Over the past few years, the NBA has been consciously making a push to expand its reach and grow overseas. From Europe, Australia, to emerging nations like China, Africa and now even developing countries like India & Philippines, the presence of NBA has been increasing. This has been helped tremendously by the explosion in internet reach and users, and of course through satellite TV and cable TV.
The NBA Playoffs and Finals routinely span an audience of 215+ countries, broadcasted in over 49 languages. In China alone, the NBA Finals series on the country's digital platforms received 190.9 million total views and averaged 12.2 million unique viewers per game. Part of this credit can be also given to the international players making their mark in the NBA over the years. In the 1980’s the percentage of foreign players in the league was just around 1.9 % and now in recent years, it has moved closer to 30 %.
If you take a list of the Top 10 International players in the NBA today, it will be a formidable team, one that can probably even win a ring or two. With the likes of superstars & all-stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Clint Capela, Ben Simmons, Manu Ginobili etc.. This is just not an empty claim, but a genuine pitch for international dominance & presence.
Some teams, historically have always had an international mix in the squad, teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks have built their teams on international stars and have found tremendous success with it. A few years ago, Sacramento Kings of the 90’s also had a large international presence and recently it has also ownership and management control with Vivek Ranadive, a successful businessman of Indian origin. It’s not uncommon to have dancers at halftime, grooving to Bollywood songs at the Golden 1 Center.
While Europe & the offshoot nations of the erstwhile USSR have been traditionally happy hunting grounds for the NBA with players like Detlef Schempf, Toni Kukoc, Drazen Petrovic, Arvydas Sabonis making their mark in the league with their phenomenal play and sportsmanship. The international scene really began to make its mark with the championship pedigree of players like Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol.
While players like Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo became great ambassadors of the game, they also opened the doors to millions of aspiring players across the world in far-off countries that were starved of basketball heroes.
There have also been some new entrants to the club and these are the 5 players whose nationalities you would have never guessed, from countries we would have never imagined had representation in the greatest basketball league of the world.
Buddy Hield – The shooting guard from the Sacramento Kings, was a star at Oklahoma Sooners, has his origin from the infamous tax haven of Bahamas. Hield grew up in the Bahamas. Hield has a standout college career with the Sooners and was the nation's top 3 point shooter in his senior year. He also won the Wooden Award for the best college player in 2015-16 averaging 25 points and 5.7 assists per game. Post his senior year, Buddy was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans before being traded to the Kings in the DeMarcus Cousins' trade.