Title: Melvin Ejim’s value as Canada’s longtime dot-connector will be on full display at FIBA World Cup
Date: August 7, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about Canada Basketball’s most important glue-guy, Melvin Ejim.
“Melvin Ejim is an NBA player.”
It has become a rallying cry of sorts for hardcore Canadian basketball fans since as far back as 2015. Every time Ejim suits up for Canada in international competition — which is often, basically whenever Ejim is available — you’re sure to see it somewhere on Twitter. It is at the same time an appreciation of Ejim, who has become a stalwart of the national program and grown into a very good basketball player, and a sort of catch-all reminder that talent on the international stage is not defined by an NBA contract alone. Yes, it’s fun and often instructive to count the NBA representatives on a country’s roster, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.
It’s no longer a value judgment on Ejim, necessarily (and in fact runs some risk of inadvertently discrediting a very good non-NBA career). Back in 2016, coming off of a breakout year, Ejim looked to be on the NBA radar. Undrafted out of Iowa State, he turned in a decent first pro season in Italy and then an excellent follow-up in the G League after spending training camp with the Orlando Magic. Had two-way contracts existed at the time, Ejim would have been a prime candidate. As things broke, he instead returned to Italy, then spent two years with UNICS Kazan in Russia, competing in EuroCup each season. Ejim is still just 28 years old and could theoretically make it back to the NBA, but he also just signed a comfortable deal with Unicaja, a Spanish EuroCup team with intentions of getting back to EuroLeague. He’s carved out a productive, lucrative international career.
It matters little that Ejim isn’t actually an NBA player to the spirit of the comment. After all, Ejim is an NBA player through the lens of his importance to Canada. Never will that be on display more than in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.