The Top 5 Canadian NBA Players of all Time

By Andrew D

July 22, 2022


In the entire history of the NBA, there have been only 57 Canadian NBA players. 23 of them are active at the time of writing.

Think about that. Almost half of all the Canadian NBA players ever to make an appearance still do so today.

Let’s take a look back through history and see if we can’t unpack the reasons why…

A brief but informative history of basketball in Canada

By the turn of the century in 1900, basketball was already being played in Canada. Men and women participated in the sport in schools, clubs, and their local YMCA/YWCAs

The Canadian Amateur Basketball Association (CABA) was formed in 1923 in Ontario and became the official governing body for basketball in Canada.

Basketball is the 6th most popular sport in Canada. It is regularly played by around 350,000 children and is 2nd only to soccer among those who emigrate to the country from elsewhere and their offspring.


Canada’s first professional basketball teams began playing professionally in the United States right from the beginning. In fact, the Toronto Huskies played host to the New York Knickerbockers in the league’s very first game on November 1st, 1946.  Technically this was under the umbrella of the Basketball Association of America (BAA) which was a forerunner of the NBA as we know it today. The Huskies lost that game and the franchise did not survive beyond the end of the season. But they played a part in the history of one of the most successful sporting leagues on the planet.

Meanwhile, on West coast of Canada, the Vancouver Hornets played in the Pacific Coast Professional Basketball League from 1946 until 1948 when the league ceased to exist.

There were some minor professional leagues there in the 1980s (Continental Basketball Association, World Basketball League)

…but professional basketball did not return to Canada in earnest until 1994

Almost 50 years without professional teams would seem to account for the discrepancy we described earlier. There weren’t many Canadians making the journey to the NBA over the years because there simply weren’t enough of them playing to a professional level. It is notoriously difficult to reach the NBA as a professional player. So much so, that, statistically it is virtually an impossibility. Check out our article – What are the odds of making it to the NBA? for an eye-opening look at just how hard it is.

Canadian basketball players in that 48-year lull would have had much more difficulty in being spotted North of the border. Little wonder then that so few made it.

Kudos to those who did:

  • Bob Houbregs

  • Jim Zoet

  • Lars Hansen

  • Ron Crevier

  • Leo Rautins

  • Stewart Granger

  • Mike Smrek

  • Bill Wennington

  • Rick Fox

In 1994, the National Basketball Association invited 2 Canadian basketball teams to join the league, whereupon the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies joined the fray and began playing games the following year in 1995.

The remaining 48 players to come to the NBA from Canada came on the back of that momentous decision.


In the spring of 2001, the end of the Grizzlies went from being a rumor to a reality. The team had won only 28% of their 460 games across 6 years. The lowest winning percentage of any franchise in the history of the NBA. That’s not such a shocking fact when we consider the uphill battle that they faced to go from relative obscurity into the toughest league on the planet overnight.

Poor management didn’t help. Nor did missing key NBA Draft opportunities and signing bad contracts.

However, the Grizzlies folded in Vancouver and relocated just about as far away as it is possible to go and still be in North America. Memphis was the chosen city and the Vancouver Grizzlies duly became the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Raptors fared rather better. That might be a huge understatement. The franchise recognized that success in the NBA was bound to require playing a long game and, in the end, it bore fruit.

Average attendances grew from 17 thousand in 2005 to 20 thousand in 2010.


TV figures soared too and they regularly capture more than 250 thousand viewers per game.

In the 2018/’19 season, fans’ loyalty was rewarded. Reaching the NBA Finals, the Raptors found themselves 0-2 down to the, much favored, Golden State Warriors, who were playing in their 5th consecutive Finals. The Raptors pulled off a magnificent turnaround and came back to win the series 4-2

Thus, the Toronto Raptors became the first-ever non-US team to win an NBA title.

Ok, so that’s a brief (but fascinating) history of professional basketball in Canada. Now, let’s turn to the real subject of this article. The 5 best Canadian NBA players in history:

If we make our list based solely on individual player stats then the lists vary wildly.

Points per game:

  1. Andrew Wiggins – 19.26

  2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 18.19

  3. R.J. Barrett – 17.52

  4. Jamal Murray – 16.34

  5. Dillon Brooks – 14.54

Total rebounds per game:

  1. Tristan Thompson – 8.38

  2. Samuel Dalembert – 7.84

  3. Jamaal Magloire – 6.48

  4. Brandon Clarke – 5.61

  5. R.J. Barrett – 5.56

Assists per game:

  1. Steve Nash – 8.49

  2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 4.28

  3. Jamal Murray – 3.83

  4. Xavier Rathan-Mayes – 3.6

  5. Cory Joseph – 3

Steals per game:

  1. Xavier Rathan-Mayes – 1.2

  2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 1.12

  3. Rick Fox – 1.04

  4. Chris Duarte – 1.02

  5. Andrew Wiggins – 0.99

Blocks per game:

  1. Samuel Dalembert – 1.74

  2. Chris Boucher – 1.17

  3. Joel Anthony – 1.08

  4. Brandon Clarke – 0.92

  5. Jamaal Magloire – 0.89

We could go on. Clearly, it is not possible to pick the greatest players based on stats alone. Their contributions are made of so much more than that. Yet it is telling that our number one on this list only makes one of those lists above…

It goes to show how subjective a list like this is by nature. We couldn’t even agree (as usual) here in The Jump Hub office. Anyway – here is our list.

Make of it what you will…


  • Born – May 21st, 1978 – Toronto, Canada – age 44

  • Measurements – 6’11” (2.11m) – 259lb (117kg)

  • Position – Center

  • NBA Draft – 2000 – 19th pick – Charlott Hornets

  • NBA debut – October 31st, 2000

  • Career length – 12 years

Jamaal Magloire was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets as the 19th pick in 2000. He essentially played a reserve role for 2 seasons. In that time he still managed to grab an impressive 6.5 points per game in only 16.8 minutes of playing time.

In 2002, Magloire started every game and averaged 10.3 points and 8.8 rebounds

Already impressive in number, those rebounds grew to 10.3 per game the next season. Again Jamaal started every game and his points-tally also grew. Magloire became only the second Canadian All-Star in NBA history when he was named to the Eastern Conference team.

He led the team with a superb 19 points and 8 rebounds in just 21 minutes of play!


  • Games – 680

  • Points – 7.2

  • Total rebounds – 6.5

  • Assists – 0.6

  • Field goal % – 48%

  • Free throw % – 63.9%

  • Player efficiency rating – 13.5

A season with the Milwaukee Bucks was followed by one with the Portland Trailblazers. He failed to settle and find his previous form there so was traded to the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets. A season there was even less fruitful and his points-scoring average plummeted. In 2008, Jamaal spent a few months in Dallas with the Mavericks, then found himself in Miami, providing experience and strength in depth for the Heat.


Magloire finished his NBA career playing for his hometown team, the Toronto Raptors. Amazingly, this made him the first-ever Canadian to play for the team. He played his final game there and signed off on a solid if at times frustrating career.


  • NBA All-Star – 2004

  • NCAA champion – 1998

  • First-team All-SEC – 2000

  • SEC All-Freshman Team – 1997


  • Born – February 23rd, 1999 – Toronto, Canada

  • Measurements – 6’7″ (2.01m) – 197lb (89kg)

  • Position – Small forward, power forward

  • NBA Draft – 2014 – 1st pick – Cleveland Cavaliers

  • NBA debut – October 29th, 2014

  • Career length – 7 years (ongoing)

When he was chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, Andrew Wiggins became only the second Canadian ever to be the first pick in an NBA Draft.

He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves and performed well right from the word “go”. He was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for the first 2 months of the season. As the points tallies climbed and performances remained strong, Wiggins was named Rising Stars Challenge MVP and then NBA Rookie of the Year.


The following season, the points contained to flow and he recorded consecutive 30+ games for the first time in his career. Shortly thereafter, Wiggins joined LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Tobias Harris as the only 4 players ever to score 30+ points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists in a single game in the previous 20 years.


In February of 2016, he scored 40 points against the team who picked him in the NBA Draft. The very next day he scored another 40 points…

He is the first Canadian basketball player ever to score 40+ points and tied the franchise record most consecutive games with 20+ points scored (16)

Andrew Wiggins now sits in second place on the career scoring list at the Timberwolves.

A feat that he achieved in just 5 seasons


  • Games – 598

  • Points – 19.3

  • Total rebounds – 4.4

  • Assists – 2.3

  • Field goal % – 44.8%

  • 3-point % – 35%

  • Free throw % – 72.3%

  • Player efficiency rating – 14.8

A move to the Golden State Warriors saw Wiggins become the first number one NBA Draft pick since 1966 to earn their first All-Star selection in their 8th season or later and the third of all time.

Wiggins has yet to win an NBA Championship (and, like our number one pick may never do so) but he is a crafty ball-handler and changes direction like a house-fly. He ditches defenders easily and this gets him a ton of points. That career-high now sits at 57 points and that truly puts him up there with the elite scorers in NBA history.



  • Born – March 13th, 1991 – Toronto, Canada – age 31

  • Measurements – 6’9″ (2.09m) – 254lb (115kg)

  • Position – Power forward, center

  • NBA Draft – 2011 – 4th pick – Cleveland Cavaliers

  • NBA debut – December 26th, 2011

  • Career length – 10 years (ongoing)

In 2011, when the Cleveland Cavaliers chose Tristan Thompson as the 4th pick in the NBA Draft, he was the highest-drafted Canadian-born player in NBA history.

He made his professional debut against his hometown Toronto Raptors and scored 12 points and 5 rebounds in just 17 minutes off the bench.

Thompson finished the season averaging 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds across the 60 games that he played. His performances were enough to see him become the first Canadian basketball player in NBA history to earn All-Rookie honors.

Thompson worked hard to prevent his shots from being blocked and spent a huge amount of time switching his shooting hand from his leg to his right.

In the meantime, he set the Cavaliers’ franchise record for most offensive rebounds in a single season (306). That made him 2nd in the whole NBA.

In 2012/’13, he performed an outstanding 31 double-doubles, started all 82 games, and averaged 11.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks.

Consistency was a key part of Thompson’s success over the following seasons and his stats were almost identical the next season, even with the change of shooting hand now fully implemented.

Averaging 8.5 points and 8 rebounds per game, Thompson again played in all 82 games and started 15 in a team that now boasted LeBron James among its superstars.


But it was not to be.

Not until the next season, that is. Thompson was, by now, recognized as one of the NBA’s best offensive rebounders.

In March of 2016, Thompson tied the franchise record when appearing in his 361st consecutive game. That was broken 3 days later and the Cavaliers again went to the NBA Final that year. This time, despite going 3-1 down to the Golden State Warriors, the Cavaliers rallied and won the series in 7 games. Their first NBA title in 52 years.


  • Games – 730

  • Points – 9

  • Total rebounds – 8.4

  • Assists – 1

  • Field goal % – 51.9%

  • 3-point % – 26.3%

  • Free throw % – 60.5%

  • Player efficiency rating – 15.5

400 consecutive regular-season games came and went for Tristan Thompson and did not end until he was injured and missed what would have been his 448th straight game.

That is a quite remarkable feat and was the longest streak in the league at that time. For the 3rd time back-to-back, the Cavaliers found themselves in the NBA Final. This time the Warriors wreaked their revenge and took the title in 5 games. Incredibly, they were there again a year later for the 4th consecutive year. Again they faced the Golden State Warriors. They were thwarted once more. From that point onwards, Thompson was bumped from pillar to post. He was traded to Boston then Sacramento, Indiana, and the Chicago Bulls where he plies his trade today.


  • NBA Champion – 2016

  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team – 2012

  • Big 12 Freshman of the Year – 2011

  • Second-team All-Big 12 – 2011

  • Second-team Parade All-American – 2010


  • Born – July 24th, 1969 – Toronto, Canada – age 53

  • Measurements – 6’7″ (2.01m) – 230lb (104kg)

  • Position – Small forward

  • NBA Draft – 1991 – 24th pick – Boston Celtics

  • NBA debut – November 1st, 1991

  • Career length – 13 years

Rick Fox was picked 24th by the Boston Celtics in the 1991 NBA Draft. He became the first rookie to start an opening-night game since Larry Bird in 1979. A solid scorer and tenacious stealer of the ball (5th best in the league), Fox became the franchise’s go-to small forward. He was also adept at a 3-point shot and nailed over 100 of them in the ’96/’97 season.

At the end of that season, the Boston Celtics unceremoniously released Fox after a potential salary-cap breach forced Boston’s new head coach to choose between Fox and Travis Knight. The timing was unfortunate, to say the least, and Fox went from an offer of $33 million dollars for 3 years with Boston to being available for $1 million in the blink of an eye. He signed with arch-rivals the Los Angeles Lakers but that turned out to be a good decision for the Canadian. There, he started all 82 regular-season games and snatched 12 points per game. The veteran acted as a mentor to a young Kobe Bryant and played with a team that had more promise and talent.


  • Games – 930

  • Points – 9.6

  • Total rebounds – 3.8

  • Assists – 2.8

  • Field goal % – 45%

  • 3-point % – 34.9%

  • Free throw % – 77%

  • Player efficiency rating – 13.6

Playing in all 23 NBA Playoff games at the end of the ’99/’00 season, Fox scored consistently and hit a crucial 3-pointer in the final quarter of game 6. It helped to seal the victory and the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA title. His first.

Fox only failed to start in 5 of 82 games the following season. Again his scoring averages remained modest but solid. The Lakers swept through the NBA Playoffs more easily this time and Fox nailed 20 points single-handed and didn’t miss a single 3-point effort in the Final game that saw them take the title again.

In ’01-’02, Fox once again started every regular-season and playoff game.  This time the competition was fierce and the Sacramento Kings took them all the way to 7 games on their march to the Finals. There they met the New York Nets, whom they brushed aside in 4 straight games to take their 3rd consecutive title.

Fox was eventually traded back to the Celtics but chose to retire instead of lining up for the team that had betrayed him once before.



  • Born – February 7th, 1974 – Johannesburg, South Africa – age 48

  • Measurements – 6’3″ (1.9m) – 195lb (88kg)

  • Position – Point guard

  • NBA Draft – 1996 – 15th pick – Phoenix Suns

  • NBA debut – November 1st, 1996

  • Career length – 18 years

Those with hawk-eyes (Go Hawks!) among you will have noticed that Steve Nash was actually born in South Africa and not Canada. His parents moved to British Columbia when he was at an early age (18 months). Therefore, he is Canadian and that’s that.

Steve Nash is perhaps the best-known Canadian basketball player. He is considered by many people to rank among the all-time greats as a point guard.

We can’t argue with that.

However, Nash was a relative unknown when he was chosen in the NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. Fans booed the announcement in fact.

Nash would go on to be known for his playmaking skills, but he did struggle to make an impact in the early stages of his NBA career. Dogged determination and innate skill will get you a long way in life if you persevere, and Nash was not to be beaten. He eventually went on to earn two consecutive NBA MVP awards and was an NBA All-Star on eight occasions.

Nash did not catch fire with the Suns and it was only when he moved to the Dallas Mavericks that he cemented himself as a top player. He started with a reasonably solid 5-5 assists per game in his first season there and soon pushed that to better than 7 per game, almost 9 on occasion. Nash was phenomenally accurate from the free-throw line and his accuracy climbed as high as 91.6% at one point.

A return to the Phoenix Suns in 2004 saw them win 33 more games than they did the previous season. It also saw Nash’s assists climb even higher. He was averaging 11.5 per game and became only the 3rd point guard ever to be named MVP. Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy were the illustrious names he joined on that elite list.

By this time, Steve Nash had become a prolific scorer and not just an elite passer and provider of opportunities for others. His averages were regularly over 18 points per game and combined with his phenomenal assists, the Suns’ scoring average rocketed.

He finished his playing days with over 17,000 points and 10,000 assists

Suffice it to say that, in his 18-year career, Steve Nash proved himself time and again in the NBA. Only the Championship title itself eluded him. But you can’t win that by yourself…


  • Games – 1,217

  • Points – 14.3

  • Total rebounds – 3

  • Assists – 8.5

  • Field goal % – 49%

  • 3-point % – 42.8%

  • Free throw % – 90.4%

  • Player efficiency rating – 20

That’s better-than-solid field goal accuracy and that free throw percentage is the stuff of legend by itself.

Freakishly accurate Steph Curry is only 0.45% ahead of Nash, who sits 2nd in the all-time NBA rankings. “Impressive” hardly comes close.

Those of you who have stood at the free throw line below a regulation hoop know just how daunting it is to hit one shot from there.

Let alone 9 out of every 10…



Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

  • Games – 243

  • Points – 18.2

  • Total rebounds – 4.5

  • Assists – 4.3

  • Field goal % – 47.3%

  • 3-point % – 34.8%

  • Free throw % – 80.7%

  • Player efficiency rating – 17.9

Samuel Dalembert

  • Games – 886

  • Points – 7.7

  • Total rebounds – 7.8

  • Assists – 0.5

  • Field goal % – 52.1%

  • 3-point % – 8.3%

  • Free throw % – 70.6%

  • Player efficiency rating – 15.4

Bill Wennington

  • Games – 720

  • Points – 4.6

  • Total rebounds – 3

  • Assists – 0.6

  • Field goal % – 45.9%

  • 3-point % – 13.9%

  • Free throw % – 78.7%

  • Player efficiency rating – 10.9

Jamal Murray

  • Games – 345

  • Points – 16.3

  • Total rebounds – 3.6

  • Assists – 3.8

  • Field goal % – 44.6%

  • 3-point % – 36.7%

  • Free throw % – 87.8%

  • Player efficiency rating – 16

Kelly Olynyk

  • Games – 610

  • Points – 10.1

  • Total rebounds – 5.1

  • Assists – 2

  • Field goal % – 47.6%

  • 3-point % – 36.5%

  • Free throw % – 78.2%

  • Player efficiency rating – 15.8

Dillon Brooks

  • Games – 272

  • Points – 14.5

  • Total rebounds – 3

  • Assists – 2

  • Field goal % – 42.1%

  • 3-point % – 34.8%

  • Free throw % – 79.9%

  • Player efficiency rating – 11.4

Chris Boucher

  • Games – 231

  • Points – 9

  • Total rebounds – 5.3

  • Assists – 0.5

  • Field goal % – 48.3%

  • 3-point % – 33.5%

  • Free throw % – 78.5%

  • Player efficiency rating – 20

R.J. Barrett

  • Games – 198

  • Points – 17.5

  • Total rebounds – 5.6

  • Assists – 2.9

  • Field goal % – 41.8%

  • 3-point % – 35.7%

  • Free throw % – 69.7%

  • Player efficiency rating – 12.8

Cory Joseph

  • Games – 728

  • Points – 7.1

  • Total rebounds – 2.6

  • Assists -3

  • Field goal % – 44.4%

  • 3-point % – 34.4%

  • Free throw % – 78.7%

  • Player efficiency rating – 12.1


More and more youngsters from Canada hope to find fame and fortune as basketball players in the NBA. In the 2019 NBA Draft, a record-setting six Canadians were selected, then 7 in 2021, and 4 in 2022 (from a record 13 declared).


Talented players such as Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and R.J. Barrett are already making their mark and threatening to become all-time greats.

It shows how much the sport has grown and improved in Canada over the years. In no small part due to having a highly competitive team in the Toronto Raptors.

The greatest Canadian NBA players were special as superlative, skilled athletes with star power. Where they are from is nothing more than a detail.

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