All-NBA: Luka, Nikola, Giannis prove international players dominate the league

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

The lineup of assistant coaches could hardly have been better, a true professorial collection of big man expertise, all with a georgetown link.

At the Basketball Without Borders camp in Johannesburg, South Africa, 11 years ago, centers were harassed by Dikembe Mutombo about their footwork. Then it’s on to Patrick Ewing’s station for tips on how to use your upper body for defensive effect. Then to Alonzo Mourning for the offensive movements and the use of the glass.

Among the campers was a skinny young man from Cameroon who had only been playing hoop for a few years. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t stand out much more than any of the other prospects, but he listened to every word the three NBA legends had to offer. He dreamed a little, but realistically what has happened since has surpassed even the craziest version of his basketball fantasies.

Joel Embiid left the 2021-22 All-NBA 1st Team I FIRST THINGS FIRST

Joel Embiid left the 2021-22 All-NBA 1st Team I FIRST THINGS FIRST

Chris Broussard explains why this is a voter error.

The youngster, Joel-Hans Embiid, has since lost the Hans but won many more. When Embiid was named All-NBA Second Team Center on Tuesday, it was the final chapter in the African continent’s greatest modern basketball achievement. And, combined with a handful of other stories, the biggest proof yet that the NBA’s present, and almost certainly its future, is decidedly international.

Embiid, who helped the Philadelphia 76ers advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals despite a fractured orbital bone, would have made the All-NBA First Team if the only player to get more MVP votes than he hadn’t also been a center.

“Embiid, who everyone thought was one of the top three players in the league this year, didn’t make the (first team),” FOX NBA analyst Chris Broussard said on “First Things First”. “That’s ridiculous. Embiid deserves better than that.”

But Nikola Jokić is also a great, and the Denver Nuggets star’s second straight triumph in the MVP race two weeks ago led to another alien scene that seemed like a world away from the hardwood of the NBA and its arenas. sparkling.

Jokić, a lifelong horse lover, received his award at a stable in his native Serbia, where he was surprised by a group of family and friends, and where a curious pony watched as he conducted interviews to celebrate the distinction. It’s not the sort of thing that usually happens. Welcome to the new NBA, where geography doesn’t matter and skills (like Jokić’s silky pass) are a universal currency.

It was the fourth straight year that the MVP title had a foreign feel, with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s efforts for the Milwaukee Bucks earning him both awards ahead of Jokić.

This season, there were seven foreign-born All-Stars. The NBA started the campaign with 109 players from 39 countries. No less than 11 of the last 27 top picks in the draft have been internationals, but in reality the overseas explosion at the top of the game has largely been unleashed in recent years.

Luka Dončić (Slovenia) was also named to the All-NBA No. 1 Team. Pascal Siakam (Cameroon) earned a spot in the second team. With LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry heading towards the end of their careers, the players currently seen as most likely to be tough for team trophies and individual accolades are mostly not from those odds.

But why? Well, it’s a big world, basketball is hugely popular, and the drive and ability to identify and nurture young talent is real and present in far more places than ever before.

Luka Dončić close to Mavs triple-double jump for GM 4 win over Curry, Warriors I UNDISPUTED

Luka Dončić close to Mavs triple-double jump for GM 4 win over Curry, Warriors I UNDISPUTED

Luka said he still believes the Mavs can come back in the series despite the fact that an NBA team will never come back from 3-0 in a series.

The NBA has tried for years to expand its reach and promote excellence around the world, with the camp Embiid attended being a prime example. Siakam also participated in Basketball Without Borders in 2012. Fast forward to today, and the NBA was the main driving force behind the creation of the Basketball Africa League, a Champions League-style competition for the best clubs in this continent.

Europe’s influence is also a major factor, and where once Euro stars struggled to adapt physically to the NBA, they are now almost over-prepared.

Everyone being able to turn off the lights from 3 is a relatively new phenomenon in the US, but it has been that way for years in Europe. There are also other nuances to consider, as Dončić points out.

“Here in the NBA, it’s easier to score than in Europe, of course,” Dončić told The Washington Post shortly after entering the league. “In Europe the pitch is smaller, and here there is the defensive three-second rule. I think it’s easier to score here.”

The international influx has done a lot. He promoted different skills, did wonders for the global popularity of the NBA, and changed the recruiting and talent identification systems.

And, most importantly, it has broadened our perception of the NBA superstar, a lofty perch who is harder to reach than ever – but who can begin his journey anywhere.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

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