You have to admit, the US has had a pretty rough couple of weeks when it comes to the basketball court. First, the precious Larry O’Brien trophy went north of the border for the first time in history, and then last night’s awards confirmed the fact that not only is basketball a global sport, but perhaps some of the most exciting players in the league aren’t even American as well. As a reminder, here’s where things ended up last night
MVP – Nigeria/Greece
Most Improved Player – Cameroon
Defensive Player Of The Year – France
Rookie Of The Year – Slovenia
Thankfully Lou Williams was able to hold it down for the US with his 6MOY, but there’s no denying that the idea that just because you come from Europe means you can’t hoop on the same level as those in the states is dead. Do you think it’s a coincidence that these players are growing up with skill development and a certain style of play that’s much different than the AAU circuit and here we are and years later they are dominating the NBA? Think of all the talent that didn’t even win these awards like Embiid, Jokic, Porzingis, etc that still made All NBA. Last year there were 108 international players from 42 countries on opening night rosters and it’s becoming more and more of the norm that these guys are coming over and not only making a real impact, but are some of the best players in the entire league.
Giannis became the 4th international player ever to win the MVP, Luka the 4th to win ROY where three of the last 5 have been international players, Siakam the 6th ever to win MIP (one was Giannis), and Gobert marked the 10th time an international player won DPOY where the last three have all been from France and he’s only the 3rd international player to win multiple times. The point is, international basketball has arrived in the NBA in a big way and considering these dudes are all so young they certainly aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Of course there will always be the Darko’s, Bargnani’s, Jianlian’s, and Tskitishvili’s of the world, but it feels like more and more teams are hitting on these international prospects whether they are lottery picks like Luka and Giannis, or late round steals like Siakam and Gobert. I feel like in years past when your favorite team selected a guy from overseas it was considered a wasted pick, but now you get the sense that things have shifted. International players have earned the publics respect and for good reason, because on any given night you can turn on a game and see an international player giving everyone the business.
Just this past draft there were 7 international players taken in the first round and three in the top 15 picks. In total there were 15 international players selected in both rounds. While the US still sits on the basketball throne as a country, there’s no denying that some of the NBA’s most influential talents are international and to me that’s what makes this league so awesome. It doesn’t matter where you come from, if you can hoop you can hoop.