The Canadians are coming to the NBA: No, the Caribbean is coming

Trystan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins

      Thompson  #4 2011 draft        Bennett  #1 2013 draft         Wiggins, projected #1, 2014 draft

Norlens Noel, Al Halford, Tim Duncan 
Noel #6 2013 draft           Holford #3 2007 draft                  Duncan #1 1997 draft

Ben Gordon,Roy Hibbert, Andre Drummond
     Gordon #3 2004 draft                      Hibbert #17 2008                  Drummond #9 2012 draft

Carmelo Anthony, Joel Anthony, J J Borea
C Anthony #3 2003 draft          J Anthony 2007 undrafted                   JJ Borea 2006 undrafted

Mickael Pietrus
Pietrus #11 2003 draft                  Ronny Turiaf #37 2005                    Raja Bell 1999 undrafted

Villanueva-Dalembert
                  Villanueva #7 2005 draft         Dalembert #26 2001 draft          Livio Jean-Charles #28 2013                     

The surprise selection of Anthony Bennett as the number one draft pick, by the Cleveland Cavilers, in the 2013 NBA draft  marks the first time that a Canadian player has been selected first in an NBA draft.

Two years ago when Trystan Thompson was selected fourth by the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was the first time a Canadian player had been selected that high in an NBA draft. Another Canadian player, 19 year-old Andrew Wiggins is projected to be the first player drafted in the 2014 NBA draft.

The selection of  Thompson and Bennett and the possible selection of Wiggins as the number one pick in the 2014 NBA draft is a dramatic development for the NBA. On the surface it would suggest that Canadian players are set to storm the NBA. However, it is not solely a revolution involving Canadian NBA hopefuls. The Canadian surge is part of a broader surge of Caribbean origin players into the ranks of the NBA, particularly over the last ten years.

All three Canadian players were born to Caribbean immigrant parents. Trystan Thompson's parents hail from Jamaica as does Anthony Bennett's. And Andrew Wiggins parents are  Barbadian and African-American.

Moreover, if one looks at the recent history of the NBA, the influx of Caribbean origin players is not limited to English speaking Caribbean countries but involves the French speaking and Spanish speaking Caribbean countries as well.

It is instructive to examine the birth place and parenting of the players:

Trystan Thompson and Anthony Bennett were born in Canada of Jamaican parents.

Andrew Wiggins was born in Canada to Barbadian and African-American parents.

Nerlens Noel was born in Massachusetts, USA to Haitian parents.

Al Holford was born in the Dominican Republic.

Tim Duncan was born in St. Croix.

Ben Gordon was born in London, England to Jamaican parents.

Roy Hibbert was born in New York, USA to Jamaican and Trinidadian parents.

Andre Drummond was born in New York, USA  to Jamaican parents.

Carmelo Anthony was born in New York, USA to Puerto Rican and African-American parents.

Joel Anthony (no relation to Carmelo Anthony) was born in Montreal, Canada to Antiguan parents.

J.J,. Borea was born in Puerto Rico.

Michael Pietras was born in Guadalupe.

Raja Bell was born in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.

Ronnie Turiaf was born in Martinique.

Charlie Villanueva was born in New York, USA to Dominican parents.

Samuel Dalembert was born in Haiti and migrated to Montreal, Canada.

Livo Jean-Charles was born in Cayenne, French Guiana and migrated to France.

There have been Caribbean origin players in the NBA over the last few decades however the number and the skill level of the current players is what is dramatically different.

Andrew Bennett is the third Caribbean origin player to be selected first in an NBA draft in the last  28 years. He joins Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, drafted number one in 1985 by the New York Knicks, and soon to be Hall of Famer, Tim Duncan who was drafted the number one pick twelve years later In the 1997 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs. But, to highlight recent trends, we could have back to back Caribbean origin players as first picks in the NBA draft if Andrew Wiggins is drafted first in the 2014 NBA draft.

There is no clear explanation for the dramatic increase in the number of players of Caribbean Origin in the NBA. It is probably reasonable to credit part of the increase to the demonstration effect of Patrick Ewing's' successful career followed up by Tim Duncan's  success. By far the largest contingent of players, five of seventeen players highlighted here, is Jamaican. 

One wonders how the influx of Caribbean and international players interrelates with the number of multigenerational African-American players in the NBA. In the 2013 draft only one multigenerational African-American player was picked in the top six, although five were chosen in the top ten. Interestingly, American-born Victor Olidapo, out of Indiana University, who is  the son of Nigerian parents, was the second pick in the draft.

 No doubt, some pundits are speculating that there is something in the Caribbean genome that is responsible for the influx of the Caribbean-origin players.

Editor's Note: This article was first published  on Saturday, June 6, 2013. From time to time we will republish articles of great importance.

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