NBA Opening-Night Rosters Feature Record 17 Canadian Players, Record 14 African Players

The NBA announced that 107 international players from 41 countries are on opening-night rosters for the 2020-21 season, including a record 17 Canadian players and a record-tying 14 African players. 

This marks the seventh consecutive season that opening-night rosters feature at least 100 international players. All 30 teams have at least one international player, evidence that NBA is constantly expanding and its popularity continues to permeate the entire globe. 

READ MORE: NBA Draft Consistently Producing International Players Who Shape The League’s Future

For the seventh consecutive year, Canada (17 players) is the most-represented country outside of the U.S., followed by France (nine players), Australia (eight players), Serbia and Germany (six players each).

The Washington Wizards have an NBA-high seven international players. The Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic’s squad,  and Denver Nuggets each have six, while the New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors each have five. 

The rise in international talent is also a reflection of the NBA’s efforts to financially support the development of players in underserved countries.

A record 34 players on opening-night rosters participated in Basketball Without Borders (BWB) prior to starting their NBA careers, surpassing the previous record of 30 set in 2019-20. 

READ MORE: The Nigerian Takeover Continues On NBA Draft Night

Former BWB campers include Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers; Cameroon; BWB Africa 2011), Jamal Murray (Nuggets; Canada; BWB Global 2015) and Pascal Siakam (Raptors; Cameroon; BWB Africa 2012). BWB is the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program that has seen 76 former campers drafted into the NBA or signed as free agents since 2001.

The 2020-21 NBA season kicked off on Tuesday night with a doubleheader as part of Kia NBA Tip-Off 2020 and the remaining teams will kick off play tonight. 

In addition to the 107 international players on 2020-21 opening-night rosters, there are 10 international players from a record-tying eight countries on “two-way” contracts, allowing them to play in up to 50 NBA games this season. 

There are also a number of American players with ties to other countries, including more than 30 players with at least one parent from Africa. 

READ MORE: Coming To America: The Influx of African Players in American Sports

Among the American players with ties to other countries are Jordan Clarkson (Utah Jazz; ties to the Philippines), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers; ties to Nigeria), Matisse Thybulle (76ers; ties to Australia and Haiti) and Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves; ties to the Dominican Republic).

The records for international players (113) and countries and territories represented (42) were set at the start of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, respectively.

The Top International Player Milestones & Storylines For 2020-21 NBA season:

  • A record six international players were named to the 2019-20 All-NBA Team: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks; Greece; ties to Nigeria; All-NBA First Team); Luka Dončić (Mavericks; Slovenia; All-NBA First Team); Nikola Jokić (Nuggets; Serbia; All-NBA Second Team); Siakam (All-NBA Second Team); Rudy Gobert (Jazz; France; All-NBA Third Team); and Ben Simmons (76ers; Australia; All-NBA Third Team).

READ MORE: Giannis Antetokounmpo Saved The NBA For The Moment

  • There are 14 international players on opening-night rosters who have been NBA All-Stars: Antetokounmpo, Dončić, Goran Dragić (Miami Heat; Slovenia), Embiid, Marc Gasol (Lakers; Spain), Gobert, Al Horford (Oklahoma City Thunder; Dominican Republic), Kyrie Irving (Nets; Australia), Jokić, Kristaps Porzingis (Mavericks; Latvia), Domantas Sabonis (Pacers; Lithuania), Siakam, Simmons and Nikola Vučević (Orlando Magic; Montenegro).

  • As part of the 2020-2021 GM Survey, Antetokounmpo and Dončić were voted the No. 1 and No. 2 players most likely to win 2020-21 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player (32% and 21% of votes, respectively), and tied for the No. 1 player with whom general managers would most want to start a franchise (43% of votes each). For the second straight season, Jokić was voted the best center in the NBA (50% of votes).


  • Deni Avdija, who became the highest-drafted Israeli player ever when he was selected ninth overall by the Washington Wizards in the NBA Draft 2020 presented by State Farm®, is scheduled to make his regular-season debut when the Wizards visit the 76ers on Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. ET on NBA League Pass.


  • Killian Hayes, who became the highest-drafted French player ever when he was selected seventh overall by the Detroit Pistons, is scheduled to make his regular-season debut when the Pistons visit the Timberwolves on Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. ET on NBA League Pass.

READ MORE: 5 Potential Superstars Of Tonight’s 2020 NBA Draft

  • Nine players from or with at least one parent from Nigeria were selected in NBA Draft 2020, including Precious Achiuwa (Heat; Nigeria) and Udoka Azubuike (Jazz; Nigeria).
Back to top