International Players in the NBA

It was the night of the 2015 NBA draft. Commissioner Adam Silver stepped up to the podium for to introduce the first round pick of the New York Knicks. Silver took a deep breath and announced, “With the fourth pick the New York Knicks select Kristaps Porzingis”.

Within seconds, the crowd at Madison Square Gardens erupted in disapproval. Knicks fans howled as the gangly Porzingis made his way to the stage. They hated the prospects their new addition being a foreign player they knew nothing about. It was a travesty!

Flash forward to the ‘17-’18 season of the NBA, and Porzingis is the star of the Knicks. When the camera spans the audience at one of their home games, you see the Latvian power forward’s number on the jersey of almost every fan, and It isn’t hard to see why. His three season run in the NBA has been nothing short of spectacular. Porzingis is the only player in NBA history to amass 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 250 blocks and 100 three-pointers in their first two seasons.

Another standout international player is Giannis Antetokounmpo, of the Milwaukee Bucks. He was drafted 15th in 2013, and has been on the rise ever since. Antetokounmpo has been listed as a shooting guard, small forward, point guard, and has spent short amounts of time as center, and power forward, which means that he has effectively played all five positions on the court. Antetokounmpo just dominates each game. Some of the best moments in his career include being the first player in Buck’s franchise history to score four triple doubles in a season,  being named the NBA Most Improved Player for the 2016-2017 season, and his ability to go the full length of the court in only two dribbles.

With Porzingis and Antetokounmpo in mind, it isn’t hard to see why basketball franchises have been actively looking overseas for new recruits. According to the NBA, there has been at least one international player on each of the 30 teams for the past four years, and in the current 2017-2018 season, almost 22% of all current players are foreign. International players are on the rise, and that trend won’t stop anytime soon.

So what kind of point am I trying to make here? Well, NBA fans should not be so apprehensive when it comes to foreign players. Yes, the NBA is an American league, but there is a lot of untapped talent outside of the United States. The rise of foreign players is inevitable, as each team sends scouts to Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and Africa every year. Having players from other countries brings more excitement and variety to the National Basketball League, and has brought success to a variety of franchises. So, when your NBA team of choice drafts a name you’ve never heard of before, don’t be so quick to judge. They might just be your team’s next international star.


– Lily Lowndes

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