During the 2022-23 NBA season, one of the most talked about basketball players wasn't even in the league. 19-year-old Victor Wembanyama of France was the subject of numerous profiles. He's projected to not only be the NBA's next star, but a transcendent player. I haven't seen such high expectations for a young man since LeBron James.

The buzz about Wembanyama made me think about how truly international the NBA has become. Of the four best basketball players in the world, not one is American. Joel Embiid of Cameroon is the reigning MVP. Serbia's Nikola Jokic won two consecutive MVPs before him. Giannis Antetokounpmo, from Greece, won two in a row before that. Slovenia's Luka Doncic has been named First-Team All-NBA for four consecutive seasons.

In contrast, just three other non-Americans won the MVP in the seven previous decades of NBA history: Germany's Dirk Nowitzki, Canada's Steve Nash (twice), and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Basketball participation and development have certainly grown globally over the past generation, and NBA scouting is increasingly global in scope. But then I noticed something which makes me wonder what the scouts are really looking for.

The following a list is of the non-American current and former NBA players that have been named to the All-NBA team at least three times. That is, the greatest of the "foreign" players.

Hakeem Olajuwon, Nigeria
Dirk Nowitzki, Germany
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece
Steve Nash, Canada
Nikola Jokic, Serbia
Joel Embiid, Cameroon
Yao Ming, China
Luka Doncic, Slovenia
Pau Gasol, Spain
Tony Parker, France
Rudy Gobert, France
Dikembe Mutombo Congo

According to Basketball-Reference.com, eight of the players listed are at least 7 feet (213.36 cm) tall, and Jokic is just one inch shorter than that.

And this made me curious. I discovered that there are 98 current NBA players who are 6'10'' (208cm) or taller. Their heights can be checked here. They're called "bigs" and usually play the center or power forward positions. 47 are non-American tall players, but nearly half of the bigs are.

There are also 83 players considered "small" by NBA standards: 6'3'' (190.5 cm) or shorter. Of these, only eight (9.6%) are non-American.

When your "talents" are height and wingspan, the scouts will go anywhere on the planet to find you. The United States has plenty of athletic 6'2 guys who make beautiful passes and are accurate from the 3-point line. The scouts usually don't need to go to Europe, Africa, or elsewhere to find them. But now they do as it has become a need despite the fact that the tall athletes are rare. Wembanyama is listed as 7'2'' (218 cm). If he lives up to expectations, he'll be one of the five best players in the world, none of them American. But I don't think that is a testament to the growth of basketball, I think it speaks to a trend.

Four or five years ago, the best players were all Americans: LeBron James (6'9''), Kevin Durant (6'10''), Steph Curry (6'3''), Kawhi Leonard (6'7'') and James Harden (6'5'') or Anthony Davis (6'10").

Today, the very best players come from elsewhere. But that's not what's notable. Except for Doncic, they're just plain taller.

All else being equal, the taller basketball player is a better basketball player. NBA scouts have always been looking for tall guys from every corner of the world. It just so happens that these days they're also more skillful and athletic than ever before.

America produced Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O'Neal. It may produce more like them. But right now, the best of the big men come from elsewhere.