In 1992, USA basketball created the greatest team ever formed. The Dream Team captivated the globe when Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and the other enormous stars of the day traveled to Barcelona. The team was dominant and was the direct cause of the international popularity of the sport. Just one generation later the US went from being an invincible international basketball force to only winning bronze in the 2004 olympics in Athens. In just 12 short years the NBA went from having just a handful of foreign born players to having an outburst of foreign talent.
Jumping forward to the Dallas Mavericks' victory over the Miami Heat this week, we saw a team led by a foreign superstar in Dirk Nowitzki claim just the second NBA Finals MVP award for a foreign player; Tony Parker was the first with his NBA Finals MVP award in 2007. Just like Parker playing every game of his NBA career in San Antonio, Dirk has never played for any other NBA city than Dallas. As foreign players become the franchise players for various teams accross the league whether it's Dirk in Dallas or Manu and Tony in San Antonio or Yao Ming in Houston, it is immediately apparent that these players go about their business of the court in a completely different manner. While LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and other top level American born stars have complained about in their team situations is recent years, the foreign stars have seemed content to play for the teams that drafted them.
Sure foreign players become shopped free agents too, as we've seen with Hedo Turkoglu and Manu Ginobili. Sure foreign players are more prone to flopping around like the soccer players they watched in their home country growing up. But foreign players have demonstrated a loyalty to their team and city that the whiny American superstars have not. Even if Dirk never brought the title to Dallas, he would have been so worth having around because he doesn't ever try to hold Mark Cuban hostage. As such teams building for the future may want to look abroad instead of picking spoiled freshman punks with their lottery picks. Then again if your organization is a complete laugh like the Timberwolves you might end up with a Ricky Rubio on your hands who defies the general rule of loyal foreigners.