France’s “Michael Jordan” Gets First All Star Nod; Is The NBA Too Foreign Now?

By Gregory Moore
Updated: February 14, 2006

SAN ANTONIO — The rosters for the 2006 NBA All Star game have been announced and among the Western Conference roster, three of the members are from other countries: Dirk Nowitzki of Germany, Yao Ming of China, Pau Gasol of Spain and Tony Parker of France. For the Spurs, this marks the second time in consecutive years that a player of foreign origin has been named to the league’s All Star roster. Last year, Argentina’s Manu Ginobili was named by the coaches. Yet one may want to make the claim that the league seems to have been leaning more towards international talent and less on the American home cooking that still makes up the majority of the league. In two words, that thinking could be explained away: utter nonsense.

Players like Parker aren’t just some flash in the pan nuance of the game. Parker’s game comes from his basketball training that was both formal and informal; the informal coming from playing against his American father who is from Chicago. Parker’s style of play is a mixture of the ‘street ball’ that can be seen on American city playgrounds and the structured European league play that he was a part of prior to being drafted by the Spurs in 2001.

What many of the European players possess is something to this day still eludes even the greatest American basketball gym rat and that is fundamentals. Ask any basketball expert about why so many NBA players have a hard time dealing with many of today’s European players and they will tell you it is because the American players are not fundamentally sound. “Euro” players tend to take the time to perfect their game by working on their weaknesses. If they have a bad outside shot, that Euro player will work hard to correct the problem. If it is the defensive structure of the team, that same player will work on learning the nuances of that scheme to be a better player. The work ethic that many European players possess is simply not present in American players.

Even though the league is leaning towards European players because they do possess some properties that the coaches like, that does not mean that the NBA as we know it is going away from its American roots. What the infusion of European players shows is that the game is becoming very much the reasoning for coming to America and that should only help American players step their own game up and compete for the privilege of playing in front of millions during an 82 game season.

USA Basketball should look to American players that are overseas. The roster hasn’t been set yet but I think if Jerry Colangelo really wants to help out USA Basketball, then it is time that the NBA players stop being the focal point of the roster and be more of a secondary role.

The original “Dream Team” concept has long been dead after the last Olympic team was thoroughly demolished in international play and that can be squarely attested to the fact that the NBA roster was unfamiliar with the FIBA rules. So what’s the solution to the problem? You go get players who play in FIBA sanctioned leagues.

Many may say that this move would be very un-American but I beg to differ. How can getting a player who understands international basketball, plays international basketball and plays against the very players he may see in the Olympics be un-American if that player is an American himself?

If Colangelo was truly serious about putting the USA Basketball program back on the map, then he, the organization and the coaches involved would actively use a roster set up that consisted of eight FIBA players, three NBA players and one college player or they could go eight and four. Many may believe that by shutting out the NBA players, you are not allowing them to represent the country. On the contrary. The majority of these players do not want to partake in the Olympic spirit in the first place and if you do get a player who wants to be a part, he will work hard at learning the international game. This isn’t about a show in front of the media but about representing your country and winning in the Olympic spirit.

At one time the NBA was about the best players in the world but when it now comes to international competition, it is time for the USA to revamp their strategy and tap into those citizens who make their living playing basketball overseas. If Team USA wants to truly go out and play the best in the world, then they need to have a roster that reflects the best players of the world and that may not be a NBA roster of stars will be the answer.