Innovators of the Week: Dr. Jason Ribeiro and Usman Tahir Jutt Have Created a Surge of Basketball Support

In just a few years, the Calgary Surge basketball team has developed a recognizable brand through community events, partnerships and programs in all four quadrants of the city.

Calgary Surge Vice-Chairman and President Jason Ribeiro and Chairman Usman Tahir Jutt hold the official basketball of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. Photo by Jesse Tamayo, Calgary Surge.

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In a city largely devoted to hockey, it might seem like a tall order to imagine another professional sport reaching the same heights, but Dr. Jason Ribeiro and Usman Tahir Jutt were confident enough to try. The vice-chairman and president (Ribeiro) and chairman (Jutt) of the Calgary Surge have developed staunch community support for the professional basketball team since its arrival in 2022.

Part of the Canadian Elite Basketball League, the franchise started its second season in May 2024 with a home game at the Scotiabank Saddledome where Ribeiro and Jutt only anticipated 6,000 attendees. They were pleasantly surprised when the number was more than double their estimation.

“We did not expect that 12,500 people, breaking a league record that night in Calgary, to start our second year,” said Jutt. “The response that we got from the community was overwhelming.”

That’s in part due to the Calgary Surge’s efforts to develop rapport with Calgarians through community events, partnerships and programs in all four quadrants of the city. Going beyond just the sport itself, the events, partnerships and programs focus on music, fashion, art, sneaker culture and other hallmarks of basketball culture.

“I think basketball speaks to all of those different things better than any other sport,” says Ribeiro. “That’s why it’s as global as it is; that’s why it’s inclusive as it is; that’s why it’s had such a foothold on this country with just one [NBA team].”

The program that Ribeiro and Jutt are most proud of is the Surge Assist program in partnership with Kids Up Front. The partnership raises money for kids to attend Calgary Surge games, supporting them with tickets, transportation, food vouchers to combat barriers around food insecurity and Surge swag. In the last two years, more than 3,500 kids have attended games thanks to this program.

[Note: This story has been edited from a previous version to clarify that there is just one NBA team in Canada and to update the number of kids who have attended games thanks to the Surge Assist program.]

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