The top pick in the NBA draft , Tim Duncan , became the third international player picked number 1 overall—although his designation as "international" is a matter of semantics, as he is a native of the United States Virgin Islands and, like all USVI natives, is a U. He also had played U. Including Duncan, 12 international players were selected in the two rounds of the draft—although half of them, including Duncan and the next two such players picked, had played college basketball.
The draft saw another foreign player picked first overall, Nigerian Michael Olowokandi , but like Duncan he had played college basketball, in his case at Pacific.
In the highest drafted foreign player, Pau Gasol , was selected 3rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks. That would all change the following season when Yao Ming became the first foreign player without U. Not only was the first overall pick an international player, but five more picks in the first round alone were also from overseas. In total, the draft produced 17 international players, with only three of them all second-round picks having U. As noted earlier, four international players had gone first overall before , although all had played college basketball in the U.
It was not until that an international player without college experience went first overall— Yao Ming. His selection was not only a watershed moment for the NBA, but it also had a large impact in Yao's homeland of China.
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Hannah Beech wrote "Yao has single-handedly transformed his countrymen from nameless, faceless millions into mighty men who can jam with the very best". Beech goes on to write "Ratings for NBA games broadcast on Chinese TV have never been higher than this year as the nation keeps track of its new favorite team, Yao's Houston Rockets". It had later gotten to a point where the last four drafts from — all held international prospects as 1 selections in their respective drafts before ending the run in The , , , , , , , , and NBA drafts saw international players picked first overall.
The next year, the Toronto Raptors drafted Andrea Bargnani from Italy, making him the second foreign player without U. During the NBA draft , the Philadelphia 76ers selected Australian Forward Ben Simmons to be the 1 selection, the first time the franchise got one in 20 years since the NBA draft when they selected the first overall pick Allen Iverson , a sophomore from Georgetown.
Some of the most noted NBA draft years are , , and Each of those is often referred to as one of, if not the, best NBA draft ever. The NBA draft has been regarded as the worst in history, with Sports Illustrated calling its first round "a horrible group of players".
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