The international impact in the NBA | Bonehead Picks

The international impact in the NBA is more apparent than ever

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The Dallas Mavericks have had the services of Dirk Nowitzki for 20 NBA seasons. After leading the Mavericks to an NBA championship, numerous playoff appearances, and numbers of highlight performances he will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame shortly after his retirement. Nowitzki is also considered the greatest foreign-NBA player ever who never attended college in the United States, to avoid confusion with NBA greats like Hakeem Olajuwon and Steve Nash. Now there are several international players on NBA rosters, often three or four per team, and there are some that are among the NBA’s best players. It is clear that the NBA is as global as ever with many international All-Star caliber players.

Longtime NBA players like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki often were considered the best international NBA players who learned their crafts overseas before joining the NBA but now there are several stars and potential stars in the NBA who are making an impact at an early age. Perhaps the most famous young international star in the NBA is the one they call “The Greek Freak”, Miwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo, who was born in Greece, was once known for NBA announcers butchering his name but now he is known for filling up the stat sheet, incredible strides during his fast breaks, and being among the most versatile NBA players. Another popular foreign NBA player is the New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, who has his own unique nickname, “The Unicorn”, and he is from Latvia. That nickname aptly describes Porzingis’ rare skills to stretch the four and block shots as a 7 foot, 3 inch power forward. He has made the departure of former All-Star Carmelo Anthony tolerable for the Knicks fans.

There are two legitimate stars who play in cold weather areas in Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets has a ton of skill and might be the best passing big man in the NBA. He was born in Serbia and he is beginning to show that he will be the building block for a young Nuggets team to build around. The Utah Jazz center, Rudy Gobert, has fought injuries this season but he is an intimidating defensive force from France. His nickname, “The Stifle Tower” tells you what he does best on an NBA court.

While there has been ridiculous concern that the NBA has become “too young” due to “one-and-done” American players leaving college after one year, there have been foreign NBA players who have become stars or impact players for their teams in their early 20s because they entered the NBA at an early age. Many credit the rise of the amount of international NBA players today to the U.S. Olympic basketball men’s “Dream Team” of the early 1990s, who dominated foreign players and “forced” them to improve to compete with Americans. However, it is important to give credit to the Nowitzkis, Gasols, and Tony Parkers who showed that foreign players could achieve success at the highest of NBA levels, including NBA championships.


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