Being a little weary of all the speculation about how the Suns will do with Shaq, I’ve decided to write a piece that goes a totally different way. Teams such as the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, etc. have become known for their international players, however, 8 of 15 Lakers have strong international connections… giving the Lakers a very broad, worldwide fan base.
— DJ Mbenga —
Originally born in Ziare, DJ’s father was presumed to be hunted down and killed by the Congolese government simply because he was an employee of the previous administration. At 17, DJ was falsely accused of being Tutsis, an ethnic group that was not in power at the time, and was sentenced to be executed.
DJ spent 9 months on death row being severely mistreated when his brother bribed a guard and helped DJ escape. Fearing for their lives, they went straight to the airport and caught the first flight out of the country, which happened to be to Belgium. Belgium gave his family asylum, and he became a Belgian national.
DJ saw a basketball for the first time when he was 19 years old. He was approached on a street by someone impressed with his size, who offered to teach him to play basketball.
— Pau Gasol —
Born in Barcelona, Spain, Pau. It is often said that the Lakers gave up next to nothing to get Gasol, which is not true. Ironically, one of the things the Lakers gave up to get Pau 7’0″ center / forward Pau Gasol, was the rights to his 7’1″, 23-year old, younger brother Marc, who is currently playing professional basketball in Spain. In fact, the Gasol brothers are the basketball rock stars of Spain. What would the Lakers have been in a few years if they could have had Marc on board too?
— Ronny Turiaf —
Born in Le Robert, Martinique, a Caribbean Island that is also one of France’s 26 regions (akin to states in the U.S.), Ronny is a former teammate Tony Parker and Boris Diaw. The three are highly revered in France. Ronny, by the way, speaks 5 languages.
— Sasha Vujacic —
Born in Slovenia (a member of the European Union), the son of a coach, Sasha played point guard in Italy before coming to the Lakers to play backup shooting guard.
— Vladimir Radmanovic —
A controversial member of Yugoslavia’s 2002 World Championship Gold Medal team, Serbian Vladimir Radmanovic found controversy again last year in Park City, Utah. However, our favorite martian might be playing the best basketball of his career right now in the Lakers’ lauded triangle.
— Jordan Farmar —
Jordan is an L.A. native, but Jordan’s mother and step father are Israeli.
— Trevor Ariza —
Trevor’s mother is from Turks and Caicos Islands (a British colony southeast of the Bahamas), and had Trevor while going to college in Florida. Trevor’s step father was a basketball player and they lived several places, including Venezuela.
— Kobe Bryant —
Born in Philadelphia, Kobe grew up in Italy and France, went to school in Switzerland, before returning to the U.S. to attend Lower Marion High School. Kobe’s European influence is so great that he often gives interviews in Italian.