International Players No Longer Foreign in NBA

Dirk Nowitzki takes on Serge Ibaka

Foreign players have been fundamental in the success of the NBA. Just 20 years ago, international players were still very much a curiosity and plagued by stereotypes.

Today, they are quite common on NBA rosters, and are critical to many NBA teams’ success. For example the Indiana Pacers, one of this year’s title contenders according to, have Argentine Luis Scola and Frenchman Ian Mahinmi.

Serbian Vlade Divac came to the NBA in 1989 to play with Los Angeles Lakers and was part of the famous “Showtime” with Magic Johnson. He was the first foreign player to play in 1,000 NBA games and is one of six players to have more than 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocks.

The Croatian Drazen Petrovic was considered one of the best foreigners to be in the league. After a successful career in Europe, Petrovic came to the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers, but had few opportunities, so he was traded to the New Jersey Nets, where he showed his great qualities. A car accident ended his life and after he only played five years in the league.

Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon, also known as “The Dream”, played 17 seasons with the Houston Rockets and won two titles. He is the leading scorer in franchise history with 26,511 points and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. He played 12 times in the All-Star and ended his career as the league’s all-time leader in blocks, with 3,830.

German Dirk Nowitzki joined the Dallas Maverick in the 1998 season, and since then he has been one of the stars of the Texas squad. He helped the Mavericks win the title in 2011 and was selected as the MVP of the league in 2007. He is the leading scorer in Dallas’ history with over 25,000 points.

Argentine Manu Ginobili has been a fundamental part in the three championships of the San Antonio Spurs. He has been selected twice to the All-Star Game, but before he had a great success in the United States he was a star in Europe, where he was selected as the MVP of the Italian League, besides winning the 2001 Italian Championship, the 2001 Euroleague title, and the 2001 and 2002 Italian Cup.

After seven seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, Spanish Pau Gasol had the opportunity to win two championship rings with the Lakers. In 14 years in the NBA, he is averaging 18.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Has been selected four times to the All-Star and was the Rookie of the Year in 2002.

There are other up and comers like Turkish center Enes Kanter (Utah) and Canadian forward Tristan Thompson (Cleveland)  both of whom have begun to show promise after a few years in the NBA.

The future of foreign players seems to be in good hands as there are young players on the cusp of NBA stardom like Congalese player Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Slovenian Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns, and Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio of Minnesota.

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