The NBA has evolved into a league that has expanded outside the boundaries of the United States of America. David Stern, who was notorious for being criticized frequently, played a huge role in helping the league become a phenomenon around the world. David Stern said that “together with our friends at FIBA we go all over the world,” and individuals such as Dikembe Mutombo, Yao Ming, and many others continue to help the NBA grow through the basketball without borders program. The first crop of international stars were inspired by The Dream Team, who participated in the 1992 Olympics in Madrid. This team is often times said to be the greatest team ever assembled. The Dream Team was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
The NBA, at the start of the 2015-16 season had as many as 100 international players in the league, who hail from 37 countries and territories. The NBA press release announced, “There are a record 10 African and a record nine Brazilian players on opening night rosters.” This shows that the NBA has grown outside of Europe, where most of the early international NBA players were coming from. The NBA continues to not only grow internationally, but also the international players in today's NBA are more skilled than the international players that the fan has seen in the past. You have your young international stars such as Kristaps Porzingis and Andrew Wiggins representing the new age of international basketball icons. There are also the older foreign stars such as Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol who continue to play at a high level despite being in the league for over 10 years. Here is a list of the top 15 international players in the NBA today, who continue to prove that the NBA more than ever has expanded outside of the United States of America.
15 Tony Parker - San Antonio Spurs
14 Nikola Jokic - Denver Nuggets
13 Tim Duncan - San Antonio Spurs
The big fundamental seems to never slow down. The big man from the U.S. Virgin Islands still plays a vital role in helping the Spurs win on a nightly basis. His scoring is down this year to nine points per game, but the Spurs are still one of the best teams in the NBA. Duncan is also a very reliable defender for a man who is almost 40 years old, and still gets around eight rebounds per game. Although his numbers do not pop out at you, it would be a disservice to leave arguably the best power forward to ever play off this list.
12 Goran Dragic - Miami Heat
11 Ricky Rubio - Minnesota Timberwolves
10 Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
9 Serge Ibaka - Oklahoma City Thunder
8 Kristaps Porzingis - New York Knicks
At the beginning of the 2015-16 NBA season, not many would have thought Kristaps Porzingis would already be a top ten international player in the NBA. Porzingis has exceeded the expectations of many. He has given Knicks fans something to be excited about for the future, and can be considered one of the best rookies the NBA has produced this season. He averages fourteen points a game, which is the most surprising considering many had doubts about whether Porzingis would be able to reliably score in the NBA. He has also averaged seven rebounds and two blocks per game.
7 Dirk Nowitzki - Dallas Mavericks
6 Nicolas Batum - Charlotte Hornets
5 Andrew Wiggins - Minnesota Timberwolves
4 Al Horford - Atlanta Hawks
3 Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
2 Pau Gasol - Chicago Bulls
1 Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks
The Greek Freak has been turning many heads so far this season. He has even been playing the point guard position a little this year. Giannis is lengthy and quick, making him an excellent on the ball defender. He average close to seventeen points a game for a Bucks team that does not scare many teams offensively. He also averages close to seven rebounds a game and four assists per game. If he continues to play the point his assist total will most likely go up.
Giannis is extremely athletic making driving to the basket simple, and he can also knock down a jump shot if given space. He has only been in the league for two years, but the future is very bright for him.
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