More than 20 years ago – when he was a relative pup as a commissioner – Stern worked with Russ Granik, USA Basketball and FIBA to clear the way for NBA players to play in the Olympics.
That led to the creation of the “Dream Team,” which, among others, featured the holy trinity of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Team USA won the 1992 Olympic gold medal, but more importantly, introduced the world to the NBA.
The “Dream Team” had kids all over the globe fantasizing about one day playing in the NBA, which was pretty much a pipe dream for foreign players until that point. A generation later, and more than 20 percent of NBA roster spots are filled by players born outside the United States.
A release from the league today announced that a record 92 international players from 39 different countries will populate NBA rosters on Opening Night. That is 21 percent of the NBA’s 439 active players.
What that means is, on average, every NBA team has an international player – in its starting lineup.
Obviously, that isn’t exactly true. Many teams don’t start an international, including the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. In fact, there are three teams that don’t have a single international player on their roster.
One is the Philadelphia 76ers, whom despite a complete overhaul of management, coaching staff and half the roster, have no internationals for the second straight year. However, they appear to be targeting one.
The other two are the New Orleans Pelicans, who traded Venezuela’s Greivis Vasquez in the offseason, and the Los Angeles Clippers, who allowed France’s Ronny Turiaf to leave via free agency.
Among teams, the Spurs have a record 10 internationals from seven different countries on their roster. That is two more than last season, with Australia’s Aron Baynes and Italy’s Marco Belinelli joining the party.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (including Australian-born Kyrie Irving) and Minnesota Timberwolves have six each and the Milwaukee Bucks have five.
In addition to Irving, here are some other international affiliations you may not have been aware of: San Antonio’s Cory Joseph is from Canada, Charlotte’s Jeffery Taylor is from Sweden, Atlanta’s Pero Antic is from Macedonia, Phoenix’s Alex Len is from Ukraine, Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova is from Australia, and Elias Harris of the Los Angeles Lakers is from Germany.
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