As the nearest and (usually) dearest neighbor of the United States, it should come as no surprise that a number of Canadian NBA players have made their mark on the league over the years.
While Canada may be more well known as a country of ice hockey players (though interestingly lacrosse is the national sport), a top 10 of the best Canadian NBA players features plenty of star power.
Canadian NBA players
The Toronto Raptors have proven the NBA sells in Canada, and possible NBA expansion cities north of the border like Vancouver and Montreal could be a big part of the league’s future plans. Here is a look at the top 10 best Canadian NBA players to date.
A cult hero as part of a Gonzaga Bulldogs team that always seemed to upset the odds under head coach Mark Few in college, Kelly Olynyk with his wild hair was taken with the No. 13 overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks.
Olynyk was immediately traded to Boston where he became an important role player for the Celtics. Olynyk maybe never reached the star potential some thought he had, but he has averaged 9.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game over his career.
This includes a late breakout year in Houston during the 2020-21 season where Olynyk averaged 19.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but moving to Montreal when he was 14-years-old, Samuel Dalembert just about qualifies for this list.
Dalembert may never have been an All-Star or go-to scorer, but his 12-season, six-team career was one to look back on with pride. Dalembert averaged 7.7 points per game for his career. It was on the defensive end of the court, however, where he was most effective. His almost 7,000 boards and over 1,500 blocked shots are the most of any Canadian product to date.
If you want to argue that it is too soon to put Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on this list then I will listen. If you want to argue that this spot is too low for SGA, then I will also listen.
That is the impact that the fourth-year player out of Kentucky has had over his short time in the NBA. The Toronto, Ontario native was solid in going for 10.8 points per game in his first season with the Los Angeles Clippers.
A trade to a young and developing Oklahoma City Thunder squad, however, may have been the best thing to happen to SGA. He went for 19.0 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game during the 2019-20 season, before upping his points to 23.7 per game over 35 contests in the 2020-21 season.
The most Canadian NBA player of all time by stature, “Big” Bill Wennington was a 7-foot, 260-pound center out of Montreal, Quebec.
Wennington deserves a spot on this list just for the sheer perseverance of his craft. Initially, the No. 16 overall pick of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks out of St. Johns, Wennington’s career amounted to six years of never playing more than 19 minutes or averaging more than 5.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
A stint in Italy suggested his NBA career was over, but Wennington found his way back to the league with the Chicago Bulls in 1993. While still not a heavy contributor, Wennington and his career average of 4.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game is a three-time NBA Champion.
Jamal Murray is another free-scoring Canadian youngster with plenty of career in front of him to climb this list. The seventh overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft, the Kitchener, Ontario native has played his entire career to date with the Denver Nuggets.
Murray’s 9.9 points and 2.1 assists per game as a rookie were a sign of what was to come with his best year to date being the 2020-21 season. He averaged 21.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game that season and he cannot be far away from his first NBA All-Star nod should his form continue.
He also scored 50 points in a February 2021 win over the Cavaliers. This was the first game in NBA history any player had scored at least 50 points without attempting a free throw.
Jamaal Magloire transitioned his NBA career into behind-the-scenes work as he is involved as a development consultant and community awareness ambassador for the Toronto Raptors. A Toronto native, this feels like the perfect fit for a player that finished his career with the Raptors after stints with six other NBA squads.
One of the best Canadian basketball players, Magloire became just the second Canadian All-Star in NBA history (after Steve Nash) when he was voted into that game while playing for the New Orleans Hornets in 2004.
That was Magloire’s peak NBA season as he averaged 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while starting all 82 for the Hornets. Magloire could be much higher on this list had his career not be ravaged by injuries after his sixth NBA season.
A 6-foot-9, 254-pound power forward, Tristan Thompson had an impressive run with the Cleveland Cavaliers between 2011 and 2020.
Thompson was one of many Canadians the Cavs have drafted with high picks over the last decade or so and he was taken with the fourth overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft after one year in college with the Texas Longhorns.
Thompson played all 82 games in four out of his first five seasons in Cleveland, usually being good for close to a double-double in points and rebounds every time he stepped on the court. He averaged 7.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as the Cavs won an NBA title at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Andrew Wiggins should finish his career as the second player on this list, though he will find it hard to get to top spot. The 27-year-old Wiggins has years left and is just reaching his peak.
This is a scary thought considering the Toronto, Ontario native has averaged 19.5 points per game as a free-scoring wing. Wiggins was the first overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the University of Kansas.
This made him the second Canadian to be drafted at first overall. He was also the second number one overall pick to be traded without playing a game when he was sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a three-team deal that August.
Wiggins was voted to his first All-Star game during the 2021-22 season and his situation in Golden State is one that should see him thrive.
At one time, Rick Fox may have been known more for marrying Vanessa Williams than anything else.
That completely downplays Fox’s ability as a basketball player, however, with the Canadian-Bahamian small forward being a key contributor as the Los Angeles Lakers rattled off three consecutive NBA titles between 2000 and 2002.
Fox was a role player after entering the league during the 1991-92 season with the Boston Celtics. In his last two years in Boston, Fox increased his minutes per game and put up 14.0 and 15.4 points per game in consecutive seasons. Lakers management saw enough to envision Fox alongside Shaq and Kobe, with Fox playing in all 82 games each year during their turn-of-the-century threepeat.
It was never going to be anyone else.
Steve Nash tops the list of Canada NBA players as the best Canadian basketball player of all time.
Nash transcends the list of greatest Canadian basketball players ever to simply be one of the best NBA players of his generation. Though born in South Africa, Nash moved with his family to Regina, Saskatchewan at a young age and developed the skills that would see him become one of the best point guards ever to play the game.
Nash was an elite passer of the ball who averaged 8.5 assists per game over the course of his 18-year Hall of Fame career. He could also shoot the ball and was adept at drawing fouls, with the two-time NBA MVP averaging 14.3 points per game. Nash, an eight-time NBA All-Star, was the 15th overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. Nash never made an NBA Finals appearance, but he finished with over 17,000 points and 10,000 assists for his career.