Bulls

Eversley reflects on long road to Canada Basketball Board

Bulls

Marc Eversley’s family moved from London to the Jane and Finch neighborhood of Toronto when he was four years old. His professional travels have seen stops in Cookstown, Ont., Portland, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and now Chicago.

But for the Bulls’ general manager, home will always be Brampton. It’s that pocket on the outskirts of the Greater Toronto Area that Eversley spent the latter half of his childhood and grew to love the game of basketball.

Most of my best friends are still there in little old Brampton,” Eversley said from his Advocate Center office in a Zoom interview with NBC Sports Chicago. “I'm proud to say that I'm from there.”

Eversley speaks with similar assurance of recently being tapped for a position as a Class A Director on the Board of Canada Basketball, where he will, according to a release, help oversee basketball operations. Though Eversley doesn’t yet know exactly what that will entail, he said he looks forward to providing his expertise wherever necessary.

To call the nod a culmination may be reductive — there remains work to be done. But there’s symmetry to be noted. 

 

As a growth spurt shot him up to an eventual 6-foot-8, Eversley was “thrust” into basketball at an early age, and eventually starred at Cardinal Leger Secondary School (in Brampton) enough to be recruited to play collegiately in the United States; chiefly, for Urbana University (NAIA) in Ohio. He calls himself an “original stretch 4,” with the ability to knock down shots off the catch and rebound.

Though aspirations of playing at the highest level eventually faded, different dreams soon took their place.

“You kind of realize somewhere along the way that you're good. Probably pretty good. But you're probably not going to be an NBA draftee,” he said. “I could have gone and played overseas if I wanted to, but I chose not to do that. Growing up I promised my parents that if I did go to university that I'd get my degree, so I really put most of my efforts into making sure I graduated and got a degree.

“Basketball is something I always wanted to play at a high level, but I thought if I'm not going to play at a really high level I might as well have aspirations to either work either for the NBA, the association, or work with an NBA team.”

After getting his degree, it was back to Canada, where, flipping through a newspaper, he found the break of a lifetime in the classifieds.

“I saw an advertisement for the Nike swoosh, and I thought, 'What the heck is this?’ he said. “Applied for the job, not really knowing what I was applying for and it ended up being a job at a Nike retail outlet store (in Cookston). The first ever in Canada.”

There, Eversley worked as a floor supervisor, managing staffing, scheduling and logistics for 60 employees. Eventually, he parlayed that experience into heading sports marketing for all of Nike Canada’s basketball assets, including sponsorships for high schools and colleges and Canada Basketball endorsement deals. Then came the jump to Nike HQ. 

“That was really my first entry point into working and managing people and starting to build relationships,” Eversley said of the Nike experience, citing specifically his bond with Vince Carter, who he still considers a close friend. “That's really the foundation of who I am, is somebody who understands and values relationships.”

 

To hear Eversley tell it, those skills permeated his current run as an NBA executive. Before assuming general manager duties for the Bulls in May 2020, Eversley worked seven years with the Toronto Raptors as assistant general manager, three years with the Wizards as vice president of player personnel and three years with the 76ers under the same title.

All while hailing from and representing a country where basketball was often viewed as an “afterthought.” 

“I think it's no secret that Canada and Toronto, it's really a hockey town,” Eversley said. “[Basketball] wasn’t on the map.”

Now, it certainly is. Eversley credits a number of factors for the rise of the sport in Canada. The Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies’ expansion in the mid-1990s. Carter’s ascension to superstar status while in Toronto. The Raptors’ 2019 NBA championship, which filled him with pride even as a rival executive working for the 76ers at the time.

“It was painful. I was in the stands in the Air Canada Centre, the night when Kawhi hit that incredible shot. I was right there,” he said. “But, you know, to see 19,800 rabid fans and there was a part of me where I was like, 'You know what this is pretty damn cool.' And the country just kind of went with it. And what they've been able to do with the game of basketball at the grassroots level is incredible.”

On the ground, AAU circuits and developmental programs have boomed in recent years. At the professional level, the NBA saw 20 Canadian players log minutes during the 2020-21 season, according to RealGM; the 2021 WNBA season began with three Canadians on rosters, including Phoenix Mercury star Kia Nurse.

“It's definitely on an upswing,” Eversley said. “And I think it’s only the beginning.”

The men’s national team has a qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympics coming up from June 29 - July 4 in Victoria, British Columbia that could feature plenty of NBA representation. Among the 21 players to accept training camp invites for the event are Andrew Wiggins, Luguentz Dort, RJ Barrett and others. While Eversley said he would like to attend, offseason engagements with the Bulls and quarantine protocols may keep him watching — and cheering — from afar.

 

In the bigger picture, he hopes it’s his story that makes the difference while helping continue to grow the sport he loves in a country that holds special personal significance. 

“I've got a story to tell,” Eversley said. “I don't know if there's any NBA GMs who started working in a Nike factory outlet store 20 years ago. If I can touch one or two little kids and let them know that it's possible to achieve what I've achieved from where I started, then that's a win.

“The game is still growing, it's not perfect, I've got ideas for ways to grow the game in Canada, and now that I've got this platform, it's really on me to share those ideas to see if we can institute some change.”

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