The NBA's international superstars are usually identified as different-looking people with unpopular haircuts and thick accents. Take one look and hear one sentence from Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming and Pau Gasol, and it's clear none of them were born in the United States of America. Yet there are other, less obvious foreign players in the league: those who hail from the mystical land of Canada, where a wise moose acts as spiritual leader and Wayne Gretzky is allowed to make up laws as he pleases.
Among the NBA's Canadians, Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash stands out as the most famous and best player. Now, after retiring from the national team and as he nears the end of his NBA career, Nash will serve as general manager of Canada Basketball, the nation's basketball organization. Here's a great report from our colleague Neate Sager at The Eh Game:
"Canada Basketball has been huge in my career but it's also been hamstrung on many occasions — daily, yearly — in its existence because of funding," Nash, who deflected questions about whether he might sign with the Toronto Raptors this summer, said at Tuesday's press conference at the Air Canada Centre. "We've never had the funding to do the things or supply the resources that we wanted to. But now, because of the power and the human resource and the capital of our Sixth Man Group [a group of private investors supporting the team], we have the potential to do some amazing things.
"We want to be playing in the Olympics perennially and we want to be in the hunt for medals," Nash added. [...]
"What's really exciting about joining at this particular time instead of waiting until the end of my playing career is the incredible amount of talent that we have in the younger age groups in this country," the 38-year-old Nash said. "It is really a beautiful thing to see our kids and the game grow. We've seen just last year, Tristan [Thompson] and Cory [Joseph] go in the first round of the NBA draft and I don't think that's an outlier. That's a theme. We want to be here as counsel and support for all these kids and their families."
As noted by Sager, those young players include some potential NBA mainstays like Texas sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and 17-year-old small forward Andrew Wiggins, one of the best prep players in the world. Team Canada has a chance to make some noise on the world stage, and it's important for Nash to be involved in some way if they want to maximize their potential. As he said in his remarks, money is an issue, and there's no better way to raise money than by having a true national superstar involved.
But Nash will also gain a lot from this experience himself, and not just in the sense that it's a good PR move to show some patriotism. Nash has never been shy about exploring opportunities off the basketball court, whether that involves charitable endeavors or selling suits for Indochino. Holding an important management position that allows him to work with Canada Basketball's private investors can only help his career. No matter what he chooses to do with the rest of his life, Nash will have more options and connections after this experience.
That's all to say that this relationship isn't exactly purely motivated by Nash's debt to his country. But, from my vantage way down to the south of America's Hat, it looks like a perfect partnership for everyone involved. Everyone gets what they want with no real problems. And if Nash is really lucky, maybe he'll eventually get to lead a coup against Gretzky and give the country the dictator it deserves.
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