There is no doubt about it, the NBA is an international game in every aspect. It’s popularity has reached every corner of the globe which in turn has caused the league to see a massive influx of foreign players. Whether it be from Europe, South America, China and everywhere else in between, foreign players have come to be an integral part of a team’s success and it’s not uncommon to hear plenty of international names being announced by NBA Commissioner David Stern during an NBA Draft.
However, coming over from foreign leagues to the greatest basketball stage in the world does comes with a price according to Denver Nuggets Danilo Gallinari. Gallo spoke at the adidas Eurocamp and made it clear, European players have to work extra hard to win over their American counterparts and gain their respect.
“It’s tough for European players to go to the NBA, because you have to earn your respect,” he said. “They don’t respect you at the beginning. They say, ‘Who is this guy? He’s coming here to get our jobs.’ So you’ve got to earn the respect. From the first practice, they’re going to hit you, and do everything to make you sit on the bench (so they can) play. That’s normal.
“At the beginning it’s tough for us because you are a very good player in Europe, but you are nobody in the states. And they know you very well. They come here, they scout, they have everything. They write down your left hand, your right hand, what you do, what you don’t do. So when you get there, they have information, but that information — it can be true, or it can be not true. Once you go on the court, you’ve got to show what you did when they came to Italy (to see you).”
Danilo is partly right and partly wrong.
He is right because foreign-born players are seen as “soft” and some players, such as Pau Gasol, and Andrea Bargnani, help perpetuate that label. How often is Pau criticized by teammates and the media about his soft play under the basket? Some will couch it as him being a “finesse” player but when the going gets tough (the playoffs) we see Gasol wilt. Same goes for Bargnani when it comes to his lack of being one of the top NBA rebounders and settles for the outside shot.
But on the other hand, he is wrong. Spurs’ Manu Ginobili is one of the most fearless players in the league. He will take the hits from opposing players and keep going.
Now there have been Euro players that have fought through the label and have become All-Stars in their own right. Dirk Nowitzki was considered a horrible pick in the draft by Dallas and initially it seemed the naysayers were right. But in time he developed a great all-around game and can say he is a champion. Same goes for Tony Parker. He had a horrible workout for Gregg Popovich to the point Pop almost didn’t give him a second shot. Now he is one of the best point guards in the NBA and a three-time champ and Finals MVP.
But what Gallinari says about Euro players can be said for any player coming into the league. Rookies have to prove themselves, and have to earn respect. They come in as former hot-shots in the college ranks and will be pushed around and tested by the veteran players almost immediately.
In the end, whether you are born overseas or in the U.S., the game of basketball doesn’t differentiate. If any player has the skills necessary to make it in the NBA, they will make it in the NBA.