Five of the Best Ever NBA Players from Canada
International players have occupied the NBA over the previous decade, while guys like Luka Doncic and the reigning MVP, Nikola Jokic, have dominated the league over the last few years. Back at the start of the 2020-21 NBA season, the rosters featured 107 international players from 41 countries, and Canada led the way with a record-breaking 17.
The Great White North hasn’t been a household name in the past, but some Canadian players have managed to leave a stamp. Here’s Gambling.com’s top five Canadian players to have played in the NBA.
5. Tristan Thompson
Only six Canadians have won the NBA championship, and one of those guys is Tristan Thompson, who’s just finished his tenth season. Tristan spent nine years with the Cleveland Cavaliers before joining the Boston Celtics in 2020. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and one of the key members of the 2016 Cavaliers team that overcame a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
In 673 regular-season games (472 starts), Thompson has averaged 9.3 points and 8.1 rebounds, while in 83 playoff appearances, he’s recorded 7.8 points and 8.6 boards a night. Back in 2016, Tristan started 21 post-season games for the Cavs, tallying 6.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in 29.6 minutes on the floor per contest.
4. RJ Barrett
The 21-year-old Toronto native might be still young to get himself a place on this list, but keep in mind that RJ Barrett had 17.6 points, 5.8 boards, and 3.0 dimes per game this past regular season and helped the New York Knicks to reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Also, Barrett is Steve Nash’s godson, and we’ll talk about the current Brooklyn Nets head coach later.
Nicknamed “Maple Mamba”, RJ played one year under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, averaging 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game while sharing the floor with Zion Williamson. The Knicks picked him with the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and Barrett didn’t disappoint. He’s labeled as one of the most intelligent young guards in the league and certainly has a bright future.
3. Rick Fox
Well, we could argue about this one, but Rick Fox is a three-time NBA champ. And he played alongside Kobe Bryand and Shaquille O’Neal. So, no, we cannot argue about it, sorry.
Drafted by the Celtics in the first round of the 1991 NBA Draft, Fox had played six seasons for one of the two biggest franchises before joining the other one in 1997. The Lakers won three straight championships from 2000 to 2002, and Rick played 58 playoff games in that span (35 starts), tallying 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds a night.
2. Andrew Wiggins
I think Andrew Wiggins was unlucky to get drafted by the worst NBA franchise. Or one of the worst, at least, as the Minnesota Timberwolves have appeared in the post-season only once since 2004 when they reached the Western Conference Finals on the back of Kevin Garnet’s MVP season.
Anyway, Wiggins was the first pick overall in 2014. He was racking up 16.9 points a night as a rookie, and in 2018, “Maple Jordan” helped the T-Wolves to make it to the post-season, averaging 17.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Wiggins was traded to the Golden State Warriors in February 2020, and the 26-year-old wing might be on the move again this summer.
1. Steve Nash
There’s no doubt who’s the best Canadian basketball player ever. Steve Nash never won the NBA championship in his 18-year-long career. But he’s a Hall of Famer. He’s an eight-time All-Star and a five-time assist champ. Furthermore, Nash won two straight MVP Awards, but you know what? The only way to figure out how great Steve Nash was is to watch him play.
Instead of the outro, let’s see what Steve Nash has to say about RJ Barrett. One thing is sure, Canada has a bright future and could win the Olympic Gold sooner rather than later.
“You realize that where I got is hard to project on anyone,” Steve Nash told the media. “But RJ Barrett has every chance to be as good as a player or better. Will he win two MVPs? That is not a fair thing to say, because so much of that is based on circumstance and situation. You never know. But can he be a guy that plays in eight All-Star Games? Absolutely!”
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