While Canadian NBA franchises were only opened as recently as 1995 (with the establishment of the Vancouver Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors), the Great White North has a long and proud association with NBA basketball. Although the Grizzlies relocated to Memphis after just 6 years, the Toronto Raptors still fly the flag high for Canada and many of the NBA’s most legendary players hail from the country. Check out our selection of 10 of the best Canadian NBA players of all time to see if your favourite hooping ‘canucks’ have made the list:
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As a two-time NBA MVP trophy winner and the first ever Canadian to be inducted as an NBA All-Star, Steve Nash deserves the top spot in our list. Born in South Africa, this Canadian basketball star has had successful stints with NBA teams the Pheonix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks and the LA Lakers, later going on to take the Head Coach position for the Brooklyn Nets. Steve Nash also represented Canada at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
As the second Canadian NBA All-Star in history, Jamaal Magloire is second only to Steve Nash when it comes to NBA legends from the Great White North. This Toronto-born star shone brightly through 12 NBA seasons for top-tier teams including the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers. Returning to his native city with the Toronto Raptors in the 2011-2012 season, Magloire currently works as a community ambassador and basketball development consultant for the team.
Standing at 7 feet and weighing 260 pounds in his prime, this famous Montrealer gained the nickname ‘Big’ Bill for a reason. First picked up by the Dallas Mavericks in 1985 and remaining there until 1990, Wennington spent the 1990-1991 season hooping with the Sacramento Kings before making the move to Italy with Virtus Bologna. Wennington returned to the NBA with the golden-era Chicago Bulls team from 1993-1999, playing his final season with the NBA in 2000 back with the Kings. Big Bill was such a well-known star during his time with the Chicago Bulls that he even had his own McDonald’s sandwich named after him and he’s still a firm favourite amongst Canadian basketball fans.
Known for his wild hair and 6ft 11in height, Kelly Olynyk is a famous Canadian basketball player who has been hooping in the NBA since 2013. Olynyk was first selected by the Dallas Mavericks, where he remained until he was picked up by Miami Heat in 2017. Following a 2021 trade with the Houston Rockets, Olynyk signed a three-year contract with the Detroit Pistons for a whopping $37 million. Big deals like that can improve the team’s odds at the bookies – check out this top selection of casino sites for Canadians to find legal places to play casino games and place wagers on basketball games.
Jamal Murray is one of the younger players on our list. Murray was first snapped up by the Denver Nuggets in 2016 after a name-making college season with the Kentucky Wildcats. This Kitchener native remains with the Nuggets to this day and has become one of their most valued players despite facing an injury in the 2020-2021 season that led to his absence in 2021-2022. Murray is a Canadian basketball hero who also helped to win a silver medal for the national team at the 2015 Pan American Games.
While Rick Fox is widely known these days as the celebrity husband of Vanessa Williams and an actor and sports pundit, his NBA roots run deep. Fox is a bonafide legend of the NBA, having first entered the league with the Boston Celtics way back in 1991. Making the jump to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1997, Fox went on to be an integral part of its iconic turn-of-the-century team, which also included star players such as Kobe Byrant and Shaquille O’Neal. With this Lakers squad (which is often cited as the best in the team’s history), Rick Fox managed to scoop an unprecedented hat-trick of 3 NBA titles between 2000-2002. Fox has also flown the flag for the Canada national team at the FIBA World Championships in 1990 and 1994.
Perhaps best known for his towering height (6 foot 9 inches) and barnstorming 2011-2020 stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson is yet another Canadian NBA star who needs little introduction. Hailing from Brampton, Ontario, Thompson secured an NBA Champion award with the Cavaliers in 2016, before moving to the Boston Celtics in 2020 and the Sacramento Kings for the 2021-2022 season. Traded to the Indiana Pacers in February 2022 and bought by the Chicago Bulls the same month, this in-demand Canadian player is an NBA hero and firm fan favourite to boot.
This Canadian All-Star has been hailed as an ‘NBA champion’ and praised for his contribution in recent performances for the Golden State Warriors – it’s easy to see why. In his relatively short career, Wiggins has already had a successful stint with the Canadian national team and enjoyed a long tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves (from 2014-2020), where he picked up the Rookie of the Year Award for his work in the 2014-2015 season. Signing with the Warriors in 2020, Andrew Wiggins finished the 2022 NBA Finals as the team’s leading rebounder and blocker and its second-highest overall scorer. Whether you’re a Golden State Warriors fan or not, there’s no denying that Andrew Wiggins is a player that just keeps on giving.
Up-And-Coming Canadian Basketball Stars
Besides the above-mentioned established Canadian NBA stars, there are two up-and-comers that haven’t reached their potential yet.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an up-and-coming NBA star who has been tipped as one to watch in the qualifiers this year. While he might not be at the same level as some of the more established legends on this list, Gilgeous-Alexander is hot on the heels of the greatest Canadian players of all time. Hailing from Toronto, he was quickly traded from the Charlotte Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2018, moving on to Oklahoma City Thunder the following year. Despite bowing out of the 2022 season due to injury, Gilgeous-Alexander managed to end the season with a royal flush of career highs, including an average of 24.5 points per game.
- RJ Barrett – Another young player who’s a great example of the new breed of Canadian NBA legends is RJ Barrett, who has been hooping for the mighty New York Knicks since 2019. Barrett is the son of revered Canadian professional Rowan Barrett, whose long playing career included non-NBA stints with the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers. Following in his father’s footsteps, RJ Barrett has already amassed plenty of awards and a sterling record. At present, he is the youngest NY Knicks player to have achieved an average of 20 points per game, at 21 years of age. Barrett is also the 7th player in NBA history to have scored 3400 points, 1100 rebounds and 550 assists before the age of 22. While he may be a newbie when compared to some of the older players in this selection, Barrett’s exemplary record speaks for itself.