SHAKING THINGS UP
Here's an outside-the-box way to spice up the NBA All-Star Game
The NBA has announced a new wrinkle for its All-Star Game coming up Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City.
Instead of the Western Conference All-Stars vs. the Eastern Conference All-Stars, or even squads picked in advance by captains LeBron James and Steph Curry … this year’s rosters will be selected right before the game with the two leading vote-getters choosing sides like a playground pickup game.
That sounds like fun, but here’s an idea that might produce a more intriguing and competitive game, instead of the showboating, no defense, 3-point contest the All-Star Game has become.
How about U.S.-born players vs. international stars?
Now you’re talking about a real game, with only the legacy of basketball at stake. From the day when James Naismith hung a peach basket in a Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA in 1891 through the next 100 years, Americans dominated basketball. But today the answer has to be “NO!” Or more specifically “non” or “nyet” or “nein” or “ochi” or dozens of other languages.
Isn’t it ironic that basketball, the only major sport with its origins in the U.S., has become the most international game?
Is it possible that a team comprised of foreign-born players could defeat LeBron, Steph and a squad of American superstars with sneaker contracts? Not only do I think it’s possible, I would put my $5 on it.
These would be the starting All-Star Game lineups based on the most recent fan voting.
For the international team: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Nikola Jokic (Serbia), Joel Embiid (Camaroon), and Kyrie Irving (Australia).
(Note: Kyrie Irving was born in Australia but raised in the U.S. He went to St. Patrick High School in beautiful downtown Elizabeth, New Jersey.)
The starting five for the U.S. would be: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Jayson Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell.
Who ya got?
The last four Most Valuable Player awards have gone (two each) to the Greek Freak and Jokic from the international team. Two leading contenders for this year’s MVP are Doncic and Embiid, both international players.
The NBA had 120 international players representing 40 countries on team rosters at the start of this season, including impact players like Rudy Gobert (France), Buddy Hield (Bahamas), Jamal Murray (Canada), Deandre Ayton (Bahamas), Andrew Wiggins (Canada), and Al Horford (Dominican Republic).
Every team in the NBA has at least one foreign-born player. The Toronto Raptors have eight players born outside the U.S. Canada is the leading exporter to the NBA with 20 players, followed by Australia with 10.
The Rockets have four international players: Usman Garuba (Spain), Bruno Fernando (Angola), Alperen Sengun (Turkey) and everybody’s favorite Boban Marjanovic (Serbia).
Of course, Hakeem Olajuwon, the greatest Rocket in franchise history, was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Other former NBA All-Stars born outside the U.S. - Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Steve Nash (Canada), Pau Gasol (Spain), Tony Parker (France), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Dikembe Mutombo (Congo), Arvidas Sabonis (Lithuania), Toni Kukoc (Croatia), and Andrei Kirilenko (Russia).
And you might remember a rather tall center named Yao Ming from China.