With late summer once again serving up the best in international basketball, we devote this week's Friday Five to ballers born on foreign soil.
The current FIBA Tournament is proof that the international game has advanced light years from where it was during the NBA boom of the 1980s.
But who are the best of those born abroad? When we say abroad, we don't mean the Virgin Islands (Tim Duncan) or Jamaica (Patrick Ewing). We mean actual countries, with actual national teams.
Even as we clarify our geographical terms, the list is insanely difficult to reduce to five. Consider some of the names: Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming, Pau and Marc Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Andrew Bogut, Vlade Divac, Sarunas Marciulionis, Drazen Petrovic and Arvydas Sabonis and Dikembe Mutombo.
Here are our Top 5 international players, with a warning: This is highly subjective.
1) Hakeem Olajuwon
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Olajuwon was a natural soccer goalkeeper who didn't play basketball until he was 15 years old. He watched and learned and worked. He grew to nearly 7-feet and became the most skilled center of his generation.
The Dream was superior to Shaq, to Ewing and to David Robinson. He routinely tortured all three en route to becoming one of the five best centers in league history.
Olajuwon was a master at both ends, using fantastic footwork -– the "Dream Shake" -– on offense and adding a remarkable sense of anticipation on defense. He got his, didn't let you get yours. He also earned two championship rings.
2) Dirk Nowitzki
The native of West Germany was a true wunderkind, recruited by numerous major colleges (including Cal) but was so advanced at age 19 he entered the NBA draft.
Dirk evolved into everything another European, Toni Kukoc, was supposed to be a generation earlier: Long enough (7 feet) to play power forward, skilled enough to play on the wing, aware enough to run point on offense.
Above all, Nowitzki is consistently productive. His shot is ugly, his hair is a mess and his legs are of different lengths. His offensive skill compares to that of Tim Duncan, who has the most complete offensive arsenal of any power forward in history.
3) Steve Nash
Like the others on this list, Nash is a product of endless hours of toil and sacrifice, as well as fierce and unyielding determination. Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, he was a superb collegian at Santa Clara who grew into a perennial All-Star.
For someone who falls below the bar for average NBA athleticism, Nash is the practically perfect point guard. He has incredible vision and a genius hoops IQ. His handle is a ridiculously good, and he has the nerve to shoot the 3 as well as anybody.
At 6-3, Nash is an awful defender, but so good at every other aspect of the game that the folks running the Hall of Fame are making room for his bust.
4) Drazen Petrovic
This 6-5 Croatian guard had mad, mad, mad game. The list is subjective, but a little research will enlighten and amaze those not in the know.
Petrovic was 25 when he came to the NBA. He had Stephen Curry's outside shot, Kobe Bryant's wicked competitiveness and James Harden's brass cojones. He dared challenge Michael Jordan! Drazen (pronounced ''DRAAH-zin") was a snarling, rising, firing offensive machine.
It's a shame he died in his prime, a fatal auto accident at age 28. Despite only 195 games with the Nets, Petrovic's jersey hangs in the rafters. At the 2013 European Championships, he was voted best Euro hoopster in history. I wouldn't have argued.
5) Tony Parker
Charles Barkley likes to debate that Parker is the best point guard in the league. I'd argue that. But I'm not sure I'd win. The French-born star is that fabulous.
At 6-2 (maybe), Parker is small. In a league where most are quick or fast, he is both. He is smart. And he has a box of championship rings won with the Spurs.
Parker nabs the fifth spot (over Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili) because he utilizes teammates better than any European player I've ever seen. His assist totals are a poor measurement because the ball moves so well in the San Antonio system. Add "hockey" assists (the pass that leads to the assist), and his numbers would astonish.