We tend to think that those who live in the United States are the only ones who can be great. That Canada is a secondary source of entertainment. The reality is that Canada has been home to some of the best NBA players of all time, but they still don’t get the recognition they deserve. A little-known fact is that Canada is the birthplace of James Naismith, the inventor of basketball (in 1891) and the author of the original basketball rule book. Fast forward some 125 years, Toronto Raptors, the only native team from the Great White North, won the 2019 NBA title defeating Golden State Warriors 4-2 in the finals. Even though the buck rests with the US when it comes to basketball, their neighbors in the north have made steady progress in the game, both in terms of viewership and participation. With 22 players registered for the 2022-23 NBA season, Canada remains the most represented nation outside of the US for the ninth year running.
Steve Nash (1996-2015)
No matter which sport you’re talking about, there are some players that you can look on the field/court and say they’re going to be a legend. It’s safe to say Steve Nash has always had such a presence on the basketball court.NBA Hall-of-Famer, four-time inductee of the 50-40-90 club, and consecutive winner of the NBA MVP award, Steve Nash is arguably the greatest Canadian to ever play the game. Making his debut in 1996 for the Phoenix Suns, Nash went on to represent Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers in a career spanning almost two decades. Nash is hailed as one of the best point guards and one of the most efficient shooters in NBA history. Even though he never made it to a final, in no way does this diminish his legacy in the game. He hung up his boots in 2015, having accrued over 17,000 points and 10,000 assists to his name.
Rick Fox (1991-2004)
Rick Fox holds a unique record of being the second ever rookie to start on the opening night of the season, the first being the legendary Larry Bird. This alone speaks volumes about the talent that Fox was. Having started his amateur career with the University of North Carolina team, he was soon drafted by the Boston Celtics. Fox made it to the 1992 NBA All-Rookie Second Team. He was destined for greater things as he went on to become an important member of the Los Angeles Lakers squad, which achieved a treble of titles from 2000-2002.
Tristan Thompson (2011-present)
The first active player on this list, Tristan Thompson, is a talented power forward currently plying his trade with the Chicago Bulls. He spent just one year playing at college level before he was snapped up by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011. He caught early attention when he was inducted into the All-Rookie Second Team. But his moment in the sun came during the 2014-15 season, as he became a pivotal player in their title-winning team. He was hot on the basketball court and even in the sports betting space, where people were constantly throwing bets on his numbers. His consistency was paramount to the success of the Cavs, as he averaged 7.9 points and 9 rebounds per game during this season.
Jamaal Magloire (2000-2012)
Jamaal Magloire holds a unique distinction of being just the second Canadian All-Star in league history, the first being Steve Nash. That achievement alone places him in illustrious company. Having started his amateur journey with the Kentucky Wildcats, he was picked by the Charlotte Hornets in 2000. Magloire’s pinnacle arrived in 2004 as he started all 82 games for the Hornets while averaging 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, a promising career was cut short due to injuries forcing him to in 2012. Since then has taken up the role of development consultant with the Toronto Raptors.
Andrew Wiggins (2014-present)
Next on the list is Andrew Wiggins, also affectionately known as Maple Jordan. Another find by the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was drafted from the college team of the Kansas Jayhawks. But the Cavs missed a trick when they let him join the Minnesota Timberwolves. This transfer proved to be a catalyst for Wiggins’ career as he bagged the NBA Rookie of the Year award for the 2014-15 season. He moved to the Golden State Warriors in 2020, where he currently plays. Although Wiggins is yet to win a title, he still has a lot of his career to collect further accolades.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2018–present)
It might seem premature to include Gilgeous-Alexander in this list given his fledgling career, but he has shown ample promise to excite all NBA fans. Having been drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 2018, he was traded the same day to Los Angeles Clippers. He had a respectable first season for a rookie, as he averaged almost 11 points per game. But his move to Oklahoma City Thunder catapulted him into the stratosphere. In two of his three seasons with the Thunder, he has averaged over 20 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. These numbers alone promise a bright future for a very talented individual. Remember the name!
A rundown of the top Canadian players clearly shows a wealth of talent that has emerged from the country. A look at player representation numbers shows a steady increase in the influx of players, with names like Wiggins and Gilgeous-Alexander bound to inspire future generations. Even though Canadians are associated with ice hockey and lacrosse, basketball is fast gaining traction and competing to be one of their most popular sports.