Last Thursday, the National Basketball Association (NBA) held the 2013 NBA Draft, during which professional NBA teams officially claimed amateur players for the 2013-2014 season. This year’s draft highlighted the international direction basketball, and specifically the NBA, is taking, with 19 international players selected throughout the evening.
Thirteen international players were selected in the first round of the Draft including the number one pick: Anthony Bennett from Canada. Some of his fellow first-round picks boast home countries including Ukraine, New Zealand, Senegal, Greece, Brazil, Germany, Russia, France, and Serbia. Six international players were chosen in the second round, increasing the total number of international players to 19.
The international players selected in the 2013 draft highlight the direction the NBA is taking as basketball spreads to more and more countries overseas. While none of the players selected in this year’s draft are from countries in which PeacePlayers International (PPI) operates programs, the very fact that 19 international players were chosen emphasizes why PPI uses basketball to bridge divides in the communities in which it works.
In many of the countries where PPI has programs, basketball is not a common sport. Many countries around the world play soccer and PPI routinely receives questions asking why we don’t use a more commonly-played sport such as soccer to bring together divided communities. We intentionally chose basketball as the sport through which to bring children together from divided groups because soccer can be a very politically charged sport. In many areas, certain groups play soccer and others do not. We wanted to ensure that we did not bring with us any stigmas when we began our work in our international locations.
However, as the 2013 NBA draft exemplifies, basketball is becoming a more international game and a more widely-accepted game. PPI can only hope that this will enable basketball to bring together even more divided communities, whether that is through cheering for an NBA player from their home country or learning a new game in a neutral environment. Basketball is becoming an international game and PPI is proud to be one of the groups facilitating that international movement.