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.
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All were top players, and their might was displayed in the Olympics. In 1988, the Soviet Union won gold medal in basketball, defeating the US and making them the only other team to tally more than one gold in the history of the event. The USSR, Yugoslavia, and US remain the event's three most winning countries.Skip to next paragraph
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“The Soviet Union had a machine to develop athletes in all sports across the board,” says Thomsen of Sports Illustrated.
Then the Berlin Wall fell, bringing the communist countries' basketball glory down, too.
“After the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union fell apart, that apparatus was lost," says Thomsen. "This has been a problem for the new Russia and its sports administrators are trying to build a new development system, but clearly the days of state-run sports in that part of the world are over."
Spain, Italy, France, and Argentina have since become the strongest basketball challengers to the US at the Olympics. And while Lithuania has still been able to place in the Top 4 in every subsequent Games, no Eastern Europeans or Russians are playing on teams in the NBA Finals, further signaling those countries’ waning basketball prowess.
For now, it appears that Western Europe will retain the NBA’s principle source for international players. Only a handful of Africans have made it to the NBA, according to Amadou Gallo Fall, head of the NBA’s South Africa office and former scouting director for the Dallas Mavericks.
“Without much of an infrastructure on the ground, there have still been 22 [Africans] who have made their way to the NBA,” Mr. Fall told ESPN in a recent interview. “You see all this tremendous potential coming out of places where there is little infrastructure."
(Editor's note: This article originally misspelled the name of Dirk Nowitzki.)
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