NBA's trend of increasing number of international players appears to be slowing down

Meredith Cash
giannis antetokounmpo

Aaron Gash/AP


  • Some of the biggest names in the NBA — including five of last year's All-Star selections — hail from countries other than the United States.
  • The NBA trend of increasing the number of foreign-born players year after year appears to be coming to an end.
  • International representation in the NBA reached an all-time high 25.1% last year and the year before, but this year is down to 24.0% of all players.


Between Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, Milwaukee Bucks star and MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo, and third-round draft pick Luka Doncic, some of the biggest names in the NBA belong to foreign-born players.

But for the first time since 2011, the number of international players in the league dropped by more than a full percentage point from the previous year. This comes after international representation in the NBA reached an all-time high 25.1% last year and the year before.

Based on opening night rosters for each NBA team this year, 108 players — or 24.0% of plays in the league — come from a record-tying 41 countries outside of the United States. An additional six players from five different countries signed to two-way contracts, meaning that they will spend the majority of the season playing in the NBA G League but can spend up to 45 days with their parent team. All 30 NBA teams have at least one international player on their roster.

percent international players NBA chart

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Even if the trend of increasing the number of foreign-born players in the league year after year has finally come to an end, the influence international players have over the league remains strong. Eleven of the foreign-born players in the league this season have been NBA All-Stars, five of whom were selected to the 2017-18 All-Star roster. Given the fact that the No. 1 NBA Draft pick has been foreign-born in five of the last nine years, the trend of top NBA players hailing from around the globe does not appear to be ending anytime soon.

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