexing of 2019 and, if you go back and look at the last 10 years, this really was the year that Canadians looked for champions, searched for champions, had questions about them,” Klein says. “I think what’s surprising and delighting about these two moments is not just the victories themselves, but the ways that Canadians are beginning to redefine our identity, in some sense, around being champions.

“I think we’ve always been really good at being second or third, and now we’re getting used to being first, and that’s really reflected in the data.”

Of course, the decade saw far more standout moments than Kawhi and Bianca rolling over their competition.

In 2010, it was figure skater Joannie Rochette capturing the nation’s attention, willing herself to an Olympic bronze just days after losing her mother. In 2015, it was the Toronto Blue Jays taking over the country’s interest, with Jose Bautista’s bat flip etching an indelible mark on Canadian baseball history.

And there were a string of others, each spurring their own spike in annual numbers. What such data shows us, says Klein, isn’t just the stories that Canadians found most interesting, but the ones that brought us together as a country — an experience 2019 and the 2010s overall both offered in abundance.

“Sports became an anchoring narrative for Canada — especially in the last year, but also in the last nine years,” Klein says. “We’ve exported our athletic culture through people like Bianca and the Raptors, and various other athletes that aren’t on that list, but also through music. You look at Justin Bieber and The Weeknd and Drake. This was their decade.

“I think it’s indicative of the way that music and art and sports have taken Toronto, and Canada as well, to another level as far as having a global influence.”

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