By Stephen Brisman
The Olympics has not only been an opportunity to see America’s best basketball players dominate the world stage year after year, but also a chance to experience standout players from around the globe. Team USA remains on top in both the Olympic courts and on paper, but does that mean other countries don’t have what it takes? Not at all. The NBA’s current roster shows how reliant organizations have become on all-stars from beyond our waters. Here’s what a team of the foremost international players in the NBA might look like.
PG Tony Parker France
SG Goran Dragic Slovenia
SF Andrew Wiggins Canada
PF Dirk Nowitzki Germany
C Marc Gasol Spain
6th man Pau Gasol Spain
7th man Serge Ibaka Spain
8th man Joakim Noah France
9th man Manu Ginobilli Argentina
10th man Al Horford Dominican Republic
11th man Luol Deng Great Britain
12th man Nikola Vucevic Switzerland
Alongside future Hall of Fame forward Tim Duncan and future Hall of Fame coach Greg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobilli are huge reasons for the San Antonio Spurs’ success over the past years. Manu Ginobilli joined the Spurs in 2002 and has since won 4 titles (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014), had two all star appearances (2005, 2011), and claimed the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 2007-2008 season. Tony Parker joined the Spurs after getting selected 28th overall in 2001. Since then he has also won 4 titles (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014), six time NBA all star appearances (2006, 2007, 2009, 2012-2014), and NBA finals MVP in 2007.
Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks is in the top 10 scoring list of ALL TIME. Arguably the best international player ever and the best shooting forward in the game, he is the best case for proving that big players can shoot effortlessly. Dirk was drafted 9th overall by Dallas in 1998 and has made a steady impact since as a thirteen time all-star (2002-2012, 2014, 2015), and as the man who defeated Lebron James and the newly formed big 3 in Miami in the 2011 NBA finals. Nowitzki was also the 2011 finals MVP.
As players for Spain, The Gasol Brothers (Chicago Bulls and the Memphis Grizzlies) are known for their epic Olympic battles against the US. Their Olympic teams have come close a couple of times but never got the job done on the big stage. However, they are both huge threats in the post and affect their teams tremendously. Pau Gasol was selected third overall by the Phoenix Suns in 2001 and was sent to Memphis right away. He played there for seven seasons and won rookie of the year in 2001, eventually becoming an NBA all-star in 2006. In 2008 he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and won two titles (2009, 2010) with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson. He was a three time NBA All-Star with the Lakers (2009-2011) before signing with the Chicago Bulls in 2015 and becoming an All-Star team starter. Marc Gasol was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007 and later was sent to Memphis to play with his brother Pau. Once Pau was traded, Marc stayed with Memphis and has had a successful career thus far. He is a two time NBA all star (2012, 2015) and the 2013 NBA defensive player of the year.
Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves has been called “the future of the NBA” and the “next Lebron James” countless times. Yet, he is still a rookie with a lot to show in his upcoming years. Not a lot of people realize this, but Wiggins became the second player ever to get selected first overall in the NBA draft and to grow up in Canada. (Anthony Bennett was first in 2013.) Wiggins was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers and, later that summer, traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. In 2015 he became the NBA’s Rising Star Challenge MVP. He currently averages 15.9 ppg, exceptional for a rookie, and leads all rookies in points this season.
These international players have made some noise in the NBA. They have shown different techniques and styles of play that can be very effective on the court. Is it still safe to say team USA will win the olympics every time? Not for long.