Most people, to state the obvious, aren’t Americans. And yet, in each and every NBA draft, including the one completed last week, most of the people selected are Americans who got some of their basketball training at America’s colleges. But the prospect of a slighter-higher-than-usual share of non-Americans being drafted seems to have sent Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz into a flurry of despair:
There were foreign players chosen late in the second round whose names are a series of clicking noises. It was as if NBA general managers were playing some sinister sort of Scrabble game, grabbing Chukwudiebere Maduabum and Targuy Ngombo instead of the likes of Ohio State’s David Lighty and Butler’s Matt Howard. Ater Majok! Triple word score!
It somehow seemed disrespectful and frivolous to watch teams justify their overseas expense accounts by picking players whose scoring averages were lower than Lindsay Lohan’s blood-alcohol level. I understand taking some fliers — the Spurs grabbed Manu Ginobili at No. 57 in 1999 — but Ginobili was already establishing himself as a prospect in the Italian league. Seriously, if Maduabum plays in the NBA, I will take a Rosetta Stone course to learn his language — whatever that might be.
Let’s get real here. Look back at the history of the 56th draft pick. Last year it was Hamady N’diaye (who, for the record, went to Rutgers despite the funny name). Before that, Ahmad Nivins. Before that, Sasha Kaun. Late second round draft picks rarely work out. Mocking teams for picking players at that level who don’t work out is nonsensical. Maduabum probably won’t amount to anything, but the mere fact that Matt Howard has a nice all-American name is no reason to think his prospects are any better.
Meanwhile, I note that Maduabum is Nigerian and the Khoisian “clicking noises” languages are spoken in a whole different part of the continent. You might as well say that Ricky Rubio sounds Hungarian.