Introducing, NBA REPRESENT
For the 10th consecutive season, Canada is the best-represented country (outside of the U.S.) in the NBA, boasting 27 (!!!) players in the league.
Today, we’re spotlighting one of the Great White North’s finest: Oklahoma City Thunder icon, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, an All-Star, philanthropist, fashion icon and Canada’s first true NBA MVP contender since Steve Nash took home the trophy in 2006. Let’s dive in.
🛣️ Journey to the NBA
A proud Hamiltonian, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, or SGA, has some serious athletic genes: His mom, Charmaine, is a former Olympic sprinter, and represented Antigua and Barbuda at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
- SGA, just like his dad, grew up loving basketball, and it didn’t hurt that he had some friendly competition in his family, even as a kid. Gilgeous-Alexander’s cousin is Minnesota Timberwolves’ Nickeil Alexander-Walker. And that’s on genetics.
⛰️ It’s the climb
A four-star recruit out of Hamilton Heights Christian Academy, SGA played one year of NCAA ball at the University of Kentucky before entering the 2018 NBA Draft where he was selected 11th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, but traded to the LA Clippers that night.
SGA impressed in his first season in 2018, so much so that he was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team before being traded to Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for that season’s NBA MVP finalist, Paul George during the offseason. Can you say, whiplash?
Fortunately, Gilgeous-Alexander adjusted quickly to OKC, hitting career milestones like his first triple-double in a 117–104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 13, 2020.
- He led the Thunder to the playoffs the same year and though their postseason dreams were cut short after losing to the Houston Rockets in the first round, SGA had made a name for himself in OKC and the league at large.
Fast forward to the 2020–21 season, and SGA was off to a banner start. He scored a new career-high 42 points in a 102–99 win over the San Antonio Spurs on February 24th, 2021, but one month later tore his plantar fascia, a season-ending foot injury after just 35 games.
The good news? SGA had already made his worth known in OKC before his injury and locked in a five-year $172M rookie extension in the summer of 2021. He recovered and returned for the 2021–22 season, but nearly a year to the day from his initial injury, Gilgeous-Alexander’s season was once again cut short, this time because of an ankle problem.
⭐ Superstar, incoming
Eager to get back on the court after two injury-riddled seasons, SGA came out swinging in 2022.
On Halloween, Gilgeous-Alexander traded spooky for shiny, winning NBA Western Conference Player of the Week. By December, he scored a new career-high 44 points in a 128–125 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
- And it all paid off — by February 2023, Shai made it to the big-big leagues — his first NBA All-Star Game, where he nailed nine points and seven assists.
After his inaugural All-Star run, Gilgeous-Alexander returned to OKC and brought the thunder. Though his squad failed to make the playoffs, Gilgeous-Alexander closed the season averaging 31.4 points per game, launching him into elite company — the only other Thunder players to average at least 30 points per game in one season are Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, two former NBA MVPs.
- To cap it off, Gilgeous-Alexander finished the season with All-NBA First Team honors. He’s kind of a big deal.
Notably, SGA didn’t lay low in the offseason, leading Canada’s national team to a bronze medal at the 2023 FIBA World Cup to secure Team Canada’s 2024 Summer Olympics berth. Going for gold, literally.
And Gilgeous-Alexander doesn’t limit his signature flair to the hardwood: the 25-year-old was named GQ Sports Most Stylish NBA Player for two years running, beating out Hollywood fellas like LA Laker LeBron and LA Clipper Russell Westbrook.
- Even better, SGA is a mainstay in the OKC community, hosting events like Kicks for a Cause where he connects with local kids while customizing Converse sneakers. *claps*
👏 He’s here
This season, SGA is leading all Canadians in points and rebounds, averaging 29.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, as the Thunder sit in third in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
- SGA is also yet again OKC’s top-scorer, scoring more than 30 points in eight out of 13 appearances thus far. A leader on and off the court, SGA is making moves in the NBA, proving to the world that Canadian hoops shouldn’t be slept on.