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NBA Championships, the World Cup and Immigration

You wouldn’t think that the NBA Finals and World Cup would lead to discussions on immigration and possible benefits from reform. Yet, the fates of the San Antonio Spurs, 2014 NBA Champions, and the US Men’s Soccer Team are intricately tied to immigration. Let’s start with the San Antonio Spurs. Eight players on the team’s roster were born outside of the United States. Tony Parker and Boris Diaw hail from France, Patty Mills and Aron Baynes are from Australia, Manu Ginobli is from Argentina, Tiago Splitter is from Brazil, Marco Belinelli is from Italy, and Cory Joseph is from Canada. On the court they speak English, Italian, French, and Spanish. The Spurs have won five NBA Championships in the last sixteen years.

Meanwhile, more than half of the players on the US soccer team are immigrants or the children of immigrants. In fact, five of them were either born in Germany or have at least one German parent. John Brooks, who scored the clutch game winning goal in the 86th minute is German-American. Oh, and the coach is German too. Plus, many of the players on the US team play professionally on European teams. The European leagues are the most competitive in the world and attract the best talent from every continent. Most of the top players in the world play for a team outside their home country. Like the Argentine Lionel Messi who plays for Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo, originally from Portugal, who plays for Madrid.

The San Antonio Spurs, like many soccer teams in the Spanish La Liga or the German Bundesliga, know that attracting the best players from all over the world is key to their success. The relatively free movement of people across borders has greatly benefitted these teams. And now the US National Soccer team is doing better than expected in the World Cup, defeating long-time rival Ghana. Some of that probably has to do with the fact that the players have so much international experience.