AMERICAN GAME, FOREIGN PLAYERS

Reporters may speculate on the possibility of European teams in the National Basketball Association, but in fact the NBA is already cosmopolitan. Just look at the teams' makeup: About 20 players from around the world have been drafted by NBA teams in the past several years. Among those in uniform are Nigerian Akeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets, Manute Bol of Sudan with the Golden State Warriors, and the Indiana Pacers' Detlef Schrempf from West Germany.

Lesser-known foreign players have been drafted as well. The Atlanta Hawks, for example, have chosen players from the Soviet Union, Greece, China, Spain, and Italy.

``Basketball rivals soccer as the most popular sport in the world,'' explains Bill Needle, spokesman for the Hawks, ``so it behooves us to examine all possibilities for players.''

Thanks to more telecasts of NBA games around the world, says NBA assistant public relations director Terry Lyons, ``a lot of young kids are learning about NBA basketball now.''

More than 70 countries will see NBA games this year, including the Soviet Union. The USSR saw its first American basketball game broadcast Jan. 29 (Knicks over Celtics), and future plans call for two edited games a month through August. Each one-hour show may contain up to six minutes of commercials.

Mr. Lyons expects the flow of foreign athletes to increase, adding that it's ``something we look forward to.''

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