EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Dirk Nowitzki is only one of two Europeans to have won an NBA Championship and Finals MVP award |
USA international and Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has no doubt in his mind about who he considers to be the best non-American to have ever played the game of basketball.
He doesn't hesitate in expressing this opinion even if it means praising one of his biggest opponents, a European player whom he has faced numerous times in the past 14 years and has turned around the history of an important rival of the Lakers in the NBA's Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks.
"Dirk Nowitzki is the best foreign player of all time, period," Bryant said about the German star in an interview with a Brazilian TV station.
"After him, I have to put my companion on the list, Pau [Gasol].
"Pau has always been one of the best, one of the most skilled I've ever seen.
"And then, perhaps Manu [Ginobili, of Argentina]. And then, you know, there's Drazen Petrovic, Vlade Divac, Arvydas Sabonis.
"I'm sure I'm forgetting many, but these are the ones that come to mind.
"And Tony Parker."
Bryant was in Brazil to watch Italy compete in the FIFA Confederations Cup.
The American superstar spent big part of his childhood in Italy and an appreciation of football, as well as a perfect knowledge of the Italian language, are elements of the enormous influence that European culture and way of life has had upon him.
His comments were reproduced in media in the USA over the weekend and the last-second inclusion of French international Tony Parker on his list raised some eyebrows.
The point guard led the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA Finals this year and is the only European player, along with Nowitzki in 2011, to have won the championship title and a Finals MVP award, in 2007.
Interestingly, the player who is largely responsible for the Spurs being defeated at the hands of the Miami Heat in the title series this year holds the Frenchman to enormous esteem.
"Right now, Tony Parker," LeBron James had replied back in February, months before the NBA Finals, when asked by a Greek TV station who was the best non-US player in his opinion.
He then agreed with Bryant on Nowitzki momentarily, before taking a moment to think better and changing his answer to who was the best player of all time.
"Dirk [Nowitzki]", he said at first.
"No, Drazen Petrovic," he corrected himself.
"The way he could shoot the ball," he explained what it was that he liked about the Croatian legend who died prematurely 20 years ago.
"He was very athletic, very athletic in his ability to shoot the ball."
"He was not afraid of the moment, he was not afraid of anything."
"He was awesome."