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Tickets to the NBA final are hard to come by already. Scoring courtside seats is another story altogether.

Fred Lum

For a basketball connoisseur like NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the best seats in Scotiabank Arena are a few rows back from the court, where he’s just high enough in the stands to take in all the action as the Raptors play for their first championship.

A few CEOs with an eye for value hold the same view. Royal Bank of Canada boss Dave McKay and retired Bank of Nova Scotia head Rick Waugh will take in the playoffs from a dozen rows back, near the corner of the court where Raptors president Masai Ujiri occasionally stands during games.

But for a select group of Toronto’s corporate elite, the only place to be for a basketball game is courtside. It’s one of the toughest tickets to score in professional sports, an opportunity to watch the NBA Finals with your feet on the parquet. The face value of a ticket to the finals is $11,054, but as the ads say, these tickets are really priceless.

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There are approximately 110 courtside slots in the arena – the number drops during the playoffs as seating is revamped to squeeze in additional TV broadcasters. From this perch, CEOs, entrepreneurs and celebrities of various flavours become part of the game, with Kawhi Leonard lining up buzzer-beating shots directly in front of them, Drake heckling a few seats away and the occasional errant pass whizzing by their heads.


Drake, pictured left, is a courtside fixture at Raps games. Standing next to him is DJ Adel Nur; seated in blue jacket is Remington Group executive Chris Bratty.

Fred Lum

The couple sitting between Raptors head coach Nick Nurse and Drake? That’s David Kassie and wife Susan Harris, CEO of Executive Coaching Associates. He’s the executive chairman of investment bank Canaccord Genuity and a former guard on McGill University’s basketball team.

COURT NORTH - Raptors Bench

David Kassie, standing in grey blazer on right, is the executive chairman of investment bank Canaccord Genuity and a former guard on McGill University’s basketball team

Kyle Terada

The past and present of pro basketball in Toronto hold the best seats in the house, directly across from the teams’ benches. On one side of centre court, next to the U.S. broadcasters, you’ll find John Bitove, the private equity kingpin who teamed up with broadcaster Allan Slaight to bring an NBA franchise to Toronto in 1993. Mr. Bitove eventually sold the team but kept his prime spot. His neighbour is Cargojet founder Ajay Virmani, who recently struck a marketing partnership with Drake. Mr. Virmani makes a cameo in a recent post on Drake’s Instagram feed, which has 57 million followers, when the rapper tours Cargojet’s tricked-out “Air Drake” Boeing 767 jet.

COURT SOUTH - Courtside (109)

From left: Former Raptors owner John Bitove sits next to his wife, Randi Bitove. Next to Randi is Rich Paul, LeBron James's agent. Then there's actor Vinay Virmani (purple sleeves) and his father, Cargojet CEO Ajay Virmani (red jacket). In the second row is Ellis Jacob, CEO of Cineplex (he's mid-clap).

Fred Lum

On the other side of centre court sits Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) chairman Larry Tanenbaum and wife Judy – he’s the one with the ear-to-ear grin as he moves closer to realizing a lifelong dream of bringing championships to Canada. MLSE owns the Raptors, pro soccer’s Toronto FC, the CFL’s Argos and the NHL’s Maple Leafs. Mr. Tanenbaum, a billionaire from investments that include paving, bottling Coca-Cola and cable, is also chairman of the NBA’s board of governors, which makes him Mr. Silver’s boss and the big wheel in pro basketball.

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COURT SOUTH - Courtside (108-107)

From left: Gerry Schwartz, CEO of Onex; former CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge; actress Cynthia Dale; Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books & Music; Judy Tanenbaum and her husband Larry Tanenbaum, Chairman of MLSE; George Cope, CEO of Bell and his wife Tami Cope of CAMH; Edward S. Rogers III, chairman of Rogers (holding phone); Robert Hiscox, CEO of Constantine Enerprises Inc. Directly behind Larry Tanenbaum, in glasses, is Toronto Raptors executive Wayne Embry.

Fred Lum

Mr. Tanenbaum could sit wherever he wants. It speaks volumes that he opts to cede the four best slots, closest to the middle of the floor, to his MLSE co-owners. Bell Canada boss George Cope is a regular, while the other seats are typically taken by Rogers Communications CEO Joe Natale or chairman Edward Rogers, who was at Thursday’s game against the Warriors. Fashionista wife Suzanne Rogers made an appearance last week to watch the Raptors finish off the Milwaukee Bucks.

For years, during deep playoff runs and some truly brutal campaigns, the Tanenbaums have sat next to Indigo Books and Music founder and CEO Heather Reisman and husband Gerry Schwartz, founder and CEO of asset manager Onex. Mr. Schwartz notably came and went during the nail-biting Game 7 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The next morning, Onex announced a friendly $3.5-billion bid for WestJet. For the first game of the championship, the couple played host to actor Cynthia Dale and retired CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge. The next two seats are home to real estate mogul Ed Sonshine and wife Fran.

COURT SOUTH - Courtside (108-107)

In the front row (in white denim) is Drake's architect Ferris Rafauli. Two seats to the right (in blue tie) is Rogers CEO Joe Natale. On the right, Edward Sonshine (in red sweater), CEO of RioCan REIT, is pictured with his wife, Fran Sonshine. In second row, behind Mr. Natale, is Daniel Shearer of Cossette (blue shirt).

Fred Lum

A revolving cast of actors, musicians and athletes are mixed in among the CEOs and featured prominently on the arena’s Jumbotron screens. No league welcomes celebrities and their attendant buzz like the NBA. MLSE spokesman Dave Haggith says the team’s owner holds four seats and fills them with celebrities by working with agents and promoters. He said: “It’s an age-old tradition in the NBA, and Toronto is known as Hollywood North. There are always a lot of celebrities in town.”

Skier Lindsey Vonn and hockey-player boyfriend P.K. Subban, a Toronto native, got an invite early in the playoffs, as did singer Shawn Mendes, a native of Pickering, Ont. Golfer Bubba Watson made the list for the first game against the Warriors. Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner, who is negotiating a new contract with the hockey club this summer, has been a courtside regular during the Raptors’ playoff run.

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Lindsey Vonn, left, and P.K. Subban pose during the second round NBA basketball playoff action in April.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

The seats under the basket near the Raptors’ bench are home to Canada Goose CEO Dani Reiss and mining financier Sheldon Inwentash – when players fly off the court after a layup, they end up in Mr. Inwentash’s lap. Mutual fund manager Blake Goldring has slightly safer seats, just around the corner.


Dani Reiss (third from left, wearing all black) president & CEO of Canada Goose Inc., is pictured at Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Mining financier Sheldon Inwentash is on the far right, wearing a black shirt. Beside him is Lynn Factor, a social worker and philanthropist.

Fred Lum

Under the basket near the Warriors’ bench you’ll see self-described superfan Nav Bhatia, the feel-good story of this playoff run. An immigrant who has never missed a Raptors home game in 24 years, the auto dealership owner is a classic self-made success.

COURT EAST - Under the net

Superfan Nav Bhatia cheers on the Raps from under the net.

Fred Lum

Down the row is real estate agent extraordinaire Sam McDadi, tech entrepreneur and former Dragons’ Den cast member Bruce Croxon, and fellow dragon and Boston Pizza chairman Jim Treliving. In a moment he’ll never live down, Mr. Treliving was photographed sitting stone-faced when Kawhi Leonard sank a heart-stopping buzzer beater.

COURT WEST - Raptors bench

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Ayahna Cornish-Lowry (with red purse) is a former Villanova basketball player (and Kyle Lowry's wife). Seated next to her is John Kennedy Fitzgerald, a private equity investor. A few seats down is Sandi Treliving (leaning forward), a philanthropist, who sits next to her husband Jim Treliving (hands clasped), the chairman and founder of Boston Pizza.

Fred Lum

COURT SOUTH - Courtside (108-107)

Mark Mulroney, Vice-Chairman, Corporate and investment banking, Scotia capital, is in the second row on the right, leaning in to speak with someone. In the first row in the Raptors hat is Wes Hall of Kingsdale Advisors. Four seats to the left of Mulroney is Patrick Dovigi of Green for Life Environmental, and his wife, Fernanda Dovigi (in orange). And behind Dovigi, to the left, is Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. David McNaughton (touching his ear).

Fred Lum

COURT EAST - Visitor bench

Ira Gluskin, Founder of Gluskin Sheff, is pictured in white shirt and glasses, second row. In the red T-shirt in the front row is real estate mogul Sam McDadi. Next to him, on far right, is Walied Soliman, Partner and Global Chair, Norton Rose Fulbright.

Fred Lum

COURT SOUTH - (108-107)

Mark McQueen, CIBC, Innovation banking

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

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