The NBA’s International Presence in 2019-20: A CloseUp Look
Another year, another record for the NBA’s international contingent. The league opened the 2019-20 season—its 74th to date—with 108 players born outside of the United States, representing 38 different countries. Add in the 11 players from eight nations on two-way contracts, and the Association now boasts 119 international players—an all-time high.
The Dallas Mavericks boast the most foreign-born NBA players with seven, including reigning Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and All-Star Kristaps Porzingis. The Philadelphia 76ers, though, have eight such players in their organization, with Norvel Pelle (Antigua and Barbuda) and Marial Shayok (Canada) filling two-way spots alongside established All-Stars like Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Ben Simmons (Australia) and Al Horford (Dominican Republic).
Among countries, Canada set a new mark for representation. Hot off the Toronto Raptors’ championship run, the United States’ neighbor to the north now boasts 20 players, including 16 on NBA season-opening rosters, after landing a record-breaking six selections in the 2019 draft. Chief among those newcomers is former Duke star R.J. Barrett, who joined fellow Lithuanian-born Canadian Ignas Brazdeikis among the New York Knicks’ rookies.
The wider world of global basketball has never been better represented in the NBA than it is today. The league’s reigning MVP (Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo), Rookie of the Year (Slovenia’s Luka Doncic), Defensive Player of the Year (France’s Rudy Gobert) and Most Improved Player (Cameroon’s Pascal Siakam) were all born outside the U.S. The league also opened the 2019-20 campaign with 11 foreign-born All-Stars, including Slovenia’s Goran Dragic, Serbia’s Nikola Jokic, Montenegro’s Nikola Vucevic and the Gasol brothers (Pau and Marc) of Spain.
This marks the sixth year in a row that the NBA has had at least 100 international players within its ranks. It’s also the first time the league has seen hoopers hailing from Angola (Bruno Fernando of the Atlanta Hawks), Antigua and Barbuda (Norvel Pelle of the Sixers) and Gabon (Chris Silva of the Miami Heat).
Here’s a CloseUp look at the NBA’s global contingent on a world map, by country and team affiliation: