Italian people of travelers, saints, poets and soccer fans? It’s not like that! In America, the realm of basketball, and in the most prestigious championship on the globe, the NBA, there has always been a large representation of Italian basketball players. Basketball players who have contributed to make this sport even more spectacular.
Italians in the NBA, absolute stars
NBA, the National Basketball Association, is the highest expression of basketball in the world. A dream for all those basketball players who want to leave their name in the world of basketball. A dream that for several Italians, or Italian-Americans, who played at least one game with the Italian national team jersey, has materialized since the 1970s. The annals of NBA sports history report that the first Italian to be selected for a lineup was Dino Meneghin in 1970.
The first Italian-American, however, who stepped on the NBA parquet was Mike D’Antoni. The first European and Italian who had the prestige of being a first choice was Marco Belinelli. Belinelli is also the only Italian to have won the championship and the resulting NBA title. The last, in chronological order, to play in America, is Nicolò Melli, in 2019, wearing the New Orleans Pelicans shirt.
NBA, the Italians who stepped on American parquet
The first was Dino Meneghin in 1970 in the Atlanta Hawks. Then the Italian-American Mike D’Antoni, in 1973, who played three seasons. In 1986 Augusto Binelli joined the Atlanta Hawks too. The two-year period 1995/96 saw two Italians on the pitch: Vincenzo Esposito and Stefano Rusconi. In 2005/06 it was the turn of an Italian American, Alex Acher, who also played a season between 2008/09. From 2005 to 2010 one more Italian-American on the pitch: Trevis Diener. Ten years in a row, from 2006 to 2016, for Andrea Bargnani.
From 2007 to date Marco Belinelli is the standard bearer of the Italian tricolor on American soil. Since 2008, Italy has also supported Danilo Gallinari. Luigi Datome played from 2013 to 2015, while Alessandro Gentile in 2014 wore the Minnesota Timberwolves shirt. From 2017 to today, the Italian-American Ryan Archdeacon with the legendary Chigaco Bulls shirt. Since last year Nicolò Melli has been playing for the New Orleans Pelicans.
NBA, Italians not only on the pitch
Two curiosities. Toronto Raptors is the team with more Italian basketball players on the roster: Vincezo Esposito, Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli. Following, with two Italians, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, L.A. Clippers, N.Y. Kniks, San Antonio Spurs. Actually, the first Italian-Canadian who stepped on the parquet the first draft of the current NBA was Henk Biasatti.
In 1946 he was purchased by the Toronto Huskies and took part in the NBA’s ancestor called BAA. But the Italians have also asserted themselves on the bench and behind a manager’s desk. Sergio Scariolo is assistant coach of the Toronto Raptors with whom he won the NBA title in 2019. Gianluca Pascucci turned several teams as manager before arriving at Minnesota Timberwolves last summer.
Claudio Crippa is the director of international scouting for the San Antonio Spurs. Adam Filippi has been pro scout of the Sacramento Kings since 2018 with a past as manager also in the Los Angels Lakers and Charlotte Hornets. He also wrote two books on the secrets of how to train shooting. Luca Desta is a scout of the Los Angeles Lakers. Fabrizio Besnati is the director of the international scouting of L.A. Clippers. Simone Casali European Scouting Director for the Brooklyn Nets. Stefano Lupatelli scout of Minnesota Timberwolves. Massimo Biasin head of the OKC Thunder international scouting, while Davide Prati is the international scout for the Memphis Grizzlies. Marco Baldi is a European scout for the Washington Wizard, while Francesco Alfier is an international scout and video analyst for L.A. Clippers. Finally, Francesco Cavalli is a scout of the Washington Wizard.