Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

The NBA's Shining Southern Stars

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

The NBA's Shining Southern Stars

Article excerpt

NOT LONG AGO, the biggest names on the world's most hallowed basketball courts reflected the game's North American heritage. Canadian born Dr. James Naismith is credited with inventing the game in the early 1890s in Springfield, Massachusetts, and for virtually all of the following century, born-in-the-USA athletes and teams confidently ruled the world's basketball universe.

But no longer. The availability of televised broadcasts of National Basketball Association games throughout the world has led to a surge of global interest in the sport and an opportunity for aspiring players to study the techniques of top NBA players. Within the past two decades, the skills of non-USA hoopsters have reached the point where individual athletes and national teams from other countries are equal to or better than the best the U.S. can field. The 2004 Olympic Games drove home the point, as teams from Puerto Rico, Italy, Lithuania, and Argentina soundly defeated a squad of NBA all-stars, sending tremors through the U.S. basketball establishment. Argentina went on to capture the gold medal, leaving the U.S. team to settle for the third-place bronze.

While there has been a small representation of Latin American players in the NBA for decades, it is only recently that the league has begun aggressively to recruit top players in the Americas and elsewhere. The NBA now boasts over seventy international players from thirty-plus countries and territories. Athletes from the Americas are now present in numbers and prominence as never before.

Among the new cadre are players from Argentina and Brazil. Three members of Argentina's Olympic gold-medal team are members of NBA teams this season, including team leader Emanuel "Manu" Ginobili, a star performer for the 2003 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs; Andres Nocioni, who joined the Chicago Bulls; and Carlos Delfino, who was signed by the 2004 NBA champ Detroit Pistons. …

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