Few people would have thought that a game invented by a Canadian in 1891 would take the world by storm and fuel the rise of to the north as an emerging global power at the basketball level. While historically Canada has not been known as a contender in this beloved sport, recent years have witnessed a surge of talent and passion for basketball among young Canadians.
Thanks to the expansion of NBA teams into Canada in the nineties, with Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies coming onto the scene in 1995, more and more Canadians have taken up the game with impressive results. Now, Canada boasts nearly two dozen players who have made their mark in the best league in the world. Some even rank among perennial NBA All-Stars. Let’s take a look at some of their top basketball players.
Tristan Thompson was the pride of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA draft when he was picked fourth overall. Even though he couldn’t grab the Rookie of the Year award that season, he surely earned a spot on the All-Rookie team.
Thompson’s career has had a turning point when he joined LeBron James and was an integral part of Cleveland’s NBA championship team. As per NBA championship odds, Tristan was undoubtedly a clear favorite. The basketball player proved his worth by being the second-best rebounder of the entire championship. He stood tall by averaging 6.7 points and nine rebounds throughout their remarkable journey during the 2016 playoffs.
With no All-Star team selections under his belt, Thompson didn’t get demotivated. Rather, he stayed focused and kept up his high-level rebounding game strong for years to come. His consistency has been awe-inspiring as time and again, he has proved that he is one of the best in several international competitions.
Despite still being a ‘rookie’, Mathurin’s impact on the NBA has been immediate: almost 18 points and more than 4 rebounds per game… almost always starting from the bench. The forward of the Indiana Pacers is, along with Palo Banchero, one of the great candidates to receive the ‘Rookie of the Year’ trophy. More so, he is running to be chosen ‘Best Sixth Man’ in the league.
After bouncing around the league like a spalding ball for the past three seasons, this NBA player has finally landed on solid ground with the Jazz. And he is dominating as the team’s top dog at center. Sure, his numbers aren’t quite as jaw-dropping as they were during his brief stint with the Houston Rockets last season – where he was racking up almost 20 points and 8 boards per game like it was nothing – but he’s still putting up some serious digits on a nightly basis.
Kelly knows how to score from beyond the arc too, hitting about 40% of his 3-point attempts to give opposing defenses nightmares. And while he may not be pulling down quite as many rebounds now that he’s in Utah, he’s still making an impact on both ends of the court. All signs point to this player settling down and making a real name for himself with the Jazz during their rebuild phase.
Running head-to-head with Donovan Mitchell might have caught the spotlight, but this guy has an essential starting position in one of the most competitive teams in the league. Down in the Grizzlies, the player aims to give the Western Conference leaders, including those gunning for them, like Nuggets. Together with Desmond Bane, he’s one of Ja Morant’s trusted sidekicks and has been bringing down the house with impressive stats. With 15.4 points per game on average alone, plus 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists under his belt, there is no denying that Mitchell knows how to deliver.
To top it all up, he has got some mad defensive skills that could make anyone go weak in the knees. It begs the question: will you find another player who can offer more to the team?
Current NBA champion and with a decisive role in the past Finals, Wiggins seems to have found his place in the Golden State Warriors. If the injuries respect him, the No. 1 of the 2014 draft is able to do many things on the parquet, as evidenced by his 17.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Last season he played his first All Star Game.
This Indiana Pacers guard was one of the pleasant surprises of the 2021 draft: he was chosen in No. 13 and signed a more than interesting 13.1 points and 4.1 rebounds in his ‘rookie’ season in the NBA. The arrival of Tyrese Haliburton and the increase in prominence of players such as Nembhard, Nesmith or the ‘rookie’ Mathurin, have made Duarte have a somewhat more secondary role and his numbers prove it: 7.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in this 2022-23.