This is not the first London game, but it is certainly the most interesting one to date. Previous regular season matchups have showcased such nonplussing ineptitude as the 2015 New York Knicks vs the Milwaukee Bucks and the 2011 Toronto Raptors vs the New Jersey Nets.
Yuck! Sending that type of talent overseas, the NBA shouldn’t be banking on an international expansion team any time soon.
Now, it seems as though the NBA has decided to stop sending over half-products to London, expecting the untapped population to buy in on some cheap appetizer. The Celtics and the 76ers represent two venerated franchises, who have already played a couple of scintillating games against each other this season.
And this should prove to be a lucrative, fruitful venture - cultivating the interest of Londoners. The NBA has seen a solid amount of talent migrate from this area, to the United States, to play professional basketball in the most competitive league in the world.
Here's a list of the top-three British expatriates to don an NBA uniform. This list might just surprise you; these names should be somewhat familiar.
Remember when the Chicago Bulls were consistently making the playoffs? No, not when Michael Jordan was playing. In the early 2000s, Chicago had a very formidable gaggle of young players. From 2004-2006, the Bulls managed to produce consecutive, though ephemeral, playoff appearances. This effort was helmed by two Londoners.
Perhaps the most important of that duo - Ben Gordon.
He was born in London and moved to Mount Vernon, New York with his family at an early age. Here is where Gordon would harness his natural skills on the court. He would go on to play collegiate basketball at the University of Connecticut, where he eventually won a National Championship.
Ben Gordon was a super-athletic shooting guard, drafted in the first-round of the 2004 NBA Draft. He was sort of the player antecedent to pre-injury Jimmy Butler. Picture a Jaylen Brown, except slightly shorter and with a consistent jumpshot.
In his prime, Gordon could absolutely break ankles and finish at the bucket with mesmerizing acrobatics.This guy was an electric scorer. His ability to dunk was simply unfettered; it seemed like he could tomahawk from the perimeter, with a minimal running-start.
If you haven’t consumed a Ben Gordon highlight reel, you need to check that off your basketball bucket list immediately. One of his greatest games came against the Celtics, in April of 2009, when he put up 43 points.
From 2007-2009, for the Chicago Bulls, Ben Gordon averaged 20.3 PPG. Unfortunately Gordon’s climax was short-winded. He was traded to the Detroit Pistons in 2009. Here Gordon would see a significant decrease in minutes and starting opportunities. Gradually he would recede into the NBA shadows, walking away from basketball in 2015.
At the moment, Ben Gordon is working on a comeback with the Texas Legends - an NBA D-League team.
One of Ben Gordon’s old teammates, Luol Deng is mathematically the superlative of British NBA players.
Deng was born in Wau, Sudan. He migrated with his family to Egypt, in a successful attempt to escape the then raging Second Sudanese Civil War. Eventually, after an hard fought battle with the bleak formalities of bureaucracy, he and his family were granted political asylum and moved to Brixton, South London.
His insatiable interest in basketball lead him to the United States, in his teens.
Luol Deng furtively acceled at Duke, as practically a preordained one-and-done, and entered the NBA Draft in 2004. He was selected 7th overall, by the Phoenix Suns, but this was done on behalf of the Chicago Bulls who had a trade stipulation that dictated that they would receive the Suns’ pick in 2004.
Thus Deng was immediately traded to Chicago, where he would play an injury-abbreviated rookie season.
During his sophomore season, Deng made a resounding statement for Londoners in the NBA. He averaged an impressive 14.3 PPG in the 2005-06 season, and helped to galvanise the second consecutive playoff push for the Chicago Bulls, alongside none other than fellow Londoner, Ben Gordon.
A swing forward, Luol Deng has a career average of 15.0 PPG and 6.2 RPG. He has been selected to the All-Star Game twice, in his twelve years in the NBA. Deng’s one of those peripheral starters who has always helped to cement the success of the many teams that he's played for. He is presently playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, but trade rumors are beginning to circulate. He's not seeing any playing time and the big man wants to play!
Here’s a name that Celtics fans should be familiar with. He played for Boston, from 2005-2007. Although the zenith of his career was reached with the Los Angeles Clippers. Michael Olowokandi has certainly had the most recalcitrant of all careers of Londoners in the NBA.
Olowokandi was drafted 1st overall, by the Los Angeles Clippers, in the 1998 NBA Draft. He was a multi-sport athlete, with a variegated pallet of athletic interests and abilities. As a center in the NBA, he was an imposing embodiment of size, strength and speed.
His game was to post-up, body defenders, take an inordinate first step towards the hoop and posterize. Michael Olowokandi made a career out of dominating the paint.
He was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Michael's father was a challenging diplomat who spearheaded many political ventures. His father's political pursuits eventually brought his family to London, where Michael attended university.
This is where the future NBA player would begin to explore his athletic inclinations.
He might just be the only NBA player ever to have a background in cricket. Michael Olowokandi played rugby, track and cricket at Brunel University in London. But most importantly, he discovered his latent talent for the sport of basketball.
Realizing that he had a predisposition to scoring buckets, Olowokandi conveniently selected an American university to attend, in hopes of finding a situation conducive to playing professionally. After thumbing his way through the prefaces of a college guide, Olowokandi expediently selected the University of the Pacific for his collegiate basketball career.
As a junior, the 7-footer would coddle his team to the 1997 NCAA Tournament. The Pacific Tigers retired Olowokandi's number 55 jersey, commemorating the huge contribution that this kid made to their program.
Olowokandi chose an untimely year to enter the NBA Draft; in 1998 a lockout occurred, truncating Michael Olowokandi's rookie season. Conversely he signed with the Italian team Kinder Bologna, during the brief intermission in NBA play.
Talk about growing pains!
It's unfortunate. This speed bump caused his growth as a player to almost completely ossify, at the young age of 22. Olowokandi's career was ultimately rather underwhelming, considering the great potential that he had.
His best years were his early years with the Los Angeles Clippers. During his first 5 years in the NBA, Michael Olowokandi averaged 9.9 PPG and 8.0 RPG, starting 310 games in that window of time. He grabbed 20 rebounds in 3 different games, and once scored 30 points against the Chicago Bulls in 2002.
After a brief stint with the Celtics, time and the attrition of professional basketball would catch up with Olowokandi. Playing for 3 different teams over the course 10 seasons, he retired as a journeyman veteran in 2007.
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