The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced that 120 international players from 40 countries and six continents are on opening-night rosters for the 2022-23 season, including a record number of players from Canada (22) and Australia (10). A record-tying five players from Nigeria are among the 16 African players on opening-night rosters. There are also more than 35 players with at least one parent from Africa.
This marks the first time that opening-night rosters have at least 120 international players in consecutive seasons and the ninth straight season that opening-night rosters feature at least 100 international players. All 30 NBA teams feature at least one international player.
The 2022-23 season tipped off yesterday with a doubleheader on TNT. The first game had the Philadelphia 76ers visit the reigning Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics (7:30 p.m. ET). In the second game, the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors received their championship rings before hosting the Los Angeles Lakers (10 p.m. ET).
For the ninth consecutive year, Canada is the most-represented country outside of the U.S., followed by Australia, France (nine players) and Germany (six players). Nigeria, Serbia and Spain each have five players. There is a total of 58 European players on opening-night rosters, including three members of the 2021-22 Kia All-NBA First Team: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks; Greece; ties to Nigeria), Luka Dončić (Dallas Mavericks; Slovenia) and 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokić (Denver Nuggets; Serbia).
The Toronto Raptors feature eight international players, marking the second consecutive season the Raptors lead the league, followed by the Mavericks, Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings with seven international players each. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz each have six.
Thirty-eight players on opening-night rosters participated in Basketball Without Borders (BWB) prior to their NBA careers, including Deandre Ayton (Suns; Bahamas; BWB Global 2016), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder; Canada; BWB Global 2016), Joel Embiid (76ers; Cameroon; BWB Africa 2011), Rui Hachimura (Washington Wizards; Japan; BWB Global 2016), Jamal Murray (Nuggets; Canada; BWB Global 2015), Pascal Siakam (Raptors; Cameroon; BWB Africa 2012) and Jonas Valančiūnas (New Orleans Pelicans; Lithuania; BWB Europe 2008).
Additionally, there are a record three NBA Academy graduates on opening-night rosters: Dyson Daniels (Pelicans; Australia; NBA Global Academy), Josh Giddey (Thunder; Australia; NBA Global Academy) and Bennedict Mathurin (Pacers; Canada; ties to Haiti; NBA Academy Latin America).
NBA Academies, a year-round elite basketball development program for top high school-age athletes from outside the U.S., have been launched in Canberra, Australia; Greater Noida, India; San Luis Potosí, Mexico; and Saly, Senegal for top prospects from their respective countries and continents.
There are also a number of American players with ties to other countries. Among the American players with ties to other countries are Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat; ties to Nigeria), Jalen Green (Houston Rockets; ties to the Philippines), Matisse Thybulle (76ers; ties to Australia and Haiti), Juan Toscano-Anderson (Lakers; ties to Mexico), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves; ties to the Dominican Republic) and Jaylin Williams (Thunder; ties to Vietnam).
The NBA international player milestones and storylines for the upcoming season:
- Two international players have won the last four Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Awards: reigning back-to-back MVP Jokić (2021-22 and 2020-21) and Antetokounmpo (2019-20 and 2018-19). Jokić and the Nuggets will face Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Wednesday, Jan. 25 in Milwaukee and on Saturday, March 25 in Denver.
- Last season was the first time the top three finishers in MVP voting were all international players: Jokić, Embiid and Antetokounmpo.
- At least five international players have made the Kia All-NBA Team each season since 2018-19.
- As part of the 2022-23 NBA App GM Survey, Dončić, Antetokounmpo and Embiid were voted the No. 1, 2 and 3 players most likely to win the 2022-23 Kia NBA MVP Award (48%, 34% and 13% of votes, respectively). Antetokounmpo and Dončić were voted the No. 1 and No. 2 players with whom general managers would most want to start a franchise (55% and 45% of votes, respectively).
- Daniels and Mathurin are poised to become the second and third NBA Academy graduates to play in the NBA after Giddey became the first last season. Daniels and Giddey, former teammates at NBA Global Academy in Australia, will meet on Monday, Nov. 28 in New Orleans, Friday, Dec. 23 and Monday, Feb. 13 in Oklahoma City, and Saturday, March 11 in New Orleans.
- Matchups between Philadelphia and Toronto will feature three former BWB Africa campers from Cameroon: Embiid, Siakam and Christian Koloko (Raptors; BWB Africa 2017; BWB Global 2018). The teams will play each other on Wednesday, Oct. 26 and Friday, Oct. 28 in Toronto, and on Monday, Dec. 19 and Friday, March 31 in Philadelphia.
- There are three sets of international brothers in the NBA: Giannis, Thanasis and Kostas Antetokounmpo (Greece; ties to Nigeria; Bucks, Bucks and Chicago Bulls, respectively); Juancho and Willy Hernangómez (Spain; Raptors and Pelicans, respectively); and Franz and Moritz Wagner (Germany; Magic).
- There are 14 international players on opening-night rosters who have been NBA All-Stars: Antetokounmpo, Dončić, Goran Dragić (Bulls; Slovenia), Embiid, Rudy Gobert (Timberwolves; France), Al Horford (Celtics; Dominican Republic), Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets; Australia), Jokić, Kristaps Porzingis (Wizards; Latvia), Domantas Sabonis (Kings; Lithuania), Siakam, Ben Simmons (Nets; Australia), Nikola Vučević (Bulls; Montenegro) and Andrew Wiggins (Warriors; Canada).
Distributed by APO Group
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Author: Kano Anafora
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