For American people, sports have always been the perfect escape. Whenever the country seems divided, sports exists as a source of unification for U.S. citizens. One source of division in particular, immigration, has always been abridged through outlets such as international sports, like the Olympics or World Cup.
Bringing people together from different backgrounds in pursuit of one common goal is a significant occasion, one that has inspired professional sports leagues here in America to become more diverse.
For leagues such as the NBA, however, that hasn’t always been the case. As recently as 1980, nearly every NBA player was American-born. Despite a major lack of diversity as early as three decades ago, the NBA has grown immensely with its expansion to players outside of the United States. In 2014, it was recorded that almost 20% of the NBA featured players born outside of America.
The best example of the league’s diverse expansion is undoubtedly the 2014 Champion San Antonio Spurs, featuring nine foreign players. Star point guard Tony Parker and veteran backup Boris Diaw both hailed from France, while Corey Joseph, Tiago Splitter, Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli are all from a variety of countries.
Italy, Argentina, Jamaica, Brazil and Canada were all represented on the 2014 Spurs roster, an outstanding statistic for a league that just a few years ago, lacked adequate global representation. There’s no doubt the NBA has done a great job of searching for talent from across the world, transforming into a solid example for other American professional sports leagues to follow.