NBA, Olympics, Overseas / Jul 22, 2011 / 12:00 pm

Dual Citizenship And Patriotism In Basketball

Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon

Born and raised in America, I don’t really have an outsider’s perspective on leaving my home country for another place, another culture, another world. I only know patriotism in reference to the good ol’ USA, not an adoptive pot I’ve melted into or otherwise. Developing a patriotism for a new place in my adulthood is a concept out of my grasp.

But basketball players do it all the time. Sometimes they’re born on one continent and move at a very young age where they develop their hoops skills. Sometimes they come to America to play for the NBA, eventually gaining U.S. citizenship. Other times, guys flee their home country to play for a national team despite them ever having learned the country’s official language.

That leads to a set of perplexing questions: Is it unpatriotic to play for a nation that you were neither born in nor have any family background? Can a pure-blooded Haitian, for example, play for Canada simply because he can make the roster and likes a bastardized version of bacon? The bounds of what is “correct” patriotism is unknown, and the idea of patriotism is complex in itself. To a sports fan, playing for a country you have little connection to could reveal a lack of patriotism. As a young man, it’s like jabbing that one friend for having a long-time girlfriend/wife in a decree of single brodom; for him, it’s slightly painful but not an insult? Or should it be taken as an insult?

I don’t have an answer for whether any of these things are right or wrong. In the end, the answer to my question lies in what’s important. Is a game of basketball more important, or does patriotism have priority? If you, an American citizen, were offered a roster spot on the Barbados national team (assuming you’re not also Barbadian) would you take it? Here’s a more philosophical and theoretical situation: If you were given the talents of LeBron James via a Space Jam sequel and thereby giving your team the chance to defeat Team USA in a gold medal game, what should you do?

This is where you ask yourself questions. Your patriotism and your love for basketball collide. Do you do it? No, I don’t know what I’d do either. But here’s a list of guys who do:

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  • Young Gunner aka Andius Oneicus: God Of Buckets

    *raises hand for having dual citizenship*

  • Young Gunner aka Andius Oneicus: God Of Buckets

    I never thought it was necessary for them to go out and get it. Why get it if youve never been or barely apart of any other country? I have dual citizenship (US & Trinidad). Even though I was born in Germany, I dont claim it. If I was a basketball player and if T&T had a national basketball team, I’d choose to play for them instead of the US because Trinidad is where im from

  • heckler

    i dont really have an opinion on the matter cause I never seen it as that important.
    some dudes love their roots, others love the competition. neither is wrong.
    if you wanna play, and that country wants you to play for them, then shit, do it.

    the only problem I have is with NBA teams (front office management types and such) saying its an honor to represent your country in internation olympic comp, and then turn around and prohibit players from competing with their home countries.

    case in point, i was VEX when the Cavs told Big Z he couldnt play for Lithuania (for insurance reasons & injury fears), but they let LeBron James play in the same tournament the same year. 2008 if Im not mistaken.

  • http://www.dimemag.com panchitoooo

    hand raised

  • First & Foremost

    Kaman is one of the better centers in the league. However, on team that needs no more offensive output, do you pick Kaman over Dwight? So if the goal was to play in the oylmpics, why not play for a team that he can make.

    Had Germany beat the USA he would have been known as a Benedict Arnold of some sort but at least he would have been known for something.

  • Pose

    I live in Iceland and a lot of American players come over here to play ball. A lot of players stay here for 4-5 years and apply for citizenship. The main reason is when they get the double citizenship the players get the Euro rights. Most leagues in Europe have limits for American players. The players get a lot more value and have more chance to get more money. Only handful of players have suited up for the national team and only few learn the language.

  • LFP

    I think Luol Deng should have been more involved in this article, as he is an example of when someone moves to a new country (in his case as a refugee), and feels very strongly towards that country, applying for citizenship before leaving for the US later on. Luol is proud to be British and we’re very proud to have him.

  • http://250aspirin.blogspot.com DJ Leon Smith

    No mention of Kyrie Irving? Fail.

  • DarkHorse

    Interesting read. Very thought provoking. Good job, Kevin. This article was a different, fresh subject than some of the lame “See marginal NBA player X’s new tattoo!” or “OMG! Look at what NBA player Y tweeted!” articles thta usually populate this site during the summer (especially with the lockout). This article seems especially prescient now with the rumors of legit NBA all stars heading overseas.

  • DarkHorse

    heckler, I think the Cavs had a legit reason to keep Big Z from competing, because the the dude had a history of foot problems. Maybe if Yao sat out in some international comp, then he would still be wetting 18 foot Js for a living like Big Z?

  • hadoken

    i dont have a problem with a player getting dual citizenship if they are actually from the country (ie. calathes, noah, ..). The only ones that rub me the wrong way are holden and ibaka. Everyone knows there’s no black russians or black spaniards, wtf. If that’s the case, the the WuTang Clan should be Chinese ambassadors because they’re from the Shaolin.