In the modern NBA, international players are among the best in the league. There has been a significant increase in players that have success in the NBA coming from overseas in recent years.
Looking at the landscape of top players in the league, international players have won MVP in three consecutive seasons with Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Additionally, the Dallas Mavericks have one of the league’s top talents in Luka Doncic as well as a star in Kristaps Porzingis.
Before all of these successful current international prospects, Dirk Nowitzki was one of the best players of his era. He helped pave the way for the modern style of play we see in the NBA today.
On Monday, former Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki conducted a global conference call on behalf of the NBA and its 75th Anniversary. He discussed how many more international players are on rosters today than when he was in the league.
“It’s been incredible to watch,” said Nowitzki. “Honestly when I first got in the league, I think every team had maybe one international guy, and now it’s numerous international guys.”
Not only are these players making rosters, but they’re making a real impact across the NBA on their respective teams.
A Real Impact
Even outside of the aforementioned players, guys like Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, Pascal Siaka and Domantas Sabonis are among the best on their respective rosters.
Nowitzki recognizes that many of these international prospects have blossomed into franchise players. Over the past decade, more international players have been drafted in the lottery, and have actually panned out.
“It’s guys that have an impact, not only on their team, but they’re franchise players, guys that have an impact on the communities where they come to,” Nowitzki said. “Just the way basketball has grown so much over the 20 years that I’ve been in the league and has grown all over the world outside of the U.S., and it’s been just fun to watch.”
Over the past two decades, the international presence has exponentially risen in the NBA. Not only has it impacted the game of basketball, but also the communities these players represent.
“Guys coming in and having a huge impact on their teams and on their communities makes me, of course, as an international player, pretty proud, and where the league has gone,” said Nowitzki.
A big part of this international push in the NBA has been a shift in the style of play, which was influenced by guys like Nowitzki.
Style of Play
When looking back at some of the international prospects that didn’t make it in the NBA in past eras, it was sometimes because the style of play was very different. It was a physical game, whereas now the game is more finesse.
Rather than dominating the paint, teams are stretching the floor now.
“It’s gone to a fun sharing-type basketball,” said the Mavericks legend. “The bigs can all shoot now, and the game has really evolved in 20 years, and I think it kind of plays into the hands of the international players that are very skilled and can make shots, and bigs can make plays off the dribble.”
Many international players are versatile, tall, modern players. Historically, they’ve been able to stretch the floor, regardless of position, which has become extremely important in today’s game.
“So the change or the style of play over the 20 years that I played showed tremendously in the amount of international players that came and played.”
As teams around the league benefit from international talent, the Dallas Mavericks are among the teams that benefit most.