On and off the court, Michael Linklater is championing basketball, Cree culture and the lives of Indigenous youth.
The 2009 university transfer
alumnus has dedicated his life to basketball for more than 25 years. Since picking up the sport in grade school, he’s become the number one International Basketball Federation (FIBA) three-on-three basketball player in Canada and is ranked 29th internationally.
“I love playing the game. I always look to challenge myself to be a better person and basketball does that for me. Something that kept me in the game for so long was also the team environment. I like the sense of belonging and individuals coming together to achieve a common goal,” Linklater says.
Linklater represented Team Canada at the 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup in the Philippines. He’s represented Team Saskatoon at the 2014-2017 3x3 FIBA World Tours. He hopes to play in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo when three-on-three basketball makes its debut.
When he’s not on the professional circuit, he’s helping youth to become champions in sport and life. Linklater owns and operates Prime Basketball Development
in Saskatoon, Sask., a company he established in 2011 that features individual skill development, key concepts of teamwork, and classroom setting instruction. He also travels to Indigenous communities and hosts individual and team development clinics. Linklater says it’s important to him to train youth with first-hand, practical experience.
“All of my coaches have college, university, or professional playing experience. As a young athlete, I was very fortunate to acquire a certain skill set that allowed me to surpass my coaches’ experience. With my background, I understand the importance of coaching from a player perspective. We also train them to work hard and learn, through self-discovery, how they can transfer their skills to real life,” he says.
Linklater played for the Lakeland Rustlers
men’s basketball team before going on to captain the University of Saskatchewan Huskies team. As a Huskie, he made history by leading the team to its first and only CanWest Conference Championship and Canadian Interuniversity Sport National Championship in 2010. Beyond professional athletics, Linklater uses his platform to give back.
Linklater travels to Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan to share stories about his childhood. From witnessing substance abuse and making a promise to abstain from both to overcoming bullying for braiding his hair, Linklater has used his life experiences to inspire his audiences for more than 20 years.
In 2014 he founded Boys with Braids
, an international movement that spotlights the cultural significance of why Indigenous boys and men wear a braid.
“I have always had long hair and I used to get teased for it. It weighed on me as a child and it was traumatic. Now, I have my own family and sons who have long hair. Each of them is coming home with the same experiences. I realized something needed to be done in order to create awareness, encouragement and general education for the public,” says the descendant of Thunderchild First Nation, located on Treaty 6 Territory.
Since the inception of Boys with Braids, communities across North America have adopted the campaign and hosted gatherings and events. Linklater’s advocacy hasn’t gone unnoticed. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his work including an Indspire Award for his outstanding career achievements and service to the Aboriginal community, as well as a Tom Longboat Award for his outstanding contributions to sport in Canada.
“To be recognized nationally for my achievements is very exciting, humbling and encouraging. It’s validation that I am doing the right thing and that my work is important. It inspires me to keep doing what I am doing.”