San Antonio Spurs: Do International Players Make A Champion?
~photo credits to Michael Tipton
The most international team in the NBA are your 2014 NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs. Coincidence? I don't think so. It is probably safe to say that the competition from international players is no longer on the rise, it has arrived. France, Argentina, Italy, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the Virgin Islands are all countries represented by players of the San Antonio Spurs championship roster. Essentially, only two players from the United States, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, played significant roles in the finals.
Coach Gregg Popovich has been on record saying “American players don't work as hard as foreign players.” This is obviously a general statement and I'm sure he would never throw his young studs in Leonard and Green under this category, but in general, Popovich may be right. The San Antonio Spurs management has openly spoken against the AAU basketball circuit and made claims that American players are selfish and not team oriented.
As a basketball fan, it was incredible to watch a team that moved the ball as well as the Spurs did during these finals. There are many factors that lead to this (especially great coaching), but overall you have to credit the selfless, team basketball played by these group of athletes who never put themselves above the name on the front of the jersey.
They also beat a team, the Miami Heat, who were ALL American born and suffered from ball movement issues and a lack of scoring.
On the flip side of this argument, yes an “international” team beat an “American” team to win an NBA title, but the Finals MVP was American born Kawhi Leonard. Also, touching on the subject of selfish, ball hogging, American players, LeBron James is the furthest from that. In fact, he has been knocked by critics throughout his career and even this series for passing the ball too much and not scoring enough for himself.
But no matter how you look at it, basketball has grown at the international level tremendously, and will continue to. Young, foreign players are watching the success of guys like Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobli, and many others, making them believe that they too can be champions. That confidence will continue in the development of international players.
-Nolan Connor. Basketball Business Development Specialist