Team USA stars Jayson Tatum, Damian Lillard reveal truth about international basketball
Team USA lost their two pre-Olympic exhibition games before winning against Argentina, and for Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard, that speaks volumes on the talent and increasing level of basketball globally.
As Tatum noted, the talent has “really been democratized” with more and more international players thriving in the NBA.
“These international players now are not just playing in the NBA, they are MVPs, the most improved players, defensive players of the year,” the Boston Celtics superstar shared in reference to Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert, per Yahoo Finance.
Meanwhile, Lillard agreed as he shared how time and the situations have changed when it comes to international players. Now, there are more and more non-American players earning starting or rotation spots on NBA teams.
“In the past, when I’ve watched Team USA win, you’d have one guy on a different team that is in the rotation in the NBA. Then, they might have a guy on the bench that’s just on a team,” the Portland Trail Blazers guard explained. “Now you go out there and the whole starting five is from NBA teams and rotation players.”
Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo are the prime examples of international players establishing themselves in the NBA. Jokic won the MVP award this 2020-21 while Antetokounmpo bagged in the two seasons prior, becoming the first non-American hoopers to win the accolade since German legend Dirk Nowitzki did it in 2006-07.
Aside from the two, there are also the liked of Rudy Gobert and Luka Doncic. In fact, Doncic has led his native Slovenia into qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics for the first time in history.
Team USA’s losses might be disappointing, but as NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum said, it’s a win for international basketball.