It may come as something of a surprise that it was a Canadian, James A. Naismith, who invented the world-wide game now known as basketball while he was teaching physical education at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass in 1891.
In 1959 Naismith, fittingly, became the first person inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame that now bears his name.
It’s been a long time, but finally another Canadian, Steve Nash, will join Naismith in Springfield.
On Saturday amidst the U.S. college hoops extravaganza know at “March Madness,” it was announced that Nash, along with 12 others will inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall.
On the court, Nash was quick as a firefly, following in a tradition of playmakers that began with Bob Cousy, a standout guard for the Boston Celtics in the 1950s.
Nash could shoot, he could dribble, he could thread passes to teammates through spaces the size of keyholes, he could lob passes leading to dunks to perfection.
Nash began his pro career with the Phoenix Suns in 1996 and retired in 2015 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
In between, he won back-to-back MVP awards, was an eight-time NBA all-star and seven-time all-NBA selection.
Nash was an incredible player, and likely the man most responsible for Canada’s recent giant strides in developing players and an national team (of which he is the general manager) that could contend for a medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Nash may have been as influential off the court as he was on it, never forgetting he was a Canadian, sometimes taking political stands that offended many in United States, and doing his utmost best to promote the game north of the American border.
And don’t look now, but Canada is quickly becoming one of the hottest places for basketball excellence in the world, especially in the Greater Toronto Area, as an increasing number of newcomers from the Caribbean whose families lack the small fortunes needed to outfit their kids in the latest hockey equipment take up the game.
Unlike hockey, basketball requires only an outdoor court, one basket, some sneakers and a basketball.
The drive to succeed provides the rest–a chance to attend college in the United States and then, maybe, a career in the National Basketball Association, objectives that Nash proved a Canadian could accomplish–with brio and humility.