Although Canada is known for producing hockey players and winter sport athletes, it may come as a surprise to some that the great white North is responsible for producing some extraordinary NBA talent in recent years. This influx of Canadian talent stems firstly from the influx of young Canadian basketball players into U.S. college programs. Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tyler Ennis, and Cory Joseph have all made it through the U.S. college system and found some degree of success. Their talent flourished at the collegiate level, which gave them an excellent preparation for the NBA. Canada and its native players have had to accept that basketball programs in the U.S.—with their superior funding—provide greater support and preparation for prospective NBA players. Canadian basketball programs at the college level simply cannot compete with the scholarships and funding that U.S. basketball programs have.
Another factor behind the rise of Canadian-born players in the NBA is in large part due to the growing popularity of basketball in Canada. The Toronto Raptors are the only NBA team in Canada and the popularity of basketball in this country, particularly around the Toronto area, is largely dependent on their success. Most of Canada’s NBA talent grew up in or around Toronto, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if many of these Canadian players grew up watching or supporting the Raptors. Furthermore, Raptor players act as ambassadors of the sport throughout Canada, and are role models to many young and aspiring basketball players all over the nation.
Canada’s close geographical proximity to the U.S. is another more obvious reason for the rise of Canadian basketball players in the NBA. The influence of the NBA can easily leak into Canada through sport networks and exhibition games, which encourage young basketball players in Canada to aspire to play in the NBA. Young Canadian basketball players just have to look across the border if they want to play at a higher level in college before the NBA.
The future looks very bright for Canadian basketball on the international stage. With Steve Nash as general manager of the national team, Canada should be a top competitor at the next FIBA World Championships, as well as the Olympic games. Though it is unlikely that Canada will topple the almighty Americans anytime soon, Canada could very well have the makings of a basketball powerhouse.
With basketball increasing in popularity in Canada, another franchise could potentially set up camp in either Montreal or Vancouver. Ideally, the Toronto Raptors will eventually no longer be the lone Canadian NBA franchise. Perhaps currently improving performance and the ever-growing support for the Raptors might convince the NBA that Canada deserves a second NBA franchise.
There is plenty of hope for the future of Canadian basketball, especially with the influx of new talent. It is possible that a feedback effect will take place, with players like Wiggins and Joseph inspiring many more young Canadians to persevere in the sport. As long as Canada does not heap too much pressure on its young basketball prodigies and instead allows the talent to flourish, it will continue to see a greater pool of talent develop.
Canadian basketball players themselves can also be very hopeful indeed. The recognition that these players are receiving from their home country does not go unnoticed. This should motivate many more younger basketball players in Canada to train and compete with American athletes for a place in the NBA.