Kobe Bryant has always had an interest in overseas basketball due to growing up in Italy as a child, and he was recently asked who he regards as the best foreign players ever.
Dirk Nowitzki was his first choice, but his teammate and BFF, Pau Gsaol, came in as a close second, according to Bleacher Report:
[pullquote]Dirk Nowitzki is the best foreign player of all time, period. 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). 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.[/pullquote]
Kobe was probably right in putting Nowiztki ahead of Gasol as he’s lead a team to an NBA championship as the main guy, while Pau was a sidekick to Bryant during the championship years.
However, Gasol has lead his Spanish national team to victory many times, while Nowitzki hasn’t been as closely involved or anywhere near as successful with his national squad as Gasol has. Pau also has a different skill set to Nowitzki – Gasol has more of an all-around game and is most effective in the post, while Nowitzki is basically a shooting guard in a 7-foot body – though Dirk in his prime was pretty scary, so I probably have to agree with Kobe’s pick.
I’m surprised that Bryant left childhood hero, Oscar Schmidt, off the list of the greatest international basketball players ever, though the article had a foreign origin, so maybe something was lost in translation.
Then again, maybe Kobe was only listing guys who had played in the NBA – Schmidt never made the transition to the American leagues.