Over the last 25 years, the NBA has truly become a global entity. As recent as the late '80s, the international NBA player was a novelty, with a handful spread around the league in any given year.
Stereotyped and typecast, many languished on benches or conformed their games to fit the needs of the team. As everything else, however, things change. Paradigms shift. Evolution takes hold.
Now that small number of players has exploded; the NBA has come to embrace the talents of foreign-born players, and they have had a profound impact on the league. This from sabc1:
85 international players from 41 countries and territories ended the 2010-11 season on NBA rosters. Twenty-eight of the 30 teams feature at least one international player
NBA games and programming reached 215 countries and territories in over 40 languages during the 2010
The effect of the international player on the NBA is undeniable, and it is time to celebrate the with an NBA All-International team.
For the purpose of the piece, only foreign-born and raised players are considered. Players like Patrick Ewing, who was born overseas but raised in the states as a child, are excluded. Players from U.S. territories are also ineligible (sorry, Tim Duncan). Finally, players who were born in the U.S. but lobbied for foreign citizenship (and there are many) are not considered.
Let's get started.
Career averages: 16.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.9 apg
NBA All-Rookie: 2002
Four-time NBA All-Star (2006, 2007, 2009, 2012)
Four-time NBA Champion
NBA Finals MVP: 2007
At 29 years old, William Anthony Parker is in the prime of his career. The 6’2” Frenchman broke into the NBA as a precocious 19-year-old in 2001 and has manned the starting point guard position in San Antonio ever since.
Parker helped lead the Spurs to an NBA title in only his second NBA season, and was pivotal two other championship runs, including earning Finals MVP honors in 2007.
Parker is a relentless penetrator and his patented floater continues to beguile the giants of the league. The scariest thing about Parker is that his best basketball may still lie ahead.
Career averages: 17 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 40 percent career three point
Three-time NBA All-Star
2011 NBA Champion
Serbian swingman Predrag Stojakovic possessed one of the purest strokes the NBA has ever witnessed during his 13 seasons.
His 1,760 three-pointers currently ranks sixth all time, and a 44 percent career clip puts him at 33rd on the all-time list.
He was a deadly weapon in the high power Sacramento Kings offense in the early 2000s. Peja was fortunate enough to cap off his excellent career last season helping the Dallas Mavericks to their first NBA championship.
Career averages: 18.7 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.2 apg
NBA Rookie of the Year: 2002
Four-time NBA All-Star
Three-time All–NBA 2009, 2010, 2011
Two-time NBA Champion (2009, 2010)
At 31 years old, Pau Gasol continues to anchor the Lakers front line and is a vital piece on a team prime for another playoff push this summer.
At 7’0”, Gasol may be one of the most skilled big men the NBA has ever seen. He is a complete player blessed with a feathery touch, great footwork and a lanky frame.
Racking up two NBA titles serving as Kobe Bryant’s right hand, Gasol could be Hall of Fame-bound when his career finally comes to an end.
Career averages: 13.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.4 apg
Three-time NBA All-Star
Two-Time Sixth Man
Maybe a bit overlooked historically, Detlef Schrempf was one first international talents to gain notoriety as one of the NBA’s elite.
The 6’9” German forward made his name as a true “super sub,” becoming one of only three players to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year twice, and joins Hall of Fame forward Kevin HcHale as the only players to win in consecutive years.
A rugged rebounder with a deadly touch from the outside and a high basketball I.Q., Schrempf was one of the most versatile players of his era, and one of the best international players in NBA history.
Career averages: 9.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 2.8 bpg
NBA All-Rookie: 1992
Four-time Defensive Player of the Year
Three-time All-NBA: 1998, 2001, 2002
“Mount Mutombo” is simply one of the most intimidating defensive players in NBA history.
He is joined by Ben Wallace as the only players in league history to win Defensive Player of the Year four times.
His 3,289 blocks currently rank him second all-time.
Career averages: 14.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 8.6 apg
Even after 16 NBA seasons, Steve Nash continues to amaze.
The South African-born, Canadian-bred point guard is regarded as one of the NBA’s greatest all-time shooters, and is one of only five players in the coveted 50-40-90 club reserved for players who connect on 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent at the charity stripe.
Nash achieved the feat four times, doubling the great Larry Bird’s total. Perhaps the NBA’s most unlikely two-time MVP, Nash is still going strong at age 38 and could be joining a new team this summer.
Career averages: 15.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.9 apg
NBA All-Rookie: 2003
2008 NBA Sixth Man
Two-time All-NBA: 2008-2011
Three-time NBA Champion (2003, 2005, 2007)
Emanuel Ginobili was already an established star in Europe by the time he joined the Spurs in 2002.
As a rookie, Manu’s breakneck pace and deceiving athleticism served as a change of pace for the methodical San Antonio attack, and helped the spurs win the 2003 NBA title.
His number, although gaudy, do not come close to illustrating his effect on the game, and his energy is one of the biggest reasons the Spurs have been consistently among the NBA’s elite franchises.
Career averages- 21.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 3.1 bpg
NBA All-Rookie: 1985
Twelve time All-Star
Two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year
NBA MVP: 1994
Two-time NBA Champion (Finals MVP 1994, 1995)
*I took some liberty with listing Hakeem as a "forward," but he did play along Ralph Sampson early in his career, so cut me some slack
Hakeem Olajuwon is truly one of the NBA’s greatest and most complete players. Freakishly athletic and supremely skilled, “The Dream” dominated the NBA throughout the mid-80s and '90s.
His footwork remains legendary, and his post moves were flawless. He was as versatile defensively and he was offensively, ranking third all time in blocked shots and eighth all time in steals.
His back-to-back title run was one of the most memorable in history, and his 2008 Hall of Fame induction was well deserved.
Career averages: 22.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.6 apg
11-time NBA All-Star
NBA MVP: 2007
NBA Champion: 2011 (Finals MVP)
The seven-foot sharpshooter from Germany was able to finally realize his championship dream by leading his Dallas Mavericks past the Miami Heat in 2011.
Nowitzki possesses one of the most unorthodox games ever witnessed in the NBA. Combining a massive frame with a deft touch and supreme balance, Dirk has become one of the league’s most unstoppable offensive players.
His league MVP award in 2007 was clear evidence of his offensive prowess, but it was his performance in last year’s playoffs that earned him the coveted Finals MVP and a rightful place in basketball immortality.
Career averages: 19.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.9 bpg
NBA All-Rookie: 2003
Eight-time NBA All-Star
Unfortunately, the “Ming Dynasty” only lasted eight short seasons, as Yao's career was cut short due to lower leg injuries.
The Chinese import, however, made a huge mark on the NBA during his brief career. At 7’6” and over 300 lbs, his sheer physical presence on the floor was undeniable.
Ming, however, coupled that size with nimble feet, a nice touch from 15 feet, and soft hands around the rim.
The cultural effect was undeniable as well, opening a virtually untapped market up to the NBA.