Canadian NBA players will likely always live in the shadow cast by Steve Nash. Though the 38-year-old stands just 6-foot-3 and is nearing the end of his career, he's left a memorable mark on the game including two MVP awards and eight All-Star Game appearances.
Miami Heat centre Joel Anthony will never have a resume that comes anywhere close to Nash's. He didn't play his first NBA season until he was 25 years old and has never averaged more than 3.5 points or 3.9 rebounds per game. But for the second straight season, Anthony has the chance to accomplish what Nash has never done in his 16-year career — win an NBA championship.
Born and raised in Montreal, the 6-foot-9 Anthony went undrafted after playing four years at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). He earned his first NBA contract with the Heat in 2007 and has been in Miami ever since.
And on a team that's defined by its "Big Three" — which includes superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — Anthony finds a way to earn his time on the floor. He averaged over 21 minutes per game this season — the highest in his career — and with Bosh out with injury for a large chunk of games during the playoffs, Anthony stepped in and logged significant minutes off the bench.
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As Bosh said to the Montreal Gazette:
"He's one of those guys whose impact with the game doesn't show up on the stat sheet. For the most part, his game is about altering shots, contesting shots and playing defence. He's just a special player and this team wouldn't be the same without him. You need role players like that to come in and roll up their sleeves and do their job."
Though cheering against the Miami Heat has become a hobby for many NBA fans, a championship for Miami would make Anthony just the third Canadian in NBA history to raise the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Rick Fox won three titles with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000 to 2002, and Bill Wennington won a trio of championships with the Chicago Bulls from 1996 to 1998 playing alongside Michael Jordan.
"Personally, I'm a lot more comfortable in my role with what I have to do to help the team and I'm having a good time with it," Anthony told the Montreal Gazette. "After being with this team and going through what we did last year, we're definitely a lot more comfortable with each other."
Game 1 of the NBA Finals goes from the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City Tuesday at 9pm ET.