Though born in the United States (New Hampshire), former Toronto Raptor Matt Bonner recently told the Associated Press that he is in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen, in part so he can play for the Canadian Men’s Basketball Team.
“It’s something I wanted to do, something I felt strongly about. I feel very strongly about representing Canada and trying to help the team in any way possible to be successful on the world stage,” Bonner told the AP.
“I feel like I’m part-Canadian, having a Canadian grandfather and growing up a couple of hours south of the border (Concord, N.H.) and then having such a great time playing here for the Raptors – it just feels right.”
Bonner’s wife is also Canadian so the other part of applying for citizenship is to make the border-crossing a much easier process when he visits his in-laws.
Canada’s Senior Men’s Program will try and naturalize Bonner before this year’s World Championship-qualifying tournament being held in Mexico. Canada had finished 13th at the 2002 world championships in Indianapolis, didn’t qualify for the 2006 world tournament nor the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
But Under FIBA rules, a national team can only have one naturalized player. For Canada, it seems as if they will have to decide between two NBA players, Bonner and Philadelphia 76ers center Samuel Dalembert, who is Haitian-born. Dalembert received his citizenship in time to play for Canada last summer in an attempt to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Bonner is not planning on relinquishing his American citizenship, ideally he would like to become a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. He hasn’t heard any information of the status of his application, which were submitted several months ago. “It’s in Canada’s hands now,” he said.
Matt Bonner History
The 28-year old Bonner was a high school valedictorian, became a star player at Florida (NCAA), and was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the 2nd round of the 2003 NBA draft. Even before putting on a Bulls jersey, Bonner was traded to the Raptors whom didn’t have a spot for Bonner but promised the 6-10 forward a good shot to make their roster the next season.
In the meantime, Bonner signed with Italian club Sicilia Messina. Despite the team filing for bankruptcy in the middle of the season, not receiving a paycheck, contracting salmonella, and being evicted from his apartment, Bonner would finish out the year and nearly average a double-double (19.2 points and 9.3 rebounds).
From there he earned a spot on the 2004-05 Toronto Raptors roster. Bonner would become known as the “The Red Rocket” in Toronto during his two years there because of his red hair and his affinity for taking the public transit to and from the game (the streeetcars are red and have the slogan ‘Ride the Rocket’ emblazoned on them). He was traded away to the San Antonio Spurs before 2006-07 season, where he would win a championship that same season.
Bonner currently starts for the Spurs where he has earned a starting spot. And despite being in the top-five in three-point shooting percentage (with a career-high 49%) nearly the entire NBA season, he is still very humble and self-deprecating.
“(Matt is) a highly strung individual,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “So I learned last year that the best way I can coach him is to shut up and just go let him play and joke with him and keep him loose. He plays better that way. Timmy coaches him. I just put him in the game and take him out.” The Spurs are 27-11 with Matt Bonner is in the starting lineup.
(Article was written by Matt Blair with contributions from Stuart Leung)
Links and Discussion: Matt Bonner may suit up for Team Canada in the future (Interbasket), Former Raptor Matt Bonner hopes to play for Canada in the near future (The Canadian Press), Bonner thriving besides Duncan (National Post), Canada National Team – Basketball (Interbasket), Raptors Connection (Roger Mason and Matt Bonner) clicking for Spurs (Globe and Mail)