It’s well known that hockey reigns supreme in Canada, but basketball isn’t too far off. While maybe not as popular, basketball is a sport intertwined with Canadian culture. Not only was Canada home to the inventor of the game, James Naismith, but the country has also represented themselves (reasonably) well on the global stage. Specifically within that last two or three decades.
From the emergence of Steve Nash in the 1990s, to the recent resurgence of talent with superstars like Andrew Wiggins, RJ Barrett and Jamal Murray. Canadian basketball is on the rise and has never been in a better position than it is right now. In fact, Canada currently ranks second among countries with the most active players in the NBA (34), behind only the United States.
Despite this, Canada is just 18th in the FIBA world rankings and has only appeared in the Olympics nine times over its 100-year history. Resulting in just one silver medal finish way back in 1936.
Part of what’s held Canada back from competing with the likes of the United States, Spain, Australia, France and other basketball powerhouses, is the lack of commitment from their superstar players. Obviously, the level of talent around the country has vastly improved in recent years. Thought, truth be told, it’s difficult to compete with these countries when your best player’s Samuel Dalembert, respectfully.
For the longest time, even when Canada had talented players committed to play for the national team. They typically only stuck around for one or two cycles before eventually moving on from the program. So, for superstars like RJ Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murray to commit to play for the program for at least the next three years is certainly a step in the right direction.
In the recent announcement, Team Canada and Toronto Raptors’ Head Coach, Nick Nurse, had the following to say regarding the news.
"“The true value of chemistry, camaraderie and continuity cannot be overlooked when building any team”, Nurse said. “By assembling a committed core groups of players and staff to represent Canada over the next several years, we firmly believe will position this program for sustained success, both now and in the future.”"
Of all the players who have committed to play for the national team, Jamal Murray is likely going to play the biggest role for the program. As arguably the most talented and proven player on the roster, he’s going to be tasked with taking on more responsibility once he’s back at full strength.
Even though Jamal Murray has past experience with the Canadian national team, having played with Team Canada during the 2013 FIBA Americas Under-16 Championship in Uruguay. As well as the 2015 Pan American Games, helping lead Canada to a silver medal finish. This is his first official run with the Men’s Senior Team.
Being that he’s just now entering the prime of his career and has more NBA experience than other key contributors for the program. There’s a good chance that Murray will be heavily relied on for his scoring and playmaking ability, as well as his leadership.
Canada is also hoping to bounce back following their heartbreaking loss to the Czech Republic last summer in Victoria, B.C. So, they’ll need Murray and company to step up if they hope to build off their performance from a year ago.
The truth is that Canada is a country oozing with talent, but they’ve always lacked the commitment from their star players. Now that they’ve got some of the biggest names in the country signed on for the foreseeable future, the sky’s the limit for what this group can accomplish.