While famous for its rich history of homegrown players from the United States, the NBA has been supplied with a wealth of stars from other countries over many years.
From France and Finland to Germany and Ghana, players have travelled from far and wide to play in America’s premier basketball league. Australians are certainly among those who have made the US and NBA their home away from home.
The likes of Kyrie Irving, Joe Ingles and other stars with roots from down under, and their respective teams are loved among their fanbases throughout the world. Especially Irving, the Melbourne-born star has a well established Australian fanbase, where many fans passionately follow the NBA season and use popular and new AU sportsbooks on the rise to place bets. Irving and the Nets, for example, and Ingles and the Jazz are still in contention to win this season’s Eastern and Western Conference, even though it’s the Bucks and Lakers who are looking the most likely to take the Eastern and Western plaudits.
“Brett Brown thought we were a legitimate chance to secure him. Brett was coaching Kyrie’s dad when Kyrie was born and was keeping track of him at high school when few people outside of New Jersey in the US knew anything about him,” former Basketball Australia general manager Wayne Carroll told Fox a few years ago.
“I was there to support Brett. I remember contacting Kyrie’s family to say that if he chose to play for Australia, he could be playing in four – and maybe more – Olympics. Even now, when you look at the strength of the NBA, it’s conceivable Irving might not make the national team if everyone was available.
“It was also going to be a complicated process after he represented the USA at junior level. But it was a discussion we thought was worth having and we did our best to bring him to Australia. The discussions with Kyrie and his family were legit. He considered playing for Australia and thought it was a genuine option.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find an NBA with Australian ties to have had as much of a positive impact on the sport of basketball than Irving.
Baynes, Maker, Mills
Elsewhere in the NBA, there’s Aron Baynes of the Suns, Thon Maker of the Pistons and Patty Mills of the Spurs. All three have an Australian association. Maker’s height is a veritable spectacle. At 2,13 metres, he can characterise the formidability and aggression of the Pistons of yesteryear, as showcased in ‘The Last Dance’ documentary. The Pistons aren’t having a good season, admittedly, and are toward the bottom of the standings.
Baynes, of course, was born in New Zealand before going on to represent Australia internationally. He has grown in stature since graduating from his playing days at Washington State University. The Suns are arguably better off for his presence. They need immediate improvement in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference, though.
Relatively short at 1,83 metres, Mills boasts in inspiration and motivation what he lacks in height. Born in Canberra, and a solid point guard for the Spurs, he is right up there with the most noteworthy players with Australian roots in the NBA.
The Cleveland combo
Over at the Cavaliers, there’s an Australian combo in Matt Dellavedova and Dante Exum. They hardly mirror each other’s points per game and baskets per game, but they have plenty in common when it comes to their point guard and shooting guard prowess. Cavaliers fans and the NBA, in general, have seen this time and time again. Exum, though, might be the first to admit his career has lagged a bit of late. Time will tell if he can get back on it with his proverbial ‘A’ game.