Walk Off the Earth’s creative take on O Canada at NBA Finals draws mixed reviews

The Toronto Raptors’ first trip to the NBA Finals has gone about as well as could be expected, as the team holds a three-games-to-one lead over the defending-champion Golden State Warriors.

But it’s been a rougher series for another Canadian institution in its first run to the championship round, with back-to-back renditions of “O Canada” drawing mixed reactions online.

The latest example came ahead of Game 4 between the Raptors and Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., Friday night.

The four members of Burlington, Ont.-based Walk Off the Earth crowded around a single, triple-necked stringed instrument for a funky, folksy rendition of the national anthem.

The television broadcast shows people in the crowd bobbing their heads and swaying from side-to-side, and a clip shared on social media shows Raptors forward Pascal Siakam smiling broadly during the performance.

The unorthodox take drew mixed reviews online, however, with several Twitter users suggesting the band should “walk off the court.”

Walk Off the Earth issued a statement through a publicist saying the band was “thrilled” to be given the opportunity to perform on a global stage.

The band also tweeted a link to the video of Siakam’s apparent embrace of their version, saying “Spicy P digs it! That’s all we need.”

The polarizing performance came after Saskatchewan-born country singer Tenille Arts put her own spin on “O Canada” ahead of Game 3 of the finals on Wednesday night.

The 25-year-old, originally from Weyburn, said she heard from a lot of people who loved her rendition — but admitted there were also negative comments online about the flourishes she added to the melody.

In the first NBA Finals to feature teams from two different countries, the international anthem battle has at times nearly upstaged the action on the court.

A CNN article posted early Saturday put that showdown at a 2-2 tie, with Walk Off the Earth and Brampton, Ont.-based Alessia Cara notching wins for Canada in Games 4 and 2, respectively.

Metallica’s feedback-laced guitar version of “The Star Spangled Banner” defeated Arts’ rendition of “O Canada” in Game 3, according to CNN, and “The Voice” winner Jordan Smith edged out The Tenors in Game 1.

It hasn’t yet been revealed who will perform the anthems ahead of a potentially series-ending Game 5 on Monday in Toronto, but CNN notes that if Celine Dion, Justin Bieber or Drake take the stage, “it may be game over.”

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