Canada’s men’s basketball team qualified for the Olympics for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games.
A Canadian team led by NBA guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander defeated world No. 1 Spain 88-85 to advance to the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup for the first time since hosting it in 1994.
Canada would have to beat Spain to qualify for Paris, otherwise it would have to compete in the last chance to qualify for next year’s Olympics, possibly in June. Spain are now forced into one of those last chance matches.
Canada joins the United States, which also qualified for the team on Sunday, as well as France, Australia, South Sudan and hosts Japan in the 12-team Olympic field. The top two European nations in the World Cup will also qualify, along with four others, through last-chance qualifiers.
FIBA World Cup: Program, results
Canada has more NBA players than any other country except the United States and just missed out on qualifying for the last Olympics.
Canada qualified for the Paris Games despite being absent Jamal Mori (NBA champion point guard for Denver Nuggets) And Andrew Wiggins (2022 All-Star forward for Golden State Warriors). NBA stars often skip the World Cup to ensure a summer break between NBA seasons, especially if they plan to play in the following year’s Olympics.
In 2021, a Canadian team with eight NBA players lost 103-101 in overtime to a Czech Republic team with one NBA player in the final Olympic qualifier in British Columbia.
In 2016, Canada lost to France with a Rio Olympic berth at stake.
In 2015, a Canadian team with nine NBA players lost 79-78 to a Venezuelan team with zero NBA players in Rio Olympic qualifiers in a North and South American tournament.
In Canada’s last appearance at the 2000 Olympics, Steve Nash Led a team that nearly reached the medal round. Nash and center Todd McCulloch were their only NBA players. Such was Nash’s dedication that he reportedly sobbed and had to be carried off the field after Canada’s quarter-final loss to eventual silver medalists France.