Most Canadians have put aside their regional differences to root for the Toronto Raptors — Canada’s only NBA team — to beat the Golden State Warriors and make basketball history.
It’s a travesty the Raptors haven’t made the finals sooner, despite the fact the sport was invented by a damn Canadian in the first place — when James Naismith sank a ball into a peach basket and declared it a sport 128 years ago.
Even though a Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup in 26 years, we comfort ourselves by saying that nearly half the NHL’s players are Canadian. So it begs the question: how many of the Toronto Raptors are actually from the Great White North?
Hint: not many.
Chris Boucher (who actually played for Golden State last season) is from Montreal, and is currently the only Canadian on the Raptors.
In fact, there are only 13 Canadians total who were part of the starting rosters for any NBA teams in the 2018-2019 season. And yes, one of them was the infamous Tristan Thompson.
In the entire history of the NBA and its predecessor, the Basketball Association of America (BAA), only 36 Canadians have ever played. That’s 36 Canadians in 73 years.
Besides Boucher, the only other Canadians to ever play for the Raptors are Torontonians Anthony Bennett, Cory Joseph and Jamaal Magloire.
The Toronto Huskies, a BAA team that only lasted a season (1946-1947), also had two Canadians on the team: Gino Sovran from Windsor, Ont. and Hank Biasatti, a dual citizen who was born in Italy but also grew up in Windsor.
Naismith is probably rolling in his grave.
Room to grow
But there’s an upside to all this. The Raptors’ current success, and the electrifying interest in players like Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry is likely to continue growing. That means we’re probably going to see more Canadian players going forward.
Game 1 of these finals was the most watched NBA game ever in Canada, with an average of 3.5 million people tuning in. And some of those people are basketball-loving kids, like those in Boucher’s hometown of Montreal.
One aspiring young player competing in the Jr. NBA international tournament told CTV News he feels inspired to follow Boucher’s footsteps.
“I think it is great for diversity of sports here, because in Quebec it is a lot about hockey and we are trying to put basketball on the map.”
And despite the low number of Canadians in the NBA, the ones we do have are all stars. Bennett and fellow Canadian Andrew Wiggins were back-to-back first draft picks in 2013 and 2014.
“It’s obviously a golden era for talent in Canada,” Steve Nash, a former Canadian player and the NBA’s MVP twice, said in 2015, according to Forbes. “It’s exciting for me and for all of us Canadians.”
Who knows, maybe one day the Raptors will have two Canadians on the team at the same time.
Besides, Canadian or not, the team’s players have made the north their home. They have that in common with a lot of the fans in between struggles to survive our “cold-ass weather”, and trying to figure out how bagged milk works.
And isn’t that what We the North is all about?
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story called the lack of Canadians in the NBA “depressing,” but upon further consideration, we’re striking that from the record and opting for optimism.
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