During the 1992 Olympic Games, a "Dream Team" led by NBA stars Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird electrified basketball on a global stage. Now, 27 years later, fans around the world watched a Canadian team led by an African general manager and a core of international stars win the 2018-19 NBA championship as the league crowned an MVP from Greece.
Indeed, the NBA's international influence has become far-reaching, spawning "golden generations" of players in Spain, Argentina and Australia, as well as actively shaping basketball culture in China, Europe and Africa.
With the FIBA World Cup underway (watch on ESPN+), many of those stars are currently playing for their home countries. Here are some important dates regarding international basketball prior to 1992 Barcelona Olympics, followed by a look at how the NBA has expanded globally since the Dream Team's formation.
1972 Olympics: The Soviet Union defeats the United States in the gold-medal game, amid controversy. It was the first time the United States did not win gold, and the Americans did not accept their silver medals.
1976 Olympics: Women's basketball is introduced. The WNBA would form 20 years later and the first game took place in 1997.
1987: NBA All-Star Game becomes first NBA broadcast on Chinese government-run broadcaster CCTV.
1989: David Stern first meets with Chinese government about broadcasting regular-season and postseason games on CCTV.
Nov. 2-3, 1990: The Suns and Jazz play the first NBA games outside of North America in Tokyo.
1992 Olympics: The world witnesses the formation and domination of the NBA star-laden "Dream Team" in Barcelona. The squad would win its Olympic matchups by an average of 44 points.
1993-94: Hakeem Olajuwon wins the 1993-94 MVP, becoming the first player born outside the 50 U.S. states to win MVP. He would also lead the Rockets to their first of two straight championships.
1994: Chinese state broadcaster CCTV sends crew to cover NBA All-Star Game for the first time.
1994: CCTV airs NBA Finals (Game 1) for the first time in China.
1996 Olympics: Team China advances to the Top 8 for the first time, but is stopped in the quarterfinals.
1996 NBA draft: Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant are drafted. Both go on to become cultural icons in China and around the world.
2000: Vince Carter clears the 7-foot-2 Frédéric Weis in a slam now dubbed "The Dunk of Death" during the United States-France matchup in the 2000 Summer Olympics.
2001: Wang Zhizhi became the first Chinese player to join the NBA.
2002: Argentina becomes first team to defeat U.S. national team, at the FIBA World Championship.
June 26, 2002: Yao Ming is drafted No. 1 overall in the 2002 NBA draft. Yao is the first international player who did not play NCAA basketball to go first overall.
Jan. 17, 2003: Yao plays his first game vs. Shaquille O'Neal. Yao has 10 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Five of his six blocks are on Shaq, including three within the first three minutes of the game.
2004: First NBA Global Games matchup (Rockets vs. Kings) in China.
2004: Puerto Rico dominates the United States in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Its 19-point victory still stands as the United States' largest margin of defeat in Olympic play.
2004: Argentina wins the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Greece (and remains the only team outside the United States to win the gold medal in basketball at the Olympics since 1992). This was part of Argentina's golden age, during which it also finished as runner-up in the 2002 FIBA World Cup. The team's main players include Luis Scola, Manu Ginóbili and Carlos Delfino.
Feb. 20, 2005: Yao starts the All-Star Game alongside teammate Tracy McGrady after receiving over 2.5 million votes, breaking a record previously held by Michael Jordan.
2005: Andrew Bogut is drafted first overall and becomes the highest-drafted Australian in NBA history.
Nov. 9, 2007: Yao faces off against fellow Chinese lottery pick Yi Jianlian. The Bucks-Rockets game is one of the most-watched games in NBA history, including over 200 million Chinese viewers.
2008: Birth of Spain's "golden age" of basketball. The team wins the silver medal in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, also winning the gold medal at the 2009, 2011 and 2015 EuroBasket tournaments. Main players include Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro.
Aug. 10, 2008: Yao returns to play in China's opening game of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics vs. the United States.
2009: Dikembe Mutombo is appointed as NBA Global Ambassador. Mutombo plays a key role in Basketball Without Borders and the NBA Africa Game.
July 16, 2009: Yao purchases his former CBA team, the Shanghai Sharks, after serious financial issues had jeopardized the team's ability to finish the 2009-10 season.
January 2010: Stephon Marbury signs with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons of the CBA after playing 13 seasons in the NBA. He would win three CBA championships with the Beijing Ducks (2012, 2014, 2015) and earn hero status in Beijing.
July 20, 2011: Yao announces his retirement due to injuries in a press conference held in Shanghai.
2011-12: While the lockout shortens the 2011-12 season, it allows the world to see some of the top players in the NBA. Several players go overseas to play, including Deron Williams, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Tony Parker.
2011-2012: Jeremy Lin's overnight success -- dubbed "Linsanity" -- with the Knicks inspires Asians and Asian-Americans around the globe. Lin's No. 17 Knicks jersey becomes the league's top-selling jersey in 2011-12.
Nov. 11, 2014: Dirk Nowitzki passes Hakeem Olajuwon for the most points scored by a player born outside the U.S. Nowitzki finished his career with 31,560 points, sixth most in NBA history.
2015: NBA Africa Game, the first game in Africa involving North American professional teams, takes place. In 2019, the NBA and FIBA announced joint plans to establish an African professional league similar to soccer's UEFA Champions League. Play will commence in January 2020.
April 7, 2015: Sim Bhullar becomes the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA.
2015 NBA draft: Satnam Singh is drafted 52nd overall by the Mavericks, becoming the first Indian-born player selected in the NBA draft.
Sept. 9, 2016: Yao, Iverson and Shaq are inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
2019 NBA Awards: The players receiving MVP (Giannis Antetokounmpo), Rookie of the Year (Luka Doncic), Defensive Player of the Year (Rudy Gobert) and Most Improved Player (Pascal Siakam) were all born outside the United States. In this season, the Raptors also become the first team outside the United States to win the NBA title.
2019: Rui Hachimura is the first Japanese-born player ever taken in the first round of the NBA draft.