The NBA has a greater international make-up than ever before

NBA rosters are comprised of more international players than ever. Roughly one-quarter of the league’s roster spots are now filled by foreign-born players

If you were somehow not already aware, NBA basketball is a global game. Last year’s MVP and Rookie of the Year were both from European countries. Rookie Rui Hachimura has dozens of Japanese reporters following him around as if he personally is the Beatles. With one tweet, Daryl Morey started a blood feud with China that may have long-term salary cap implications.

The presence of international players on NBA rosters seems more apparent than ever. That got me thinking, what percentage of the league’s players is international? To answer that, I took a cursory look at every NBA roster to get a sense of how much of their team were citizens of countries other than the United States.

Certain players are listed as dual citizens, which made this a bit tricky. For the sake of simplicity, if a player would be ineligible to play for Team USA due to their affiliation with another national team then I counted them as international. For each team, I listed how many international players are on the roster, which players, and which country (or countries for the dual citizens) they call home.

An NBA team can have 15 players on the roster, with 13 deemed active for each game, and two Two-Way contracts. Dallas has the most international players at seven, which is not too surprising, as Dallas is traditionally thought of that way because of Dirk’s presence for so many years.

Five teams have six international players on their roster: Grizzlies, Thunder, Suns, Spurs, and Raptors. Another eight teams have five international players: Celtics, Cavaliers, Nuggets, 76ers, Trail Blazers, Kings, Jazz, and Wizards. All five of Denver’s international players were drafted directly by the Nuggets, which is an indication that they have made international scouting a priority.

Essentially, half of the league’s teams have filled out around a third of their rosters with players born outside of the United States. Conversely, the Warriors and Lakers had the least representation with one each.

Again, for the sake of simplicity, if we say each team has 17 total players and there are 30 teams, that’s 510 NBA spots. By my count here, 123 international players are currently on rosters, which would make up roughly one-quarter of the league. Nineteen of those players are Canadian, the most of any nation.

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As you can see, the NBA indeed has greater international make-up than ever before. It’s time we embrace this recent movement.

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