The NBA is one of the fastest growing sport in the world. According to a poll in 2010, Basketball is the third most popular sport in the world behind only football (soccer) and Cricket. It is already the among the most popular sport in the countries of US, China, Russia, the Philippines, Russia, Canada, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Puerto Rico by viewership. Created in the US by Dr. James Naismith on December 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts, with a peach basket on a cold rainy day, the sport has revolutionized to over 200 countries and 42 languages and NBA holding offices in 11 and counting offices worldwide.
The NBA was generally seen as a sport of the west. During the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the “Dream Team” comprising of current NBA players of that time, dominated the international competition. Prior to 1992, only European and South American professionals were allowed to compete in the olympics. In 1992, the United States formed a team that included 10 top 50 players of all time. The team included Magic Johnson (captain), Larry Bird (captain), Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone and others. The team was so dominant that the coach, Chuck Daly, did not call a single timeout during the entire tournament. The team won by an average of 43.8 points PER GAME. The country that got closest to beating them was Croatia, who lost the game 117-85. This shows the true dominance of this sport at that time.
Fast forward to today. Just recently in 2002, at the FIBA World Tournament, the USA basketball team lost to Serbia and got knocked out of the tournament. In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, USA again failed to win gold by losing to Argentina but beating Lithuania for the Bronze. Between the time period of the Dream Team and the 2004 Olympics shows a growing popularity and competition in basketball. Although in 2008 the “Redeem Team” did win back gold, it was clear that the world was starting to catch up to the US in basketball skills and fundamentals.
Today the NBA understands that basketball players are not only available in the US but all around the world. Every NBA team currently has entire scounting teams that scour the globe for talents. Just recently in the 2011 All-Star game, Yao Ming was voted by NBA fans from around the world to start as the Center for the Western Conference All-Stars. Keep in mind, Yao Ming hasn’t played a single game this year due to injury but with the massive number of votes from China, he was voted on. This shows how much of an influence the international community has on the NBA today.
Currently as of the 2010-2011 season, the NBA has 84 international players from 38 different countries and territories. 28 of the 30 teams feature at least one major player on their roster. The Toronto Raptors currently have the most international players with 6, followed by the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz with 5. The Raptors roster represents 6 countries and France has the most international NBA players with 11. 5 players were named to the 2011 NBA All Star team: Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands) (starter), Yao Ming (China), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Pau Gasol (Spain), and Dirk Nowitzki (Germany).