The world runs on its pioneers. From the human that invented the wheel to the astronomer Galileo, all the way to Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn, credited with laying the foundations of the internet. Pioneers bring humanity to new heights. However, while not all pioneers shift the course of humanity, there are some that are still worth highlighting. 

Today we’d like to talk about Matthew Kallio a year after he made it into the NBA as the first referee to hail from Canada. We’ll take a look at where he came from, where he’s going, and most of all, what it means for the NBA moving forward. 

Started From Atop The United States

Kallio got his start playing the sport rather than officiating it at the age of nine. He had heard Magic Johnson practiced during the wintertime, so Kallio picked up a ball and started trying his hand at the sport in -20 degree weather.

According to a report by the Edmonton Sun, the pressure to perform was always there as he said “And there I was the next day, minus-20 with those five-fingered mitts out on the driveway. Fiberglass backboard, so we needed a new backboard after one brick.” 

The Edmontonian went on to say that he always had the drive to get better at the sport from a young age. He went on to play high school ball and eventually college, but when it came time to choose between basketball and school, he chose to commit to his studies. More than a decade later, Kallio would become an NBA G League ref in the 2021-2022 season.

Kallio embodies the sporting culture in Canada, and his career path suggests that there is a largely untapped NBA-hungry audience in the Great White North, particularly in Kallio’s hometown.

Edmonton’s Passion for NBA

Canadians are unanimous in their support for basketball, in particular, the Toronto Raptors, the only NBA franchise based in Canada.

While they play their regular season home games in the East, the passion in Kallio’s hometown of Edmonton is just as intense, proven by the turnout when the Toronto Raptors played against the Utah Jazz in their first exhibition game of the season. However, it’s not too big of a shock in the grand scheme of things.

Edmontonians are huge sports fans who will get involved in any way they can, especially when one of theirs is on the field. It’s no wonder, then, that along with the general interest in the NBA,  activities are on the rise as well. It’s not all thanks to Kallio, but his involvement in the NBA must be a big boost to bettors who love to wager when their hometown-ers are included.

While historically sports fans might have bet on the Oilers in the NHL, the visit of the Raptors gave bettors an opportunity to get involved in the NBA in a live capacity. Some might think it’d be strange for Edmonton to feel like a home away from home for the Raptors, but it’s no surprise given Kallio’s rise in the NBA.

Bright Future

Kallio has been promoted to full-time staff for the 2022-2023 season. He has already been a referee for 10 NBA regular season games and was also assigned to officiate at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. We can expect to see him in much more as referees can take part in up to 82 games each season. 

But what does this mean for the future of the league? While we don’t expect this to change the game as we know it, there are definitely more tweaks to come.

Kallio is promoted alongside Dannica Mosher and Cheryl Flores. This brings the number of females officiating full-time in the NBA to eight. And we expect the number of international referees to increase as well. 

While it makes sense to have US refs given their location and familiarity with the sport, referees like Kallio are more than welcome to add to the already glowing team of refs on display. If passion is one of the big prerequisites to the job, there’s plenty of that the world over. 


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