Are you a basketball enthusiast who is still confused about why Canada is a part of the National Basketball League? Were you only expecting to see North American states represented in the NBA? If you answered yes to either one of those questions, you are not alone. This is a common question when thinking about which teams are currently in the NBA.
This article will explore more than what teams you can find from Canada. Not only will we explain how many NBA Teams in Canada are affiliated with NBA, but we will also tell which teams they are and provide you with information on why Canada is a part of the National Basketball League, to begin with.
All you need to do is sit back and relax. However, don’t rest too hard because you still need to do some reading in the process.
Why is Canada in the NBA?
Before going any further with who the teams are, it’s essential to address the elephant in the room. Yes, Canada is a part of the National Basketball League. The NBA expanded its footprint in Canada in 1995. NBA Canada was created as a means to diversify basketball. When this expansion occurred, two NBA teams were created, the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies. However, the Grizzlies were soon relocated to Memphis.
The NBA’s expansion to Canada was a step forward, not just for Canada but also for the Basketball Association. They were now going to be known outside of the United States, opening doors for further expansion. Canada also proved to be an excellent choice for the crowds and fans that it was able to pull to basketball events similar to that of the NBA.
What’s the History of Basketball in Canada?
Basketball in Canada has had an exciting history, especially for a country that does not have a significant presence within the NBA. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, basketball was invented by James Naismith, a Canadian. Though its creation took place in Massachusetts, it happened in 1891.
From that point on, basketball was extremely popular not only in local YMCAs where it received its origin but also in schools and homes.
Development of Men’s Basketball in Canada
Though the NBA didn’t have a presence in Canada until much later, the NBA’s first game was played in Canada, specifically in Toronto. This took place as part of the Basketball Association of America.
In Port Arthur, in 1923, CABA was formed. CABA is the Canadian Amateur Basketball Association. They later became known as Canada Basketball, which is what they go by today. They are responsible for creating procedures and policies that enhance player development as well as communication and alignment between players, coaches, and the game of basketball. They aim to help at varying levels, including grassroots to elite.
Canada also has basketball teams within the FIBA league. If you are unfamiliar with FIBA, it is the International Basketball Federation. Canada Basketball is the governing body that chooses players to represent the country.
The National Basketball League of Canada is another league that was created in 2011. They ceased operations in 2023, paving the way for the remaining four teams in the league to join the Basketball Super League. The most recent addition to Canadian basketball is the Canadian Elite Basketball League, which was founded in 2017 and inaugurated in 2019. The CEBL is divided into two conferences– East and West– and has now expanded to 10 teams.
Development of Women’s Basketball in Canada
If, when you think of basketball, you generally think of a male-dominated sport, you are sadly mistaken. Several talented women also participate in the game regularly, and just like the WNBA, Canada has recognized the need for a women’s basketball league. The Canadian team is currently ranked 5th by FIBA.
However, before these leagues were in place, Canadian women dominated the court. The Edmonton Commercial Graduates dominated the basketball scene from the 1920s onward. They enjoyed over 25 years of playing at home and abroad.
Rise of Wheelchair Basketball in Canada
After the sport was created in 1946 in the United States, Canada didn’t take long to form a team. In 1950 the Vancouver Dueck Powerglides were established. Shortly after, in 1951, the Wheelchair Wonders formed.
After the sport became popular, its first championship was held in 1968. There has since been great popularity in the sport, and Canada’s teams have accumulated an abundance of medals and world championships.
Basketball is one of the most common sports in Canada, and the interest in the game is continuously growing. It is no wonder why basketball has been holding steady in the country. The collegiate level is also prevalent and is currently governed by U Sports.
What NBA Teams are in Canada?
If you are wondering how many NBA teams are in Canada, the answer is simple. There is currently one active NBA team in Canada, and that is the Toronto Raptors. Historically, however, there have only been two NBA teams in Canada. Besides the Raptors, the Vancouver Grizzlies were added at the time of the NBA’s expansion in 1995.
While the presence of the Grizzlies in Vancouver was short-lived, it marked a historic timeline that will forever be remembered in the NBA.
The Grizzlies’ Bittersweet Stay in Vancouver
The Vancouver Grizzlies lasted from 1995 to 2001. Despite not making the playoffs in six seasons, they managed to be in the middle of the pack in attendance in their debut year (17,183). However, it’s just not bound to happen, at least for the time being.
Here are some interesting Vancouver Grizzlies facts:
- Part of the Grizzlies’ failure in Vancouver was because of its location. Vancouver is over six hours away from New York by plane, while Toronto is only 1 hour and 45 minutes. Because of this, Vancouver’s 1998 pick, Steve Francis, refused to play for them. The Franchise would have brought a different level of excitement to the team.
- Craig McCaw, the Vancouver Grizzlies’ majority owner, sold the team to Michael Heisley for $160 million.
- Hesiley initially committed to turn things around in Vancouver. However, he discovered that the team has an operating loss of around $50 million per season. A lot of factors went into this, including mediocre ticket prices and low sponsorships. This forced Heisley’s hand to transfer the franchise to somewhere more profitable.
- In Vancouver, the Grizzlies only won 22% of their games, the lowest winning percentage in league history.
- David Stern later admitted that he regretted the expansion to Vancouver. Stern said in 2008 that the NBA had disappointed the city.
- The last NBA home game for the Vancouver Grizzlies is on April 14, 2001. They played the Rockets and lost, 100-95.
- Interestingly, both the Grizzlies and the Raptors won their debut games in 1995.
The Toronto Raptors– Representing All of Canada
The Toronto Raptors have been on a slightly different trajectory. The Raptors still have their home base in Canada and utilize the Scotiabank Arena. They have been the only Canadian team since the Grizzlies’ relocation in 2001.
Their name is a nod to their humble beginnings and the notion that children who at the time loved Jurassic Park would also grow up to be basketball fans. Their colors, purple, black, red, and Naismith silver were a nod to the Canadian basketball creator.
Here are some interesting facts about the Toronto Raptors:
- They made the playoffs in the franchise’s fifth year. This is in large part, because of the development of Vince Carter, the high-flying shooting guard from North Carolina.
- In their first season, the Raptors ranked third in the NBA in average attendance! They are behind Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and the old Charlotte Hornets franchise (now the New Orleans Pelicans.)
- When Carter was traded to New Jersey, the Raptors got another gem in the 2003 draft with Chris Bosh. Bosh led them to two postseason appearances in 2007 and 2008.
- The Raptors were back in playoff contention in 2014. The team had young stars Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry as cornerstones during the next five seasons. They made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, but eventually bowed down to LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers
- 2019 was a magical year for the franchise. They traded DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in the summer of 2018 and they finished second in the East. Toronto ultimately surrounded Leonard and Lowry with a bevy of talent, including 2019 Most Imprves Player Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Norman Powell. Apparently, the roster was enough to dethrone the Golden State Warriors in six games.
- As of 2023-24, the Raptors are in semi-rebuilding mode. They acquired Canadian young star RJ Barrett and developed a superstar in the making, 2021 fourth-overall pick Scottie Barnes.
Are Raptors’ Players Canadian Citizens?
No, not everyone on the Raptors is Canadian, just as not every player on an NBA team is American. However, as mentioned, Toronto recently traded for RJ Barrett, who was born in the city and is a Canadian men’s basketball team member.
Besides Barrett, the other Canadian on the team is Chris Boucher. Boucher is a St. Lucian Canadian hailing from the University of Oregon.
Notable Canadian Basketball Players in the NBA
Canada finished third in the 2023 FIBA World Cup and they fielded a team mostly comprised of NBA players. The country has become a goldmine of talent in recent years, and here are three of the most notable ones:
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SGA made the All-NBA first team and one of the coach’s All-Star choices in 2023. That’s after he averaged 31.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists on terrific efficiency. In 2024, Gilgeous-Alexander was voted as a starter in the All-Star game for the first time.
- Jamal Murray
Murray was a vital cog for the 2023 NBA champions Denver Nuggets and continues to be. He is an electric scorer who can make buckets from anywhere on the court and a perfect complement to two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. Interestingly, despite a career playoff average of 25 points per game, Murray has never made an All-Star team.
- Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins was a former 1st overall pick, but his career stalled in Minnesota. However, he resurrected his career after a trade to the Warriors. Golden State uses him as a primary defender and a makeshift power forward, resulting in a championship in 2022.
Wrapping Things Up: How Many NBA Teams are in Canada?
Overall, Canada has a rich basketball history, but it also has a very bright future. Canada’s only basketball team, the Toronto Raptors, continues to draw crowds and interest in the sport. Fun fact: these first-time champions even have the most expensive championship ring in the history of the NBA.
However, outside of the NBA, Canada has a history rooted in basketball. The actual game of basketball was created by a Canadian man, Dr. James Naismith, at a YMCA in Massachusetts. How could a community not have pride in a sport created by one of their own?
Canadian basketball has continued to excel. A new basketball league has even emerged. This is the Canadian Elite Basketball League, which began its first season in 2019. Though they only have one NBA team now, that doesn’t mean there will be only one in the future. Franchises are started, and teams can easily be moved, and maybe your favorite team will end up in Canada.
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