It was another ground-breaking night for Canadian basketball on Thursday, just one short week after the Toronto Raptors made history by winning their first ever NBA championship. As the 2019 NBA Draft took place at the Barclays Center in New York, it was a historic evening for Canada, as more Canadian players were selected during the process than ever before.
It was a busy night from the outset for the players, as a record six Canadians were drafted, with four of them being taken in the first round alone. Mississauga native and fan favourite, R.J. Barrett was taken third overall by the New York Knicks, and struggled to hold back his emotions when the crowd chanted his name.
Rowan Barrett, who is former Canadian NBA national team starter as well as R.J.'s father, said to him, “You have to be proud, very proud, I’m proud of you son.”
R.J. Barrett will be joined in the Knicks by fellow Ontarian, Ignas Brazdeikis, who is from Oakville. Brazdeikis was taken 47th overall in the second round by the Sacramento Kings but was later traded to the Knicks.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker from Toronto was drafted 17th overall by the Brooklyn Nets, but ultimately will be heading to New Orleans Pelicans after trading. Shortly after, Vancouver’s Brandon Clarke was drafted at number 21 and will play with The Memphis Grizzlies.
Another Ontarian, Mfiondu Kabengele, was selected by the Brooklyn Nets for the Los Angeles Clippers, and was drafted at number 27. Finally, Ottawa’s Marial Shayok will be heading over to Philadelphia to play for the 76ers, after being taken at 54th overall.
Despite the Raptors incredible championship season, the team joined Houston, the Clippers and Dallas, in not taking a first-round pick last night. This is the first time the Raptors have not had a first-round pick since 2013.
Although the Toronto Raptors declined to draft any new Canadian players to their team, it is unlikely to make a difference to their Canadian fans. When asked last week if the Raptors should have more 'Canadian Talent' on the team, fans made it clear that it didn’t matter to them where a player came from, as long as they help the team to win.
One fan said that you don't have to be from Canada to represent Canada, saying "they [the Raptors] truly do represent Canada!”
Also feeling the national pride, and overwhelmed by the moment last night, Ontario’s Barrett said “It’s amazing to be Canadian. We take a lot of pride. That’s why I’ve got my Canadian flags on this side of my jacket. To put it on for our country, that means a lot … It’s just amazing. Canada basketball is on the rise.”