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Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

Miranda Ayim leaves her mark - and a piece of her heart - with Basket Landes

As the strains of Nadau’s “Mon Dieu, Que J’en Suis À Mon Aise” – My God, I’m At My Ease– began to echo through Espace François Mitterrand, home arena of Basket Landes, Miranda Ayim was overcome with gratitude. After almost two years of uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, she was standing at center court, in a packed arena, getting the farewell she deserved from the basketball team and city she had called home for the previous six years.

With her family at her side, the moment was complete.

“It was an incredible celebration,” Ayim said. “It may have ended up being more memorable than what my last game would have been. I was blessed to be able to go back. It was just an incredible, incredible event and just a really special way to enjoy that closing of the chapter.”

Ayim is a planner. To be able to fit in all of the things she does in the 24 hours that make up each day, she has to be. Of course Ayim had planned out the end date for her playing career, wishing to retire on her own terms. Though she didn’t discuss it publicly, Ayim had a plan in place. She was going to participate in the 2020 Olympic Games – her third time representing Canada at the Olympics, where she would end up serving as flag bearer, alongside Nathan Hirayama – and then finish out her playing career with one final season in France, where she had spent the previous six years.

“I knew that I wanted to retire after the Olympics, that decision had already been made in my head,” Ayim said. “The Olympics would have been in 2020, and then I actually would have played one more professional season after I retired from the national team. The pandemic shifted things. I played my final professional season [with Landes] and ended with the national team, directly after, at the Olympics.”

Ayim’s final season in France was a great one. Playing in an empty arena without fans as a result of the pandemic, Ayim and Basket Landes were crowned Champion de France. Perhaps most importantly, Ayim was able to appreciate each moment fully.

“I really just focused on enjoying each moment, which I think is what your last season, or really any season should be like,” she said. “Just being in the moment, being grateful for what you have and enjoying that process.”

With so many uncertainties at this point of the pandemic, Ayim leaned in to her love of the game and her appreciation for each additional experience with her teammates.

“I had no idea if we were going to [be able to] finish the season, or what it was going to look like, and then we shifted into having no fans. At any moment [there was the feeling that], this season could end again, so we're just like, ‘OK, let me just stay in the moment, see where this goes.’ We ended up winning the Championship. So maybe that's the ideal deal.”
Shortly after returning to Canada following the Tokyo Olympics, Ayim received a call from Landes, inviting her back to be honoured at an upcoming game. They invited her parents as well.

“They mentioned putting my jersey up in the gym, but it ended up being this huge event at the game, and the gym was packed,” Ayim said. “After the game, they played this beautifully moving, actually really sad French song that's about a lover that leaves you, but you'll love them until their death. It was super moving and emotional and then Pierre [Dartiguelongue], the Vice President of the club, gave this beautiful speech and then I was able to express my gratitude to the fans and all the volunteers and everybody.”

Though she was overwhelmed with emotion, it was an experience Ayim will never forget.

“All of it was really, really wonderful,” she said. “It was super humbling, because it takes a lot of execution to put all of that together. I think the best part of it for me was that my parents were able to be there and to experience it. As much as the last 15 years have been both wonderful, and challenging, for me, being far from home, my parents also let their daughter leave at the age of 17 [to chase her basketball dream]. They’ve gone through a lot and sacrificed a lot as well. It was nice for them to see the fruits of their labour.”

During Ayim’s playing career, her days were filled with playing, practicing and training, along with plenty of personal development and mentorship squeezed in wherever possible. Though her days now take place in London, Ontario, where she has moved back to her hometown, she’s as busy as ever. Working in high performance, Ayim is mentoring and coaching students at Smith School of Business, as well as the University of Toronto’s Reach Alliance program, and McGil’s McBain Scholars, while also as serving as one of RBC’s Olympians, taking on speaking engagements and managing fellow RBC Olympians in the Southwestern region of Ontario. She spends much of her own work day working with business and medical students as they navigate the beginning of their own careers.

“What really excites me is connecting with people,” Ayim said. “I know we're still in the virtual sphere, and I'm excited for that to slowly, but surely shift to [being] in person, but right now, I'm really enjoying connecting with people in this area of high performance. I’m working with this group of ambitious but purposeful people who are really excited about being intentional about the way they move through the world and the way they lead and create teams. Coaching and helping people and supporting them through that process is really, really valuable, and I really enjoy it.”

The list of people and organizations who are happy to have Ayim back in Canada full-time is a long one. Just this week, Ayim was one of six athletes honoured at Scotiabank Arena as the Raptors faced the Memphis Grizzlies on Canada Basketball night. Standing alongside Glen Grunwald, Jevohn Shepherd, Joel Anthony and Brady Heslip, Ayim once again got to hear the roar of an arena showing their appreciation for all that she has given to the game over her career.

Though there has been an adjustment period as Ayim gets used to her new routine, it feels right. Ayim is happy to be home.

“I'm so thankful that I feel at peace with my position,” she said. “[I love that] I am at home with my family and friends and my support system in Canada.”