The Last Dance: NT boys’ basketball team prepares for final NAIG competition

Team NT boys basketball at the Alberta training camp preparing for the big day. (Photo courtesy of Ty Lafferty)

The NT boys’ basketball team is shooting for gold in the upcoming North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in  Halifax, Nova Scotia, but for some, this will be their last shot at the competition.

“For most of us, it’s our last year,” says Ty Lafferty, representing Behchokǫ̀ at this year’s games.

Lafferty, Justin Stewart, Lydell Macnab and Sean Grandjambe have been friends for years. They plan on leaning into their brotherhood to bring home the gold.

“I feel like our strength in our bond is going to be able to help us out on the court and be able to put trust within each other,” says Macnab.

The boys say they’re ready for the challenge. Even if the competition is twice their height, they’re really looking forward to making memories and learning new skills along the way.

“At the end of the day, win or lose, I think the friendships that we’re going to make and getting closer (to each other) is going to be the bigger picture at the end of the trip,” says Captain Stewart.

(Pictured left to right are Macnab, Stewart, Lafferty, and Grandjambe)

Currently, the boys are in Calgary at a training camp with Team Alberta to prepare them for the big day.

The boys say they’re filling up on eggs, chicken, and rice to help offset the competition.

Due to COVID, this is the first event since 2017. It runs from July 16-23.

As the competition nears, over 200 athletes across the N.W.T. are gearing up for the most anticipated event of the summer.

Athletes take off on June 15.

Pay to play

Lafferty has been playing sports since the age of four and says it has contributed positively to his mental health, friendships, schooling, and overall outlook on life, but not every youth gets the same opportunities to participate.

“I look at sports as a distraction from life,” says Lafferty, “When a kid is playing a sport, they’re not thinking about life, they’re not thinking about what’s going on at home.”

If it wasn’t for the hospitality and allowances of smaller communities giving children access to the space and equipment to practice, Lafferty says he wouldn’t be in the position he is today.

In Yellowknife, he says, it’s a totally different experience for athletes.

“A lot of it you have to pay for,” he says, “And so it does suck if you’re not on one of those teams because there’s no free gym.”

Since graduating high school, Lafferty has been working at Range Lake School in Yellowknife, “I know a lot of kids that don’t get that opportunity but could thrive from that opportunity. It’s really sad to see.”

After NAIG, some of the boys wish to give back to their community, become coaches, and help develop future Northern athletes.

About the Author

Mariah Caruso
Mariah Caruso is a digital journalist, originally from Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Hons. Bachelor of Arts and completed her Journalism post-grad at Sheridan College. She has an insatiable appetite for life, storytelling, connecting to the people, and getting to the heart of the issue. On her spare time, you can find her at your local coffee shop writing songs, poetry and prose or at the gym out-lifting men. If you have a story idea, feel free to send her an email at or call 867-766-2552 Ext 108