The NBA is a global product consumed by viewers and fans across the globe. Therefore, the number of international players in the NBA has dramatically increased in the last two decades, with the first foreign players coming to the NBA during the '80s. In an interview with David Friedman, the legendary Julius Erving talked about the impact international players had on the game of basketball in the US.
Erving thinks the game itself changed and evolved quite a bit in the last decade predominantly because the role players have on their teams altered from the traditional roles. Nowdays, the centers are shooting threes, which was something completely unusual two or three decades ago. On the other hand, the guards are more athletic than ever before, which results in a completely different type of basketball than the one Erving was accustomed.
"The game has changed. It has evolved. It is more of a wide-open game. It is a game of matchups. It's like a jigsaw puzzle, but now when you have big guys going outside and shooting three-pointers, and you've got little guys who can go in and slam dunk, you are kind of flipping the script. With the evolution of the sport and the flipping, the script it has also opened doors for experimentation and teams are willing to do that."
Erving believes the first international players in the NBA, like Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic, opened the doors for other players coming to the NBA from different parts of the world. He believes the number of international players in the NBA will further increase which is a good point when you take into consideration that the NBA is a global product consumed and watched by people from almost every part of the world.
"I think if we go back to the teams that first included the international players, Vlade (Divac) coming over and doing a great job with the Lakers and (Drazen Petrovic) with the Nets--those guys coming in and doing a great job opened the door for the rest of the world, and that's how the gap has closed. I'm sure that probably 30% of the NBA players now were born outside of the United States."