Canada Basketball is Back

Image Courtesy of FIBA Basketball under fair use.

James Naismith can finally rest in his grave knowing his country is dominating the sport he created.

For a long period of time, Canada has had a reputation of sorts for being terrible in sports not winter-related. In basketball especially, Canada had consistently been a team that others did not fear and were consistently defeated by other elite-level countries. It seemed the game Naismith created could not be reflected well within this country. 

Until recently, that is.

Because Canada can finally say they are one of those elite-level countries. In early September, the Canadian men’s basketball team completed a very successful run at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, finishing with a record of 6-2 [1]. Not only were they able to win a bronze medal at the tournament (their first medal on that big of a stage in a VERY LONG time) but they were also able to qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France: the first time since the 2000 Olympics in which Canada will compete in basketball at the biggest international stage.

For the past decade, Canada has rapidly grown into a country that has loved basketball more and more. This has been evident from the success of the Toronto Raptors, the only Canadian team in the National Basketball Association (NBA) who recently had won an NBA championship for the first time in their franchise’s history in 2019. This has also been speculated from the rapid rise in players in the NBA who were also from Canada. In the 2012-13 NBA season, Canada only boasted 8 NBA players [2], with most being benchwarmers who barely played for the most part. Now, 10 years later, that number has tripled with more players coming along the way via this year’s NBA draft as well as future drafts.

The Canadian men’s team was stacked for the World Cup, with nearly half of the roster consisting of NBA players who are considered to be high-level role players and/or star players in the league. One of those stars is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a guard who currently plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder and is the player who led Canada during this charge.

Residing from Hamilton, Ontario, Alexander averaged around 24.5 points per game with a field goal percentage of over 50% (considered to be very efficient) [3]. He became Canada’s go-to guy in tight games as he is considered to be one of the better shot creators and playmakers in the NBA. He hopes to translate this success from the tournament to the next NBA season, with aspirations of leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2020. Many expected Shai to dominate for Team Canada being one of the best players in the NBA, but one player people were shocked by in terms of their performance was Houston Rockets forward Dillon Brooks.

Brooks, who is from Mississauga, Ontario, is one of the NBA’s better defenders, as he previously had been selected to an All-Defensive team in the 2022-23 NBA season, playing for the Memphis Grizzlies at the time. Despite this, he has developed a reputation for being immature and narcissistic. This included taunting NBA superstars, unnecessarily generating dirty fouls on other players, and acting flamboyant during interviews with the media. In particular, he said in an interview a few months ago that he pokes bears and he doesn’t “respect no one until they come and (score) 40 …” [4]. Brooks unfortunately could not back up his comments during his shenanigans, as he was one of the most inefficient scorers in the league with a field goal percentage of under 40% in the 2022-23 NBA season [5]. He was such a detriment to his team that at one point he did not attend post-game interviews while his team was losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2023 NBA playoffs.

It seemed having Brooks was a terrible move for Canada considering his previous antics, but he was able to flip the switch right in the nick of time to help his country. During the World Cup, he averaged around 15.1 points per game with incredible shooting splits, including a 59% field goal percentage and a ridiculous 59% three-point percentage [6]. It seemed Brooks wanted to truly silence his critics, especially after getting a 4 year, 80 million dollar contract this summer with the Rockets, which was money people did not believe he deserved. And as a Canadian, I am truly grateful to see a redemption arc from him.

Speaking about the tournament, it was a rollercoaster of emotions with a lot of memorable moments. The first one being from when Canada defeated Spain in the second round, who at the time were the defending FIBA World Cup champions [7], which ultimately led them to qualify for the 2024 Olympics. This game was especially nail-biting considering Canada previously lost to Brazil in the second round of the tournament, meaning if they had lost to Spain, they would be eliminated from the tournament and have to wait until next July to qualify for the Olympics via a six-team qualifying tournament [7].

The other incredible memory of this tournament run was defeating their neighbours to the south (the United States) in the bronze medal game of the World Cup, winning 127 to 118 in overtime. Brooks and Gilgeous-Alexander were especially dominant during that game, scoring 39 and 31 points, respectively. Even though the United States did not have their top level superstars compete in the tournament unlike in previous years, their entire roster still consisted of NBA stars and elite-level role players, which makes this accomplishment fairly impressive for Canada.

What’s even crazier to think about is that Canada was able to successfully get a medal placement without a few of their best players. One such player is Kitchener native Jamal Murray, who led the Denver Nuggets to the 2023 NBA championship, the first in the franchise’s history. Another player is Vaughan resident Andrew Wiggins, who was a former #1 draft pick and contributed to the 2022 NBA championship-winning Golden State Warriors. Both players are additional scoring pieces that could bolster Canada’s roster by next year when they head to Paris.

However, other teams are also planning to dominate at the Olympics. In particular, the United States is set to bring their elite level NBA talent to represent them at the Olympics after they failed to obtain a medal at the World Cup. This includes superstar players such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry. This would form the superteam that other countries fear across the world, in which Canada needs to be extra prepared for. 

For now, Canada is on top of the basketball world, and with the way their team dominated this year, there is immense hope they can get a medal at the Olympics for the first time since 1936. Maybe then they can obtain the title as the best team in the world, in honour of the man who first created the sport.

Image Citation

FIBA Basketball, Canada at the 2023 FIBA World Cup. FIBA Basketball, 2023.

(Link to Image:

Article Citations

[1] “Canada at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023,”, (accessed Oct. 1, 2023).

[2] “8 Canadians on NBA rosters to begin 2012-13 season,” Canada Basketball, (accessed Oct. 1, 2023).

[3] “Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023,” FIBA Basketball, (accessed Oct. 1, 2023).

[4] C. M. Davis, “‘I Poke Bears!’ Rockets Sign Lebron James Pest Dillon Brooks for $80 Million,” Fan Nation: Inside the Rockets, (accessed Oct. 2, 2023).

[5] “Dillon Brooks stats, height, weight, position, draft status and more,” Basketball Reference, (accessed Oct. 2, 2023).

[6] “Dillon Brooks at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023,” FIBA Basketball, (accessed Oct. 3, 2023).

[7] E. Koreen and J. Hollinger, “Canada rallies to beat Spain in FIBA World Cup, secures Olympic berth: How it happened,” The Athletic, (accessed Oct. 2, 2023).

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