|Steve Nash has been the face of NBA players from Canada, but a new crop of young talent is coming to leave |
their mark on the NBA. (usatoday.com)
The British Invasion sparked rock and roll in the United States in the 1960s. And while the game of basketball has already been sparked in the U.S., we're witnessing the Canadian Invasion on the NBA.
Canada's basketball poster boy Steve Nash has already been in the league 16 years, and others like Rick Fox and Jamaal Magloire have made Canada proud as recognizable talents with long professional careers. But now we're not just seeing the quantity of players coming into the NBA from the neighbor to the north increasing, but the quality has the potential to be superb.
Coming into the 2012-13 season, the NBA had eight Canadian players on rosters: Nash, Joel Anthony, Samuel Dalembert, Corey Joseph, Kris Joseph, Andrew Nicholson, Robert Sacre and Tristan Thompson. While not all of these players were born in Canada (Nash was born in South Africa, for instance) they proudly represent the country in which they grew up. In fact, only 19 players as of this year born in Canada have ever played in the NBA or ABA.
These numbers are about to change. The skill level should too.
Outside of Nash, there are some recognizable names on the lists above, but most of them are role players. There's nothing wrong with that. Anthony and Dalembert have made nice careers for themselves. Rick Fox had a great career with the Lakers. The others are in the first two years of their careers and lot can change for guys like Thompson and Kris Joseph. But some of the guys entering the league this year and those coming up the college ranks carry hype that not many other Canadians have experienced.
Two more Canadians were taken in the 2013 NBA Draft, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, and fellow Canadian Myck Kabongo went undrafted but still will likely wind up with a team this fall. And it's not like these guys are predicted to be average NBA roster-fillers (well, the ruling is still out on Kabongo). Both were drafted in the top half of the first round, with Bennett selected No. 1 overall. Bennett will play alongside fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson in Cleveland and Olynyk will get an opportunity to prove himself early for the rebuilding Boston Celtics. Both are athletic, versatile big men who can shoot and epitomize the evolving role of post players in the game.
Next season could be just as prosperous for the country, especially if Andrew Wiggins leaves from Kansas after one year as expected and Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos leaves after his junior season. Wiggins will likely be the No. 1 pick next year, and possibly the most talented Canadian player to play in the NBA if the hype is correct. Some teams may even look to tank in order to draft him.
Nash may have to make room as the poster boy of Canadian basketball, but I doubt he will mind. The talent pool in Canada is growing and the success of this group of players should only spark more interest in the country to pick up a basketball and chase the dream of playing in the NBA. They will now have more role models to be inspired by.
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