In an appearance on Keith Olbermann‘s show last night, ESPN columnist Jason Whitlock was asked about whether the Cavs should trade Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love. While answering, he took the time to espouse his opinions on Canadian athletes in general.
The Wiggins-for-Love debate is very much about the known versus the unknown. According to Whitlock, the nationality of the players involved should be a factor, too:
Whitlock points to Wiggins and his inconsistent effort and intensity at Kansas and concludes that Canadian athletes in general just don’t want it as much, even doubling down on his peculiar brand of ethnocentrism by claiming Canadians want it less than Europeans.
It’s quite the leap to go from questioning the work ethic of a 19-year-old rookie (fair) to generalizing an entire country of basketball players (unfair), especially given the body of work by Canadian players in the NBA.
This list is long, and it includes Jamaal Magloire, Todd MacCulloch, Bill Wennington, Rick Fox and most notably, Steve Nash.
Nash is a two-time Most Valuable Player, and Whitlock only needs to watch the recent Grantland documentary series on Nash, “The Finish Line,” to see how much some Canadians want it.
Wennington and Fox were part of multiple championship teams in Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively, and while their nationality might have been a talking point on broadcasts, it was never a matter of: look, there’s a Canadian on our team, he plays much more tentatively and definitely doesn’t want it as much.
Canada is also in the midst of a golden era of basketball talent. Aside from Wiggins, there’s teammate Anthony Bennett and first round picks from this season Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis. The list goes on.
The perception that Canadian athletes don’t want it as much, especially in the NBA, is absurd. There is, however, a precedent. In fact, you can find it in Canada. Famous hockey personality Don Cherry has spent years talking down to Europeans on his show whenever he gets a chance, poking fun at their “soft” personality and a lack of desire, in a very similar tone to what Whitlock is claiming here.
It’s a lazy approach, especially in this case, where Wiggins isn’t exactly the first Canadian to play in the league. He might be the one with the highest expectations, and who knows how a teenage prospect will pan out. But whether he succeeds or fails, it’s a reflection on the player, and not a whole nation of basketball players who have already accomplished so much in the NBA.
In the meantime, the Canadian men’s national basketball team is in the middle of a training camp this week, and head coach Jay Triano was asked about Whitlock’s comments this morning. Here’s his response:
Triano dismisses Canadian softness talk. Mentions Nash, Thompson, Sacre. Says, "maybe we'll have to drop the gloves a bit on trip."
— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) July 22, 2014
What do you think?
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