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International Players Are Taking Over The NBA

It's no secret that the NBA's complexion has been changing. The increasing global presence of the NBA has broadened the reach of the sport, and as a result, has attracted talent from all over. As evidence of this, the past couple of league MVPs - players that have become perennial factors nowadays - have been international players.

Are Americans Still The Best Players?


American-born players have dominated the sport of basketball for the longest time. Besides the occasional international superstar, most of the top NBA players were born in America. The first NBA MVP award was awarded in the 1955-56 season. In the near 70 year long history only seven international players have won the MVP. Three of the seven winners have won the MVP award in the past five seasons. These winners are Giannis Antetokounmpo ( 2018-19/2019-20), Nikola Jokic (2020-2021/2021-2022), and Joel Embiid (2022-2023).


The ESPN Top 100 Players list was released before the 2023-24 season and 5 of the top 10 NBA players are international players. As of the most recent NBA MVP Ladder, all top 5 players are international. The top 5 league leaders in points per game are mainly international players. The only American-born player is De'Aaron Fox. The top 5 league leaders in total points are all international.


What About Basketball On The World Level?


Ever since NBA players were allowed to play in the Olympics in 1992, the United States only failed to acquire gold in 2004. For the FIBA World Cup, NBA players were allowed to play beginning in 1990. The United States won only three different times. However, one can argue that the best American-born NBA players reject playing in the FIBA World Cup.


Will International Players Fully Control The NBA?


While basketball is becoming more of an international sport, the most marketable players have been American players (i.e. Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Kobe Bryant). Does this mean international players will never be marketable? Of course not! The current top NBA players are from other countries which helps the NBA market to other countries. When Yao Ming was drafted back in 2002, this put China on the basketball map. This then increased the revenue in the NBA with all the viewership from the Chinese.

 

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