Dual Citizenship And Patriotism In Basketball

By: 07.22.11  •  11 Comments
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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