For the last decade, Canada Basketball has been building to the 2020, now 2021 Olympics.
But with more than 80 per cent of Japanese citizens polled by news agencies Kyodo and TBS saying they want the Olympics cancelled, and The Times of London reporting that Japanese officials have quietly stated that the 2021 Olympics will not happen, it’s unclear when we’ll see Canada have another shot at Olympic basketball glory.
The Olympics was supposed to be the big coming-out party for men’s basketball in Canada. The women’s teams have been consistently qualifying for the Olympics and winning major tournaments for years but the last time the men qualified for the Olympics was two decades ago with Steve Nash at the helm.
When Andrew Wiggins burst into the consciousness of Canadian basketball fans in 2013, it felt like Canada had that Nash-level player they had been waiting for; it was a question of if Canada Basketball would ever have the talent to build around him to get to the next level.
Now, Wiggins isn’t even the best player in the country.
While Wiggins never lived up to the “Maple Jordan” nickname, he’s carved out a nice role for himself as the “Poutine Pippen” on the Golden State Warriors. Jamal Murray has taken the lead as the undisputed king of Canadian basketball and a host of promising young players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dortz and RJ Barrett look like they’ll be carrying the torch for the country going forward but it’s been hard to get them all on the same team for any major international tournaments.
The FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Victoria, B.C., which was originally scheduled to start in June 2020, represented the only time where Team Canada had commitments from almost every major player in the country.
With Canadian NBA players being major contributors to playoff teams, it’s hard to imagine a world where the best players unite for Canada consistently. Representing Canada just hasn’t been a priority for their players.
Although the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee has denied that the report that they’re cancelling the games, it’s a familiar tune. Before delaying the Olympics last year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative Mark Adams had stated that they would go ahead as planned despite the on-going pandemic.
With IOC President Thomas Bach now saying that it’s going forward again, it’s hard to put any weight in those words.
If Canada’s men’s basketball team can’t prove they’ve arrived on a global stage this year, it may be a long wait for another chance to do so – unless there is a culture shift within the best players in the country.
It’s going to be a long three years if the Olympics are put off again.