Few rivalries in the NBA have been as lopsided over the years as the one between fellow Los Angeles teams the Lakers and the Clippers. That’s because the former has no less than 16 championships to their name, while the latter team has been mired in mediocrity for the better part of their existence. But things are changing, as the ascendant Clippers have mostly bettered the Lakers in recent years. This has led a number of fans in formerly Laker-centric areas such as Santa Clarita to reconsider their allegiance, with the Clippers even having several celebrities such as Bill Simmons and Billy Crystal backing them up.
Playing in such a cosmopolitan city, it’s no wonder that both teams have recruited their fair share of international players throughout the years. While this practice was less common before the 1990s, once the NBA figured out just how massive the international player pool was, they never looked back. So it’s worth pondering just what happened to some of the more renowned foreign players that achieved fame either in a Laker or Clipper uniform. With that in mind, here’s a quick update on several figures you might be familiar with:
Vlade Divac – Los Angeles Lakers (1989 – 1996, 2004 – 2005)
In many ways, Vlade Divac was a trailblazer. Part of the initial wave of foreign-born players that took the NBA by storm in the early 90s, the Serbian Center was known for his remarkable passing skills, even earning an All-Star berth in 2001. His peak arguably came in 2002, when he was a member of the impressive Sacramento Kings that reached the Western Conference Finals. But Divac is also an iconic Laker, having played for the franchise twice in his career. He retired as a Laker in 2005 after a string of debilitating back injuries. Since then, he has pursued a career in sports management and is currently serving as the general manager of the Sacramento Kings, a team he once again hopes to revitalize after a long playoff drought.
Sun Yue – Los Angeles Lakers (2008 – 2009)
One of several Chinese players to arrive in the NBA following the success of Yao Ming, Sun Yue never reached the same heights as his forebear. Nevertheless, he was part of the 2008-2009 Lakers team that won a championship under the tutelage of Phil Jackson, and therefore became the first ethnic Chinese player to win an NBA title. Since then, he has returned to the Chinese Basketball League, where his team the Beijing Royal Fighters are currently competing for a title, with former NBA great Stephon Marbury at the helm. With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing in the US, the CBA is one of the most popular basketball leagues still in operation – great news for starved basketball fans and betting enthusiasts alike, eager to find out where to place bets on the Chinese Basketball league and see their favourites win.
Milos Teodosic – Los Angeles Clippers (2017 – 2019)
The floppy-haired Serbian was considered one of the top European prospects for years before he finally decided to give the NBA a try at the ripe age of 30. When he did, he chose the Los Angeles Clippers, who were adding him to a roster still led back then by perennial All-Star Blake Griffin. Unfortunately, while Milos showed some promise in spurts, both he and his team underperformed, so he returned to Europe and signed with Italian club Virtus Bologna in 2019. Currently, his basketball career is on hold as the Italian Basketball Federation suspended its season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but reports suggest that Milos and his family are handling the crisis well and staying safe.
Boban Marjanovic – Los Angeles Clippers (2018 – 2019)
Even in a league filled with giants, Boban Marjanovic stands out from the crowd. That’s because his 7 feet and 4 inches frame is massive even when compared to NBA standards, leaving him in the company of previous giants such as Ralph Sampson and Rik Smits. He was on the Clippers roster for two years, during which his enormous hands and funny demeanour proved an endearing combination to many fans. In 2019 he was traded to Philadelphia and will be in the NBA bubble for the conclusion of the 2020 season along with his friend and fellow team-mate Tobias Harris.
As you can see, both the Clippers and the Lakers have fielded quite a few interesting foreign-born players over the years. Some have enjoyed more success than others, but all of them are worth remembering. No doubt more foreign-born players will be recruited to American shores once the COVID-19 pandemic dies down, thus furthering the NBA’s goal to become a truly global league in the years to come.