International Stars Power Denver Nuggets to First NBA Championship

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International Stars Power Denver Nuggets to First NBA Championship

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The Denver Nuggets are NBA Champions for the first time in franchise history after beating the Miami Heat four games to one in the NBA Finals. The people of Denver, increasingly covered in Nuggets gear as the playoff run picked up steam, are jubilant as they get ready for the celebratory parade. Why, after so many decades of frustration, were the Nuggets finally able to break through? While many players made key contributions, the undisputed stars have been Serbia’s Nikola Jokić and Canada’s Jamal Murray—the first foreign-born duo to lead their team to an NBA championship.

1Mural depicting Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray by Thomas Evans, a.k.a. Detour, https://www.iamdetour.com/products/go-nuggets-mural

What makes the NBA the best league in the world—and what allowed the Nuggets to become champions—is the ability to bring together the best talent in the world, regardless of where it comes from. Without Jokić and Murray, not to mention foreign-born role players Vlatko Čančar (Slovenia) and Jack White (Australia), the Nuggets would have stood no chance at making the playoffs, much less winning a championship.

And while the Jokić/Murray foreign-born duo may be the first to get to the NBA mountaintop, they surely will not be the last. The growing list of international stars in the NBA includes Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Luka Dončić (Slovenia), Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Canada), Lauri Markkanen (Finland), Pascal Siakam (Cameroon), Josh Giddey (Australia), Andrew Wiggins (Canada), Franz Wagner (Germany), Rudy Gobert (France), Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia), Deandre Ayton (Bahamas), Clint Capela (Swittzerland), Buddy Hield (Bahamas), and many more.

American policy-makers would do well to draw from the lessons of the Nuggets and the NBA: the ability to welcome and integrate the drive, talent, and skills of those who want to come from abroad and make it in the United States is a large part of what has powered American success throughout our history. Barriers to bringing on that drive and talent only serve to hold us back.

Congratulations to the Denver Nuggets players and coaches and thank you for bringing us the team’s first ever championship. Enjoy the parade, Denver! And remember the mix it took to get us here.

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