Canadian talent taking over basketball

Anthony Bennett, the first Canadian to be drafted first overall in the NBA (bleacherreport.com)
Anthony Bennett, the first Canadian to be drafted first overall in the NBA (bleacherreport.com)

The game that was invented by a Canadian is on his way back home. In 1891, James Naismith invented basketball. Fifty-five years later, the first National Basketball League (NBA) game was played in Toronto. But given that history, basketball never really took off here like it did in the United States.

Since the beginning of the NBA, the league’s MVP award has gone to American players all but three times. One of those non-American players was Steve Nash, who won the award in back-to-back seasons.

Some people believe that other than Nash, Canadian basketball has not produced any high caliber players. Most Canadians who enter the league just end up as role players.

This is no longer the case. In the 2011 NBA Draft, Ontario native Tristan Thompson was drafted by the Cleveland Cavilers with the fourth pick. Last year Thompson started every game for the Cavilers and averaged 11.7 points, to go along with 9.4 rebounds a game. Fellow Canuck and college teammate Cory Joseph was also drafted in the first round in 2011. In the following year, three more Canadians were drafted. Times looked good for Canadian basketball, but there was more to come.

This year, Anthony Bennett was drafted with the first overall pick by the Cleveland Cavilers, becoming the first Canadian to be selected first overall. It also made Bennett only the seventh player to be chosen with the first pick who wasn’t from the United States.

This is where things get exciting for the Canadian basketball fans, and basketball fans in general. Future star Andrew Wiggins is entering his freshmen year of college to play ball for the Kansas Jayhawks. Wiggins is projected to be the best draft pick since four-time MVP and two-time NBA champion LeBron James. If it wasn’t for the NBA rule that prohibits the drafting of players straight out of high school, he would already have his NBA jersey and some nice endorsement deals. Teams are willing to give up on the season at hand just to have a shot at the number one draft pick.

The nation is producing more than just NBA players. In the same year Thompson was drafted, Canada began its very own pro league called the National Basketball League (NBL). The league has teams in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Ontario. So, for once, fans in the Maritimes don’t have to travel all the way to Toronto to see a pro game. Though the talent level of the nine NBL teams doesn’t come close to matching up with the NBA, it is a step in the right direction for Canadian basketball.

All this young talent puts Canada in a good position for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. The country currently has ten Canadian players in the NBA, and by 2016, Canada could be the only country besides the USA who turns down NBA players for their national team. A gold medal would still be a stretch, but silver and bronze might be in Canada’s grasp.

After more than a century, Canada is finally ready to slam dunk.

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