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Pau Gasol talks about the rise of European basketball players: "Three out of ten best NBA players are European"

Pau Gasol is happy to see European basketball players are getting more recognition
Pau Gasol talks about Giannis, Luka and Jokic and the rise of the European NBA player

Pau Gasol is happy the league has become global

Pau Gasol is proud of all the European players' accomplishments in recent years, establishing themselves as one of the best in the NBA. Unfortunately, this wasn't always the case, and it shows the growth of the league that slowly but surely became a global sport.

European players are making an impact

One of the best international players of all time, Paul Gasol, made a guest appearance on the JJ Redick podcast. Among several other topics, Gasol touched upon the tremendous success international players have had in the NBA in recent years. For the past three years, European players have won the MVP award, which is a testament to the game's evolution and showcases the NBA is truly a global sport where players from other countries can make a tremendous impact. 

Gasol, a 6-time NBA All-Star himself, believes some of the European players in the NBA right now have already surpassed everything he and the older generation of international players have established. In his opinion, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Nikola Jokic are among the top 10 players in the league at the moment, which wasn't always the case with foreign players in the NBA. 

"It's been great to see how all the European and International players have established themselves, not just in the league but as top players in the league. I mean, you say Luka, Jokic, Giannis. We are 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 the MVP awards the last three years. That is who the MVP's have been, European players, which is something extraordinary as well."

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The NBA has done a great job

Gasol has been one of the most excellent ambassadors of the game himself throughout the years and is proud that European players are now highly respected in the NBA. That wasn't always the case, especially when Gasol first came to the league, and there was a stereotype of European players being too soft. However, soon they proved their skillset was often a lot better than the US-born players, while it took them some time to adjust to the game's physicality. Gasol thinks this success will further inspire the next generation of players that will continue to showcase their talent on the world's largest basketball stage. 

"Very proud of where the international game has gone too. All the European players see this as a real possibility, and not just making it, not just becoming an All-Star or winning a championship. It's being one of the best players in the league year in and year out, and that is pretty remarkable, and I just hope it continues. The NBA has also done a great job. They are extending the game and making it a global game. Establishing academies all over the world with Basketball Without Border programs, they did great work doing that." 

For Gasol and his generation, the inspiration started when they saw the original Dream Team play in his hometown of Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics. 

"I think it all started with that 92 team that inspired a generation like my generation and bring that first professional team of international players in Barcelona, which happens to be my city. It changed the game."

Approximately 30 percent of the NBA players right now are 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 were the ones that changed the perspective of foreign players, and they built a reputation as leaders and later on became ambassadors of the game in their respective countries. We can expect the NBA to become an even more global league in the following years, with players coming worldwide to compete against the best players.  

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