Pau Gasol talks about the rise of European basketball players: ‘Three of the ten best NBA players are European’ – Basketball Network
Pau Gasol is proud of all the achievements of European players in recent years, establishing himself as one of the best in the NBA. Sadly, that wasn’t always the case, and it shows the growth of the league slowly but surely becoming a global sport.
European actors have an impact
One of the greatest international players of all time, Paul Gasol, has made an appearance on the JJ Redick podcast. Among several other topics, Gasol spoke about the huge success that international players have had in the NBA in recent years. Over the past three years, European players have won the MVP award, a testament to how the game has evolved and shows that the NBA is truly a global sport where players from other countries can have a huge impact.
Gasol, himself a 6-time NBA All-Star, believes some of the NBA’s European players have already surpassed anything he and the older generation of international players have established. According to him, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic are currently among the top 10 players in the league, which hasn’t always been the case with foreign NBA players.
“It was great to see how all the European and international players established themselves, not just in the league but as the best players in the league. I mean, you say Luka, Jokic, Giannis. We’re talking about three of the top ten in the league, top ten players. I don’t think you can get them out of the top 10, neither of those players. Obviously Giannis and Jokic have won MVP awards these three years. Those were the MVPs, European players, which is also something extraordinary.”
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The NBA did a great job
Gasol himself has been one of the game’s finest ambassadors over the years and is proud that European players are now highly respected in the NBA. This wasn’t always the case, especially when Gasol came to the league, and there was a stereotype that European players were too soft. However, they quickly proved that their skills were often much better than American-born players, while it took them some time to adapt to the physics of the game. Gasol believes this success will further inspire the next generation of players who will continue to show their talent on the biggest basketball stage in the world.
“Very proud of the evolution of the international game as well. All European players see this as a real possibility, and not just to do it, not just to become an All-Star or win a championship. It’s to be one of the best players year after year, and that’s pretty remarkable, and I just hope that continues. The NBA has done a great job as well. They’re expanding the game and making it a global game. Establishing academies around the world with Basketball Without Border Programs, they’ve done a great job doing that.”
For Gasol and his generation, the inspiration began when they saw the original Dream Team play in their hometown of Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics.
“I think it all started with that team of 92 who inspired a generation like mine and brought that first professional team of international players to Barcelona, which happens to be my city. It was a game-changer.”
About 30% of NBA players are currently international, which is a significant change from the early days when that number was much lower. Guys like Gasol and a few other legends before him are the ones who changed the perspective of foreign gamers, and they established themselves as leaders and then became ambassadors of the game in their respective countries. We can expect the NBA to become an even more global league in the years to come, with players coming from all over the world to compete against the best players.