Generally you never mention Canada, and basketball together in the same breathe. Usually you associate the great white north with words such as freezing, frozen ponds, and how could we forget hockey. Well that’s all changing slowly, and for many it is a welcome sight to a nation that must diversify itself, and not just hang onto just hockey, or the NHL as its only sport that is universal. To really realize how the game of basketball has grown in Canada, we can look at recent players who have played in the NBA, who are in the NBA currently and of course those who are on the cusp of making the NBA. Even further, some of these players have connections to the 604.
For starters basketball first started becoming popular in Canada when a scrawny little white kid from Victoria was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1996 15th overall. I am obviously talking about the legendary Steve Nash. Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, Steve Nash attended high school at St. Michaels University School in Victoria after moving to British Columbia. After having a rather rough start to his career Steve Nash looked back, and his NBA career took off with no chance of slowing down. Upon being traded to the Dallas Mavericks, Steve Nash was brought back to Phoenix where he would have his best years as a pro, and catapult himself past many of the all-time NBA assist leaders. Along the way Steve Nash inspired other young Canadians to pick up the sport of basketball, and one of those players who would pick up the game of basketball would be Vancouver’s very own Robert Sacre.
Robert Sacre played his high school basketball at Handsworth Secondary school. In his junior year Sacre led his team to the Provincial title, and was named MVP of the title game. After finishing off his senior year at Handsworth, Sacre went on to play for Division 1 School Gonzaga Bulldogs. After a strong senior season Sacre was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 60th pick in the NBA draft. Better late than never huh Robert. Although he has not had the same success as fellow Canadian Steve Nash, he is still young and has great potential with the amazing organization.
Briefly to name a few other Canadians who are currently playing in the NBA, or are poised to break into the league in the near future are; Tristan Thompson, a budding young big man with the Cleveland Cavaliers who made huge strides in his second year averaging a double double. Rookie Andrew Nicholson of the Orlando Magic is part of a young team that is rebuilding after the departure of Dwight Howard, and has a bright future ahead of him. Vancouver’s very own Kelly Olynyk is projected to be a top 15 draft pick in this year’s NBA draft. Kelly has a combination of great size (7 feet tall), and a unique skill set that you would typically see a guard possess that makes him such an attractive rookie to many NBA scouts. Lastly we have Andrew Wiggins, who will be eligible for the 2014 NBA draft who is poised to become the 1st ever Canadian to be selected number 1 in the NBA draft. Without even stepping onto a NBA court, he is already drawing comparisons to players such as Kobe Bryant.
Even when we look at this year’s NBA finals the Spurs have Canadian Cory Joseph to play behind Tony Parker, and the Heat have Canadian Joel Anthony who brings a strong defensive minded game to the court. At a glimpse it is safe to say that basketball in Canada is on the rise, and the talent pool keeps growing and growing. It is safe to say that hockey is superior to basketball in Canada, but the game is sure gaining popularity north of the border, including in the 604.
Written by: Hamed Amiri