In most sports, we as sports fans simply take it as natural that the world's best athletes come to the United States to play in arguably the best leagues in the world.
It only seems natural that these athletes—no matter if they play baseball, basketball or ice hockey—would want to compete against the top talent the world has to offer.
Until recently, however, it was inconceivable that players from the NBA, NHL and MLB players would leave North America during the prime of their careers and play somewhere else.
Yet, we have taken notice of a recent trend of players, particularly from the NBA and NHL, going to play in Europe. While it has historically been foreign-born players leaving to play elsewhere, the recent "defection" of players like Josh Childress and Bryan Berard has drawn extra attention.
Despite what appears to be a relatively new trend, U.S. players have been going overseas to play for quite sometime.
While some have played in North America for several seasons (Dominique Wilkins and Bob McAdoo come to mind), others go abroad simply to garner more playing time.
This slideshow presentation is a nod to those athletes who have found great success outside of the United States in team sports.
I am not claiming that any of these are definitively the best to play overseas in their respective sports, but highlighting some of the great U.S. players to play throughout the world.
In determining the list, I considered the following:
1. LONGEVITY. While some have relatively short careers in other countries, I did not take into account players who played only one season overseas.
This includes many NHL players who played in Europe during the lockout. I wanted to examine players who have spent a good portion of their career abroad.
Also, I mainly focused on players who remained in leagues abroad, rather than returning to the United States.
2. STATISTICS. I mainly rely on statistical evidence rather than simply being on a team that wins titles. Titles are impressive, and certainly elevated one player on this list, but production is what I took into account.
3. COMPETITION. While certainly most leagues overseas do not likely compare to those in the United States, I did try to avoid obscure leagues. J.R. Sakuragi [formerly J.R. Henderson; pictured above during his college days] has had quite a productive career in the Japanese Basketball League, but my take is that the European leagues are much more competitive.
4. CLUB-LEVEL PERFORMANCE. I looked solely at these athletes' performance at the club level and did not take into account international play.
5. GEOGRAPHY. I looked at leagues that did not have a constant presence in the United States. At one time, the Canadian Football League did field franchises in the United States. But that experiment ended and therefore it is not constant; so I did include the CFL. Furthermore, MLB, MLS, NBA and NHL have a constant presence in the United States. So, even though they have teams in Canada and U.S. players are on those teams, I did not count those leagues.
6. TEAM SPORTS. I focused only on teams sports. No individual sports such as tennis or golf were analyzed.
NOW...on with the list!