NBA finals: Where in the world will the next Pau Gasol come from?
Looking beyond the current Lakers-Celtics NBA finals, basketball scouts are hunting for the next Pau Gasol. With the NBA's recent push into developing countries, many expect a star to rise from Africa, India, or China.
Pau Gasol's pivotal role in the Lakers-Celtics NBA finals epitomizes the shift that has occurred in the NBA’s supply-chain for international basketball players over the past several decades.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Gasol, a Spaniard drafted in 2001, comes from Western Europe – the source of many of today's best international basketball players.
Fellow top players Dirk Nowitzki (drafted in 1998) and Tony Parker (drafted in 2001) come from Germany and France, respectively. All three are among the few non-Americans with repeated appearances on the NBA All Star Team in the past decade.
Sasha Vujacic, the Los Angeles Lakers' shooting point guard, is from Slovenia, but started his professional basketball career at age 16 in Italy. And teammate Didier Ilunga-Mbenga was born in Congo, but fled at an early age to Belgium.
And now, scouts are trying to gauge where the next shift might appear.
In May, the National Basketball Association (NBA) opened its first office in Africa, in South Africa’s capital of Johannesburg. In the past year, the league launched the NBA in Arabic and the NBA in India. In addition to 16 offices already in major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, the league plans to set up offices in India, Russia, and Brazil by the end of 2010. While most offices are geared toward bringing in new NBA fans, there's nothing that draws fans like a star from their own country.