The hard-fought battle finally paid off for Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson.
After the NBA initially rejected Clarkson’s request to compete for the Philippines during the Asian Games, the league reversed course and allowed him — along with Houston’s Zhou Qi and Dallas’ Ding Yanyuhang — to take part in the event. Not only was Clarkson given permission to play, he was also chosen as the Philippines’ flag bearer for the opening ceremony.
“It was probably one of the happiest days I've had in my career, in my life,” Clarkson, whose mother has Filipino roots and has had his own passport for the country since age 12, said to reporters after the ceremony in Indonesia.
With six international players on the current roster, the Sixers could have multiple guys experience the feeling of representing a country on a world stage in the near future. Several of them make up the core of the up-and-coming group, which means the team will likely be holding its collective breath the entire time.
Dario Saric is no stranger to international competition. The forward has suited up for Croatia long before joining the Sixers and continues to do so. He logged big minutes for Croatia during the 2016 Olympics and, even earlier this summer, the 24-year-old played in a couple of contests for the country during the FIBA Basketball World Cup European Qualifiers.
Another Sixer in line to play for his national team is Ben Simmons. The Australian native has shared his desire to take the floor for the “Boomers” on several occasions, although the Rookie of the Year isn’t exactly sure of when that dream will come to fruition.
“I definitely want to represent Australia in the Olympics, in the future,” he said, via The Age, earlier this week at the Ben Simmons Basketball Camp in his home country.
That falls in line with the aspirations of fellow Aussie Jonah Bolden. The Sixers rookie hopes to carve out a spot for himself on an Australian roster sure to be filled with NBA talent.
“I was talking to someone today about how this could be one of the best Australian teams come 2020,” Bolden said to ESPN earlier this month.
“My goal right now is obviously Philly but no doubt I'm thinking about 2020 and then Olympics.”
The path to the Olympics is less clear for Sixers All-Star Joel Embiid.
The center was born in Cameroon, a country that has never sent a men’s basketball team to the Olympics or the FIBA World Cup. Embiid could spearhead a push along with mentor and Clippers forward, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Toronto’s Pascal Siakam to help Cameroon reach the highest level of international hoops.
However, Embiid has options as he has been recruited for years by other NBA players such as France’s Nicolas Batum. That would require Embiid becoming a nationalized citizen of that country, which he hadn’t publicly entertained until this year.
“I think it’s an opportunity,” Embiid said earlier this year when the Sixers faced Boston in London, per Eurohoops.net, in response to a question from French RMC Sport. “You never know. I might play for the French national team but I might also play for Cameroon. I have a lot of relatives in France.”
And like relatives in any other family, the Sixers will watch proudly from afar and cheer. All the while, holding their breath and hoping each player returns home healthy.