A record 101 international players from 37 countries and
territories are on opening night rosters, easily eclipsing last
season's total of 92 players, according to the NBA.
The champion San Antonio Spurs lead the league for the third
straight season with nine international players, followed by the
Minnesota Timberwolves and the Brooklyn Nets with six each.
Canada has 12 international players in the NBA, including the
overall number one pick in each of the last two NBA Drafts (Anthony
Bennett and Andrew Wiggins). France follows Canada with 10, while
Australia has eight and Brazil seven.
Spain rounds out the top five with five players from outside the
Tyler Ennis, a first round pick out of Syracuse in the June draft,
told Reuters his native Canada has "a lot of good players right
"We're taking basketball a lot more seriously," he said. "Back in
the day, we had players but people didn't really believe they could
make it to the NBA. Now, we have the talent. We just have to put
them in the right spots to be showcased."
In the 2000-01 season, the league had 45 international players, less
than half of today's total.
To underscore the league's growth, NBA games and programming will be
available in 215 countries and territories in 47 languages this
Slovenia's Zoran Dragic, signed by the Phoenix Suns last month, said
it was always his dream to play in the NBA.
"Everybody is playing basketball in Slovenia. We've had nine players
in the NBA," said Dragic, who will play this season alongside his
brother Goran on the Suns.
"The country is very small but we are practicing very hard and
trying to make it in basketball."
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Kim Bohuny, the NBA's senior vice president for international
basketball operations, credits the surge to the league's Basketball
Without Borders program, a 13-year-old basketball global development
and community relations program.
"We've had over 100 countries participate in the program," Bohuny
told Reuters in a telephone interview. "The growth of international
players is a testament to how the game is growing globally. It's
growing in every corner of the world."
Thirty NBA players have participated in the Basketball Without
Borders program, and 29 have been drafted, including Joel Embiid,
the Cameroon-born number three player selected in this year's draft
by the Philadelphia 76ers, said Bohuny.
The new NBA season begins Tuesday with the Spurs hosting the Dallas
Mavericks in one of three games on the schedule.
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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