Some have billed it as ‘We the North’ vs ‘the Dynasty.’
But it could just as much be about two local doctors getting it done.
The National Basketball Association championship final between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors, which tips off today (Thursday), couldn’t be so far, yet so close, to New West.
That’s because key players on both clubs – although they do their work on the sidelines and in the training room – are New West’s Alex McKechnie and Burnaby’s Rick Celebrini.
For Fortius Sport and Health’s chief operating officer Lynda Cannell, seeing her friends and colleagues reach this pinnacle is both fun and not surprising.
“It’s great to see them both reach this point – for Alex, this is not his first time (in an NBA final),” said Cannell. “Alex has been at this a long time; he’s already got five NBA championship rings while with the (L.A.) Lakers, and I think he was a major reason why Rick chose the path of physiotherapy. (Celebrini) is in it because of Alex’s influence.”
The two have strong roots in the local community.
The defending champion Warriors have Celebrini on their side as their director of sports medicine and performance, a role he took on last summer.
The Burnaby North alumnus relocated to the Bay Area prior to the start of this season, after lengthy stints with both the Vancouver Whitecaps (since 2010) and the Vancouver Canucks (beginning in 2014).
A one-time member of the Canadian under-20 national soccer team, Celebrini turned his focus towards a career in physiotherapy, working with the Canadian men’s alpine ski team at the 1994 and 2002 Winter Olympics.
McKechnie, the Raptors’ director of sports science and assistant coach, got his start in the NBA through his work with the likes of Steve Nash and Shaquille O’Neal before joining the Lakers staff in 2000. In 2013, the Scottish-born New Westminster resident signed on with the Raptors.
His techniques have garnered praise from numerous athletes, with McKechnie incorporating innovative strategies on core strength.
He’s also been credited for helping the likes of Paul Kariya, Michelle Kwan, Jimmy Connors, Terrell Owens and Owen Hargreaves during his lengthy career, which began in 1974 as SFU’s head physiotherapist.
With the Lakers, McKechnie has five NBA championship rings. He has been the driving force in Toronto’s annual appearance in Burnaby, bringing the Raptors to B.C.
And while Cannell will be happy for someone no matter who prevails in the NBA final, she admits pulling for We the North.
“I’m partial to the Raptors for sure,” she said. “One of the things (McKechnie) has done and committed to do was bring the Raptors to Burnaby. We’ve had them for six training camps, including last summer.
“We get to know the players and the coaches well. (McKechnie) brings them here, as a team and in individual sessions, and having Alex on the floor working with the players is really something that has created great learning opportunities for others here at Fortius.”
She noted that two other Fortius alum, Stefania Rizzo, the Brooklyn Nets’ director of performance rehabilitation, and Marilyn Adams, director of rehabilitation with the San Antonio Spurs, have followed in their footsteps.
“(Both) were instrumental in the early days of Fortius,” she recalls. “They’ve been instrumental in developing the sports science team.”