The French And Spanish Presence In The NBA

If you’ve been watching the NBA over the past few years, you’ve noticed the high number of foreign players in the league, including 2006-07 league MVP and 2010-11 Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki from Germany, and two time Three Point Shootout champion Peja Stojakovic from Serbia.  Currently in the league, there are two countries that have the largest presence: France and Spain.  The French have 7 players playing for NBA teams this season, and Spain is right behind with 6 players representing their country, and these aren’t bench warmers, these are players that make a significant impact for their team when they’re on the floor.  At the moment, France and Spain don’t just lead in the number of players in the NBA, both national teams currently lead Europe; the two squads met in the 2011 EuroBasket Championship with Spain coming away with their second consecutive title.

Currently representing France in the NBA are: Nicolas Batum (Portland), Rodrigue Beaubois (Dallas), Boris Diaw (Charlotte), Ian Mahinmi (Dallas), Joakim Noah (Chicago), Tony Parker (San Antonio), Johan Petro (New Jersey), Mickael Pietrus (Boston), Kevin Seraphin (Washington) and Ronny Turiaf (Washington).  Batum, Diaw, Noah, Parker and Seraphin all competed for France in 2011 in the European Championships.  Those players on the national team are there for a reason, those players have been invaluable for their teams during their tenure, especially Tony Parker.  Parker led a point guard revolution when he joined the San Antonio Spurs in 2001, and has helped the team to 3 NBA Championships during his time there and also became the first European born player to win the Finals MVP award in 2007 when the Spurs beat the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Joakim Noah has also had a successful basketball career, he first made a splash in college at the University of Florida when he won back to back national championships in 2006 and 2007, and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four in 2006.  That play in college earned him a first round draft pick by the Chicago Bulls where he has improved highly, and has garnered the support of Bulls fans, and has even gotten an award named after him by a Chicago Bulls columnist.

The Spaniards are represented by Jose Calderon (Toronto), Rudy Fernandez (Denver), Marc Gasol (Memphis), Pau Gasol (LA Lakers), Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City) and Ricky Rubio (Minnesota).  All six of these players were on Spain’s 2011 Championship squad, and for good reason; Calderon and Fernandez are sharp shooting guards, the Gasol brothers and Ibaka are strong scoring forwards and Rubio is simply a magician with the basketball.  Pau Gasol exploded onto the scene in 2001 with the Memphis Grizzlies and earned a Rookie of the Year award, and has since made quite a few All-Star appearances, and also became a prize in a trade between Memphis and the LA Lakers which has basically been remembered as one of the greatest trades of last decade.  Now, Marc Gasol has replaced his older brother’s role in Memphis and he’s performed just as well as Pau during his Memphis days.  Ricky Rubio is a player that I personally have been waiting for to make his NBA debut.  He was drafted in 2009 by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but didn’t make his NBA debut until this year due to contract issues when he was drafted.  When he was drafted, there was all the buzz surrounding him about his court vision and flashy passes, and this season he has lived up to the expected hype.  So far this season, Rubio is averaging 7.9 assists per game and 10.2 points per game with the rest of the season ahead to improve those numbers.

As it stands, between these two rosters I’d give the advantage to Spain’s international NBA roster, as evidenced by their win over France last year.  Beaubois and Seraphin are both young players, they’ve only been in the league for a few years, so maybe after they get a few more years of NBA experience under their belt, they’ll be able to tip the competitive balance in France’s favor.

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