Even though the beautiful game of basketball was once upon a time created and handwritten by a Canadian-born man by the name of James Naismith, the country of Canada has never truly been a mainstay in the overall development of high-level NBA talent.
The obvious doesn’t need to be stated, the United States has always and will always be the mecca of development for young and upcoming basketball stars to grow their skills. We see it in the Olympics, FIBA World Championships, and by the overwhelming amount of American-born professional ballplayers taking over the NBA today.
To elaborate even further on how far ahead the USA is in respect to basketball development, it is startling whenever the general public sees players from international grounds make an impact on the biggest stage in the sport, the likes of Luka Dôncic (Serbia) and Giannis Antetekoumpo (Greece) to name a few.
Rewind back fifty, thirty, even twenty years ago, international basketball talent in comparison to what there is today is impractical, because it just wasn’t a common trend at all. The sport is embedded in American culture and rightfully so, it is what they do the very best in terms of athletics.
Yet, slowly and surely the game is beginning to expand out to a point where the entire world is seeing representation within the National Basketball Association. Most prominently speaking from the perspective of a young Canadian basketball junkie, our country is rapidly becoming a powerhouse in the upbringing of raw basketball ability.
As we are beginning to see so very often in the NBA and the past two seasons specifically, Canada and the players that found a love for the game north of the border are making their names be heard, and doing it while carrying multi-billion dollar American organizations to new heights.
Q: What has sparked me to do a piece on this subject, even though it is a commonly known fact by now that Canada is changing the way people view us from a basketball perspective?
A: Wednesday night was another monumental night for this country in the NBA, let’s talk about it.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics, have begun their franchises rebuilding stage and have made it abundantly clear. They made moves to signalize their intent to add young talent and draft picks while offloading some bigger contracts and NBA-proven talent over the past two seasons.
In doing so, one of the moves they made was to send all-star forward Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019, in return receiving a package of players and picks, one of those players being guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of Toronto, Ontario.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dropped his career-high 🔥
SPECIAL TALENT. 😤 pic.twitter.com/IfOLpvI5zh
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) February 25, 2021
Old news, yes I am aware. The point of mentioning this is the fact that the Thunder have relied on SGA all season to be the focal point of their team and carry the load on both ends of the court, and he has provided that and more.
Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging an outstanding 22.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game all while shooting 51% from the floor, and 41% from three-point range, all of which are career highs.
Staying on the topic of career highs and Wednesday night, SGA put up an insane 42-8-4 (points-rebounds-assists) stat line for the Thunder against the San Antonio Spurs.
Though when the game was tied at 99 in the final seconds, it was yet another Canadian-born star that took the spotlight.
Lugentz Dort is a 6″3, 215 lbs combo guard that is highly regarded for already being one of the leagues best perimeter defenders. Nicknamed ‘The Dorture Chamber’ for his work on defence, it was Dort was called upon to take the final shot against San Antonio when the team needed its biggest offensive play of the night.
LU DORT CALLED GAME pic.twitter.com/TbbRZTfnxy
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 25, 2021
‘Lu’ as his teammates call him, is only 21 years old and was born in Montreal, Quebec where he was taught the fundamentals of the game. From a young age, he fell in love with the game and parlayed it into a full-ride scholarship at the Arizona State University.
These two young men are prime examples of where the game is going in this country. The best part is that it doesn’t appear to be slowing down, either.
With other Canadians already having primal roles on NBA teams, this will do nothing but inspire a younger generation of hoopers to pursue a life and career in basketball, opening doors and new avenues for these kids to fall in love with the game, as well.
All Canadian sports fans should be aware of who Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins and Tristan Thompson are. Now is time to familiarize the basketball community in this country with names like Nickeil Alexander-Walker, RJ Barrett and Dillon Brooks.
Jamal Murray is the first player in NBA history to drop 50 points without shooting a free throw 🤯
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 20, 2021
Following the success of the Toronto Raptors and their 2019 NBA Championship, hopes of an even brighter future within the sport are high and buzz is being generated around the possibilities of some competitive international competition down the road.
To think that it is likely that Canada will be able to beat the likes of the United States on the world stage like the Olympic games or even world championships might be a little too ahead of reality, but someday down the road I am expecting big things for the Canada Basketball program and where it is headed with talent like this and much more on the horizon.
To even be able to send a team to these competitions and compete at the highest level is unprecedented for the country and its program. It is very rare to witness the development of any country at any sports flow at a rate quite like it is in this country right now.
Putting it in hockey terms, it is almost as if over the next 5 years, Germany began to push for top 3 or 4 contention in the international ice hockey ranks. Not only was it unlikely, but relatively impossible.
That is something to be said about the systems we have in place for young players to progress, and the privilege we have to be able to get better every single day with facilities, coaching and opportunity.
Keep balling out, Canada.
Evan Power, Evolution 107.9