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More and more international players join NBA

The list of international players joining the National Basketball Association (NBA) has been growing longer and longer with time.

According to a news release posted on October 18, 2022, the NBA currently features 120 players from 40 countries and six continents on its rosters for the 2022-2023 season.

Canada is the leading “exporter” of talent, with a record 22 players, while Australia has 10, France nine, and Germany six. These countries are followed by Nigeria, Serbia and Spain, each with five players on the NBA rosters.

Türkiye has four players playing professional basketball in the NBA: Cedi Osman playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Alperen Sengun for the Houston Rockets, Omer Yurtseven for the Miami Heat and Furkan Korkmaz for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The NBA says all 30 teams have at least one international player on their roster. 

“This marks the first time that opening-night rosters have at least 120 international players in consecutive seasons and the ninth straight season that opening-night rosters feature at least 100 international players,” the NBA explains.

The NBA team with the most international presence is the Toronto Raptors, a Canadian professional basketball team that competes in the NBA as part of the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. They feature eight international players.

The Dallas Mavericks, of the Western Conference Southwest Division, have seven international players, as do the Indiana Pacers (Eastern Conference Central Division) and the Sacramento Kings (Western Conference Pacific Division).

They are closely followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz teams, each with six international players.

A mid-2020 article in Forbes refers to a report that points out that the addition of international players to the NBA has made it more attractive to viewers worldwide, and provided a boon to player salaries.

“The increase in foreign-born players appears to have helped native-born NBA players, since bringing in top talent and increasing the league’s appeal around the world has been a key to the NBA’s success,” concludes the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis.

“The average NBA player’s salary increased from $246,000 in 1982-83, when there were few foreign-born players, to $7.7 million in 2019-20, when 23% of the players were foreign-born, an increase in the average player salary of 1,254% from 1983 to 2020 (adjusted for inflation).”

Stuart Anderson, the author of the Forbes article, writes that “In 1992, only 5% of the league’s players were foreign-born. The 1992 Summer Olympics “Dream Team” with Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and other NBA stars was a global phenomenon and may have inspired the rising talent level of international players.”

For viewers old enough to remember the “Dream Team” that definitely rings true, as young kids around the world saw the games broadcast on their TV sets and dreamed that they too, one day, would play as well as those giants of basketball.

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