Book 3, Chapter I., Article 21.a of the International Basketball Federation FIBA rule book states that: A national team participating in a Competition of FIBA may have only one player on its team who has acquired the legal nationality of that country by naturalization or by any other means after having reached the age of sixteen.
What this means in practice is that any international team can, depending on their laws, give citizenship to any foreign player that is willing to play for their national team. Unsurprisingly, these players usually come from the United States of America where the dream of playing for the national team comes true for only the very few. The fact that a good performance at the championships can lead to a bigger contract is also a nice bonus for those that choose to spend their summer playing international basketball.
Of course, none of this is new. Naturalised US-born players have represented numerous European national teams in the past, the most obvious examples being those of point guards J.R. Holden and Bo McCalleb. The former scored the winning bucket for Russia in a Eurobasket 2007 finals game vs. Spain while the latter helped write the Macedonian fairytale at Eurobasket 2011.
Thanks to this rule, 6 out of 24 teams will have a naturalized American on their Eurobasket 2017 roster but only one of those has actual NBA experience. *Note: I am not including New York-born Jamar Wilson on this list because he got his citizenship as a result of marrying a Finnish woman and not purely because of his basketball skills.
Anyway, here’s a list of the this year’s Eurobasket quintet and their respective NBA careers or more accurately lack thereof.
A.J. Slaughter (Poland & ASVEL)
Undrafted in 2010. Played in the Summer league the same year for Detroit Pistons alongside the likes of Jonas Jerebko and Greg Monroe. Scored a total of 18 points in 5 games.
Had another go next year in an Orlando Magic uniform where he averaged 13.8 points in 4 games which proved to be inadequate for an NBA contract. Of that 18-man Orlando squad, 5 are still active in the league - Victor Oladipo, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn and Rodney McGruder.
Richard Howell (Israel & Hapoel Jerusalem)
Undrafted in 2013. Played only 33 minutes in the following Summer League for the Denver Nuggets and yet signed with the Portland Trailblazers. After playing less than 4 minutes and recording a single rebound and assist in his only preseason game he was waived by the club a month later.
Following a two-month relatively successful stint with the Idaho Stampede in the D-League, he went to play overseas. Howell made a brief comeback to the US to play 8 games for another D-League team, this time the Austin Spurs, before going back abroad.
Michael Dixon (Georgia & SIG Strasbourg)
Undrafted in 2014. Instead of trying out at Summer League, Dixon went straight to Italy and is now on his fifth team in just as many countries.
Just to get the sense of the competition the American-Georgian point guard was up against in his draft class, here are the last five players that got drafted at his position: Xavier Thames, Semaj Christon, Vasilije Mičić, Russ Smith, Jordan Clarkson.
Tyrese Rice (Montenegro & FC Barcelona)
Undrafted in 2009. Averaged 8 points in 4 games for what must have been a fun Wizards Las Vegas Summer League team featuring Nick Young, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee.
Returned to the US the next summer to play 9 more games for Utah and Sacramento, averaging around 6 points whilst sharing the floor with the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Omri Casspi, Hassan Whiteside and Gordon Hayward. No NBA contract was offered to him afterwards.
Anthony Randolph (Slovenia & Real Madrid)
Picked 14th overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 2008 draft. After a slow start in his rookie year, his game peaked towards the end of the regular season while the team struggled and ended the season with only 29 wins. His performances went from strength to strength in the Summer League that year, garnering attention with a 42 point performance against the Bulls only to see Blake Griffin of the L.A. Clippers to be crowned Summer League MVP.
After his inaugural 63-game season, Randolph never played more than 43 games which came in his final year in the league, playing in a Nuggets uniform where he also had his only playoff experience. In the intermediate years, Randolph played another year with rookie Steph Curry in the Bay before being traded all the way to New York. Just 17 games and half a year later, he was moved to Minnesota to act as back-up to Kevin Love.
In 2012 he went onto sign a multi-year deal with the Denver Nuggets where he spent his last two seasons in the NBA before he was, in a span of three weeks, traded to Chicago and then Orlando until he was finally released by the latter.
Becoming a free agent prompted his European career and in a way, a return home as Randolph was born in Wurzburg, Germany to parents who both worked for the US armed forces. Now, at the age of 28, he will try to help Goran Dragić, Luka Dončić and the rest of the Slovenian team bring home a medal.