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NBA BEAT - THE INTERNATIONAL PLAYER EVOLUTION

Giannis Antetokounmpo is rocking the NBA with his superstar play and represents the improvement of International players in the league - (Keith Allison photo)

 

International superstar is Luka Doncic was the sixth player to start an NBA All-Star Game at age 20 or younger - (NBA - photo)

 

 

Hakeem Olajuwon - - (Maxi Basket - photo)

 

The youngest Ball, LaMelo is receiving positive reviews for his preseason play - (NBA - photo)

 

Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain exemplified how to play the game without Showtime hot-dogging. The two battled for over a decade during the 60's. Since that time no NBA center could compare to their brute talent - (Library of Congress photo)

 

 

 

James Loving/National Radio Text Service

 

 

International players have become a mainstay in the NBA. In the past they were criticized for playing weak defense but that was then and this is now with the advent of superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic - Does the NBA have BALLS TO THE WALL? - NBA's GREATEST PLAYERS OF ALL-TIME - THIS DAY IN THE NBA

 

Monday December 21, 2020

DESPITE COVID… LET THE SEASON BEGIN

Three decades ago I began covering International players applying their craft in the United States. My first International player interview was Per Stumer from Sweden who played for Loyola University in California. Stumer was a teammate of Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble. They slaughtered the then defending NCAA champion Michigan 149-115 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Stumer went on to play for the Swedish national team.

It was at that 1990 NCAA tournament that I interviewed my second International player Radenko Dobraša member of University of South Florida. They were eliminated in their first game by the 2nd seed University of Arizona 79-67. Dobraša was Serbian who played professional basketball for Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem.

A year later when I pursued to question then LA Lakers rookie Vlade Divac I ran into a hailstorm of problems. Firstly, at the time Divac didn't speak English and I interviewed him through an interpreter which doesn't work for a radio feature. When I tried to interview the then Lakers then GM Jerry West he started to SQUEAL… WELL EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT VLADE. His hyper reaction was shocking to me and it was time to trash the Divac story.

It was time to change strategy and I asked then former and then current International players in the league. Most memorable was NBA Hall of Fame guard Bob Cousy who commented that they foreign players were weak on defense.

At the time my favorite foreign player in the league was Hakeem Olajuwon. The difference was he played for Houston University and his English was impeccable. As a matter of fact he is one on the most intelligent players I have ever interviewed from any sport.

But.. that was then and this is now. Last season, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged career highs with 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He won his second straight NBA Most Valuable Award and earned the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award for the first time while leading his team to the league's best regular-season record for the second season in a row.

Antetokounmpo became the 12th player to win the NBA MVP award in back-to-back seasons, giving him a chance this season to join Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird as the only players to do it three consecutive years. He became the third player to win the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season, joining Michael Jordan (1987-88) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-94). (The NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award was first presented in the 1982-83 season.) He also became the third player ever to average 29 ppg/13 rpg/5 apg in a season, joining Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor.

His productivity has earned him a five-year, $228M supermax extension from the club.

The NBA has grown internationally and the players have improved their skills. The league has established a major international presence with games and programming in 215 countries and territories in 47 languages, and merchandise for sale in more than 100,000 stores in 100 countries on six continents.

Last season 108 international players from 38 countries and territories were on opening-night rosters. That is triple the number of international players from the 1999-00 season. A record eight international NBA All-Stars, including a record four international players who were voted NBA All-Star Game starters.

Another International superstar is Luka Doncic. Last season Doncic was the sixth player to start an NBA All-Star Game at age 20 or younger, joining Magic Johnson (1980), Isiah Thomas (1982), Shaquille O'Neal (1993), Kobe Bryant (1998) and LeBron James (2005).

Doncic became the first player to post at least 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists in a playoff game, a performance he capped with a game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer in overtime in Game 4 of a first-round series against the LA Clippers.

What can you say the NBA has changed and International players have become a staple in its meteoric International success?


LAKERS VAGABONDS CHANGING PLACES

The Lakers 2020 title winning team has been dismantled. Six members of the squad have moved on to new teams. Gone are Avery Bradley to the Miami Heat, DeMarcus Cousins to the Houston Rockets, Danny Green and Dwight Howard to the Philadelphia 76ers, JaVale McGee; Cleveland Cavaliers and Rajon Rondo to the Miami Heat. The interesting thing is NONE of these players were drafted by the franchise. Is this a case of the King Vagabond LeBron James' its MY WAY or THE HIGHWAY INFLUENCE?


BALLED OUT?

LaMelo Ball, the brother of the New Orleans Pelicans' Lonzo Ball, last season became the first player in Australia's National Basketball League to record triple-doubles in back-to-back games since 2005. In his preseason debut, the Charlotte Hornets rookie finished with zero points on 0-of-5 shooting, 4 assists, 10 rebounds and 4 turnovers in 16 minutes. The good news is analysts were impressed with his passing skills. It appears that he could be the best of the BALLS and Michael Jordan made a wise choice drafting him!

Lonzo has improved since his rookie season with the Lakers and being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. Ball seems more relaxed and his shooting is better. It could be a result of him being on a squad of players that are closer to his age.

Regardless of what his sons have accomplished BIG DADDY LaVar Ball's playing history remains carved in stone having a 2 PPG average during his sorted college career. Another side note is middle brother LiAngelo Ball was released by the Detroit Pistons without having played one minute during preseason games. Apparently Ball was injured.


THIS DAY IN THE NBA

December 21, 1980 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became only the fifth player in NBA history to notch 25,000 points as he scored a season-high 42 points in the Lakers’ 135-102 win over San Antonio.

December 21, 2001 With 16 points in a 100-94 victory over New Jersey, Indiana's Reggie Miller improved his career scoring total to 21,801 points and moved past Larry Bird into 19th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.


NBA's 50 GREATEST PLAYERS of ALL TIME LIST

On October 29, 1996 In conjunction with the NBA’s 50th anniversary celebration, the list of The 50 Greatest Players in NBA History was announced. It included: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nate Archibald, Paul Arizin, Charles Barkley, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Dave Bing, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Billy Cunningham, Dave DeBusschere, Clyde Drexler, Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, George Gervin, Hal Greer, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes, Earvin Johnson, Sam Jones, Michael Jordan, Jerry Lucas, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Pete Maravich, Kevin McHale, George Mikan, Earl Monroe, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Parish, Bob Pettit, Scottie Pippen, Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Bill Russell, Dolph Schayes, Bill Sharman, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld, Bill Walton, Jerry West, Lenny Wilkens, and James Worthy

1st Team
Position
2nd Team
Larry Bird
PF
Elgin Baylor
SF
Julius Erving
Bill Russell
C
Wilt Chamberlain
Michael Jordan
SG
LeBron James
Magic Johnson
PG
Oscar Robertson
11th & 12th MAN SUBSTITUTES & Coach
C/F
C
Coach

 


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