As 2020 comes to an end, Canada Basketball looks back on the Top 10 Canadian basketball moments of the year from December 22-31.
2020 has been quite the year for Canada Basketball. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shifted competitions, schedules and events, that hasn’t stopped the Canadian basketball community from showing up, both on and off the court.
Let’s look at the year in review:
10. Inaugural Canada Basketball eNational Team competes in FIBA Esports Open II (December 19-20)
Canada’s NBA 2K eNational Team finished fourth in the FIBA Esports Open II North and Central American conference this past weekend. The team finished the Group Phase with a 3-3 record, missing out on a berth in the North and Central American Grand Finals. This was the first Esports competition for Canada Basketball and the second edition of the FIBA Esports Open.
9. CABO merges into Canadian Basketball Official Commission (May 5)
In May, Canada Basketball made significant strides in officials’ development after announcing the successful merger of the Canadian Association of Basketball Officials (CABO) into the Canadian Basketball Officials Commission (CBOC). Merging CABO into Canada Basketball’s CBOC was a key step in strengthening the alignment of basketball across the country. The CBOC promotes, advocates for and provides a transparent, accountable and consistent governance structure for the organization, administration, growth and development of basketball officiating and basketball officials throughout Canada.
8. Canadian Elite Basketball League returns with CEBL Summer Series (July 25-August 9)
The Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) was the first professional sports league in Canada to see live action since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March. Their 2020 season was replaced with the CEBL Summer Series, which featured 26 games from July 25 to August 9 and was hosted in a "bubble" at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines. The Edmonton Stingers took home the CEBL Championship title after defeating the Fraser Valley Bandits, 90-73. The CEBL is the only First Division Professional League partner of Canada Basketball and has the highest percentage of Canadian players of any professional league in the country, with 80% of its current rosters being Canadians.
7. Steve Nash named head coach of the Brooklyn Nets (September 3)
In September, Canadian Steve Nash was named the 23rd head coach in Brooklyn Nets franchise history, becoming just the second Canadian head coach in NBA history. Nash represented Canada internationally for over 10 years and continued his career with Canada Basketball off the court as the General Manager of Senior Men’s National Team from 2012-2019. Nash previously served as a player development consultant for the Golden State Warriors. After opening his coaching career with a victory over the Warriors on opening-night, Nash and the Nets return to action on Christmas Day against the Milwaukee Bucks.
6. All-female officiating crew for the women's gold medal game at the 2020 U SPORTS Final 8 Basketball Championship (March 8)
2020 was a year of instrumental growth in female officials development and representation across Canada. The women’s gold medal game at the 2020 U SPORTS Final 8 Basketball Championship saw an all-female crew with Kelsey Kisilevich, Marla Van Gelder and Alicia Bird-Smith officiating the action. Senior Women’s National Team head Coach, Lisa Thomaidis, led her Saskatchewan Huskies to a decisive 82-64 victory over the Brock Badgers to claim the program’s second national title.
Additionally, MP Malo, a Canadian FIBA official, was assigned to the men’s gold medal game at the 2020 U SPORTS Final 8 Basketball Championships back in March at the Arena at TD Place in Ottawa.
5. Senior Men's National Team head coach Nick Nurse wins NBA Coach of the Year (August 22)
Nick Nurse, the head coach of the Toronto Raptors, as well as Canada's Senior Men’s National Team, was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year for the 2019-2020 season. Nurse led the Raptors to a 53-19 record during the regular season and set a franchise-record with a .736 winning percentage. One of the highlights of the season was a franchise-record 15 straight victories (Jan. 15 – Feb. 10), the winning streak was the longest in Canadian sports history (NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS and CFL). Nurse also coached Team Giannis at the NBA All-Star Game in Chicago.
4. Natalie Achonwa and Dwight Powell recognized for their work in the community (July 24 / October 5)
Natalie Achonwa and Dwight Powell were honoured for their incredible efforts off the court with WNBA and NBA community service awards, respectively.
Achonwa earned the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award for her continued leadership and commitment to the community. The award recognizes a WNBA player who best exemplifies the characteristics of a leader in the community where she works or lives and focuses exclusively on a player's activities during the offseason. From combating racial injustice to fighting against the stigma around mental health, Achonwa continues to use her platform to advocate for change and make a difference.
Powell was named a recipient of the NBA Cares 2019-20 End of Season Community Assist Award, which recognizes players for their community engagement and philanthropic work. During the pandemic, Powell organized immediate support for families and frontline workers in Dallas and helped lead the entire Mavericks roster to select “Equality” to wear on their jerseys.
3. Jamal Murray’s 2020 NBA playoff bubble performance, breakout season (August 17-September 26)
Jamal Murray solidified his status as a Canadian superstar during his breakout performance in the 2020 NBA playoffs. The Kitchener, ON native had a historic run in the bubble, dropping two 50-point games against the Utah Jazz, and another 40 against the Los Angeles Clippers. With this performance, Murray became the first player ever to record 40 points in three elimination games in the same postseason. Murray averaged 26.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists in 19 games in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
2. Senior Women's National Team qualifies for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (February 8)
The Senior Women’s National Team booked their ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games earlier this year after going undefeated at the FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgium. After opening the tournament with a 61-56 win over the hosts, Canada followed that up with a decisive 80-50 victory versus Sweden to advance to their third consecutive Olympic Games, dating back to the London 2012 Olympics. Currently ranked a program-high fourth in the FIBA World Ranking Women, presented by Nike, Canada extended their winning streak to six games with a 70-68 win over Japan to conclude the tournament.
1. Activism in the fight against racial injustice, systemic racism and police brutality
Canadian players, coaches and staff demonstrated, both on and off-the-court, their commitment to the fight against racial injustice, systemic racism and police brutality in 2020. Following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and others, members of the Canada Basketball family used their platforms to speak up about important social issues. For the WNBA, NBA, and their players, this season was dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement, as players and teams honoured victims through game boycotts, pre-game displays of solidarity, and messages of support featured prominently on clothing and shoes. Away from the game, Canadian players took to the streets, marching alongside members of their community, to ensure their voice and message was heard.