There is no doubt Canadian basketball is the strongest it’s ever been.
The biggest hotspot for young talent in Canada is the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This area has produced NBA regulars such as Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk. As of 2018, the NBA has as many players from Toronto as New York City, according to the New York Times.
More recently, the Toronto Raptors played a huge role in the development of Canadian basketball, winning the 2019 championship. The Raptors have made the NBA Playoffs in seven straight seasons.
This has captivated Toronto audiences and people across our great country. The NBA Championship in 2019 was the pinnacle and inspired many young kids with visions of playing in the NBA, which will lead to a new generation of Canadian basketball talent.
One of the rising stars in the NBA is 23-year-old Jamal Murray out of Kitchener, Ontario. The Denver Nuggets’ point guard has tallied four games of 40 points or more in the 2020 playoffs.
Even before Jamal Murray, Canadian basketball players have become NBA starters. Andrew Wiggins from Toronto was drafted first overall in the 2014 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. With high expectations, Wiggins was able to win NBA Rookie of the Year in 2015 before experiencing growing pains as a player for the next few years. Wiggins was traded to the Golden State Warriors in February 2020. He will try to resurrect his career on the west coast.
RJ Barrett also from Toronto was drafted third overall by the New York Knicks in the 2019 NBA draft. Barrett had a successful rookie season in the NBA on a bad team. Averaging 14.3 points per game, he’s a player Knicks’ fan can hang their hat on despite a dismal 2019-20 campaign.
Wiggins, Barrett and Murray’s impact on the NBA over the last six years has put Canadian basketball in a spot it hasn’t been before. More Canadian stars are being offered scholarships from highly acclaimed NCAA basketball schools. Wiggins went to Kansas, Murray to Kentucky and Barrett went to Duke. All schools that commonly have aspirations of National Championships year in and year out.
This trend will continue as basketball in Canada continues to grow.
From a younger perspective, youth basketball in the Greater Toronto Area is growing year after year. From ages five to 14, basketball is the third most popular sport in Canada behind soccer and hockey, according to the 2014 Youth Sports Report. With 354,000 participants in 2014, this is the talent pool that might create future Canadian basketball stars. One can only imagine this numbers will continue to increase.
Jamal Murray’s playoff performance this year not only brings hope for the Denver Nuggets’ future, it brings hope for Canadian basketball as a whole. Young Canucks with dreams of the NBA can look up to Murray and can see a path to greatness. Only hard work and dedication stands in the way.
With Canadians becoming bigger names in the NBA and the sheer interest in the game of basketball skyrocketing in the country, Canadian basketball has never been in a better spot.