R.S. De France is a College and University instructor of English Composition. He has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing. One of his life-long pursuits has been writing and covering anything related to sports, specifically the NBA. Recently, De France, his wife, and another colleague started an internationally read magazine at Shwibly.com.
In honor of Dirk Nowitzki becoming only the 34th player to pass the 20,000 point mark, let’s count down the top international players to have played in the NBA. Mainly, we’ll focus on four categories: points, awards, longevity (in the NBA) and championship titles (current players are in bold).
20. Vlade Divac, “Floppy Divac,” Serbia
|11.8 ppg||8.2 rpg||NBA Finals 1990||1 time All-star||13,398 points|
- Divac was a savvy, serviceable center on talented Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings teams. For a center, he was a tremendous passer out of the post and taker of charges.
19. Hedo Turkoglu, “The Turkish Jordan,” Turkey
|12.4 ppg||38.5% 3’s||NBA Finals 2009||Most Improved Player||8,861 points|
- Turkoglu was a key shooter off the bench for the Sacramento Kings during their playoff runs with Chris Webber. More recently, he was a key player on the Orlando Magic’s run to the finals.
18. Rony Seikaly, “The Spin Doctor,” Lebanon
|14.7 ppg||9.5 rpg||Most Improved Player||9,991 points|
- Seikaly was a solid center for 11 seasons in the NBA, remembered for his runs with the Miami Heat.
17. Rik Smits, “The Dunkin’ Dutchman,” the Netherlands
|14.8 ppg||6.1 rpg||1 time All-star||NBA Finals||12,871 points|
- A great shooter, Smits was a member of the Reggie Miller-Jalen Rose Indiana Pacer team that made it to the 2000 Finals.
16. Peja Stojakovic, Serbia
|17.5 ppg||89.4% FT||40.1% 3’s||3 time All-star||3 time 3-point shootout winner||13,009 points|
- Although he plays a serviceable role with the New Orleans Hornets now, Stojakovic is probably best known for his smooth shooting stroke during the Chris Webber-led Sacramento Kings’ playoff runs.
15. Ben Gordon, London
|18.4 ppg||41% 3’s||6th Man of the Year Award (Rookie)||7,802 points|
- Gordon was a clutch shooter with the Chicago Bulls on some short playoff runs in the 2000’s.
14. Luol Deng, Sudan
|15.6 ppg||6.4 rpg||5,793 points|
- A leader of the Chicago Bulls, Deng hopes to lead them further with teammate Derrick Rose than he did with former teammate Ben Gordon.
13. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, “Big Z,” Lithuania
|14 ppg||7.7 rpg||1.7 bpg||2 time All-star||NBA Finals 2007||10,457 points|
- Although his first few seasons were marred by injury, Ilgauskas has spent his career with the Cavaliers and is their all-time leader in blocks.
12. Detlef Schrempf, Germany
|13.9 ppg||6.2 rpg||3 time All-star||6th Man of the Year Award (2)||NBA Finals 1996||15,761 points|
- Schrempf was a deadly shooter on some tough Seattle Sonic teams, including one that made a trip to the finals against Michael Jordan’s Bulls.
11. Toni Kukoc, Croatia
|11.6 ppg||33.5% 3’s||6th Man of the Year Award||3 Olympic Gold Medals||3 consecutive NBA titles||9,810 points|
- A player Phil Jackson somewhat jokingly (it can be hard to tell with Phil sometimes) regards as the best European basketball player ever, Kukoc had a key scoring role on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls of the late 1990’s. Led by the trio of Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan and Kuko?, the Bulls would tally up an all-time best 72-10 record on their way to their first of three NBA championships.
10. Manu Ginobili, Argentina
|14.6 ppg||1.5 spg||37.5% 3’s||6th Man of the Year Award||1 time All-star||3 NBA titles||7,469 points|
- A slasher and great clutch scorer, Ginobili and Tony Parker have been critical elements of 3 of Tim Duncan’s 4 NBA titles.
9. Tony Parker, Belgium
|16.7 ppg||5.7 apg||3 time All-star||Finals MVP||3 NBA titles||16,797 points|
- Parker is a great team leader and scorer that has helped lead the San Antonio Spurs to 3 titles.
8. Yao Ming, China
|19.1 ppg||9.3 rpg||1.9 bpg||7 time All-star||9,196 points|
- Ming will perhaps go down as the greatest Chinese basketball player ever. He’s also the best player over 7’3 to ever play the game. This gifted shooter has struggled being a franchise player, as he has never led his team past the first round of the playoffs, except last season when he left the series with an injury.
7. Dikembe Mutombo, Democratic Republic of Congo
|9.8 ppg||7.1 rpg||2.8 bpg||Defensive Player of the Year (4)||8 time All-star||11,729 points|
- One of the greatest defensive big men since the legendary Bill Russell. Although he had some playoff success, Mutombo never won a title.
- Mutombo on blocks and finger wagging: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUyqp3kSYIs
6. Dominique Wilkins, “The Human Highlight Film,” France
|24.8 ppg||Dunk Champion (2)||Scoring Title||9 time All-star||26,668 points|
- Next to Jordan, Wilkins, often called simply “Nique,” was one of the greatest high-flying forwards ever to play in the NBA.
5. Steve Nash, Canada
|14.6 ppg||8.2 apg||90.2% FT||43.2% 3’s||6 time All-star||MVP (2)||14,205 points and 7.958 assists|
- Since 2005, Nash has been putting up Hall of Fame type numbers while leading the Phoenix Suns on deep playoff runs.
4. Pau Gasol, Spain
|18.8 ppg||8.8 rpg||1.7 bpg||2 time All-star||NBA Title 2009||11,409 points|
- Teaming up with Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom, Gasol has made the Los Angeles Lakers almost unbeatable, having not lost 3 games in a row (with Gasol in the lineup) since his arrival. Gasol is a polished offensive weapon, and he is a perfect complement to Bryant and Odom in the triangle offense.
3. Patrick Ewing, Jamaica
|21 ppg||9.8 rpg||2.4 bpg||Olympic Gold Medal (2)||11 time All-star||Rookie of the Year||NBA Finals 2003||24,815 points|
- Ewing was one of the greatest centers to ever play for the New York Knicks, right up there with Willis Reed. A Hall of Fame player, Ewing had one of the best jump shots for a man of his size. He was also a tremendous rebounder and defender.
2. Dirk Nowitzki, Germany
|25.1 ppg||8.5 rpg||37.9% 3’s||MVP||8 time All-star||All-time Mavericks leading scorer||NBA Finals 2006||20,065 points|
- An amazing shooter, Nowitzki has led the Dallas Mavericks on playoff runs and on a run to the NBA Finals.
- Lights Out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmhmMKD9ZE4
1. Hakeem ‘The Dream” Olajuwon, Nigeria
|21.8 ppg||11.1 rpg||3.1 bpg||1.7 spg||12 time All-star||Defensive Player of the Year (2)||MVP||Finals MVP (2)||2 NBA titles||26,946 points|
- A legend in his own time, Olajuwon’s game featured an array of inside moves, including the “dream shake,” and footwork perhaps unmatched by any other big man in NBA history. His footwork is so good that even Bryant took some time over the summer to workout with the big man and pick up a few tactics.
- Dream Shake: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxDopaqTxiY
Looking at all these names, one thing is tremendously clear: international players have had a huge impact on the NBA and their influence will only continue. In the 2009 NBA Finals alone, there was almost too much diversity to count. Among the countries represented were Spain (Gasol), Turkey (Turkoglu), France (Mickael Pietrus), Slovenia (Sasha Vujacic), Belgium (D.J. Mbenga), China (Sun Yae), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (Adonal Foyle), and Poland (Gortat Marcin).
Honorable Mention (Limited NBA Seasons)
Dino Raja, Croatia (3 seasons in NBA)
- He had a distinguished European career, but only spent 3 seasons in the NBA
- 2 European Cup Titles (consecutive)
- Greek League MVP 1998
- 16.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg,
Drazen Petrovic, Croatia (4 seasons)
- · He was killed in car accident at 28 years of age. His death cut short his emergence as an NBA star.
- · He averaged over 20 ppg in his last two seasons before his death.
- · 15.4 and 43.7% 3’s
- · 9 club titles (international)
- Scored 112 points in a single YUBA game
Andrei Kirilenko, 12.4 ppg and 2.1 bpg
Mehmet Okur, 13.8, 7.1 rpg, and 37.8% 3’s
Nene Hilario, 11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg,
Vladimir Radmanovic, 9 ppg, 37.9% 3’s
Kelenna Azubuike, 10.6 ppg
Leandro Barbosa, 12.8 ppg
Andres Nocioni, 11.7 ppg
Nenad Kristic, 10.7 ppg
Andris Biedrins, 8.3 ppg and 8.1 rpg
Andres Nocioni, 11.7 ppg
Boris Diaw, 10 ppg
Gheorghe Muresan, 9.8 ppg and 6.4 rpg
On the Rise (5 seasons or less)
Marc Gasol (2 seasons) 12.8 ppg and 8.1 rpg
Luis Scola (3) 12.1 ppg and 7.8 rpg
Jose Calderon (5) 9.8 ppg and 6.7 apg
Andrew Bogut (5) 12.2 ppg and 8.9 rpg,
Andres Nocioni (6) 11.7 ppg
Kelenna Azubuike (3) 10.6 ppg
Jose Barea (3) 6.4 ppg (limited minutes)
Andrea Bargnani (4) 13.1 ppg
Yi Jianlian (3) 9.3 ppg and 33.7% 3’s
Ersan Ilyasova (2) 7.9 ppg and 36.7% 3’s
Danilo Gallinari (2) 10.6 ppg and 41% 3’s
Rudy Fernandez (2) 10 ppg and 39.4% 3’s
Gortat Marcin (2) 3.8 ppg (limited minutes)
Omri Casspi (Rookie) 12.9 and 44% 3’s
Manute Bol, 2.6 ppg and 3.3 bpg
Anderson Verajao, 6.8 ppg and 6.7 rpg
Carlos Delfino, 6.1 ppg
Carlos Arroyo, 6.8 ppg
Sasha Vujacic, 5.0 ppg
Ronny Turiaf, 5.5 ppg
Thabo Sefolosha, 5.5 ppg
Mickael Pietrus, 8.8 ppg
Zaza Pachulia, 7.5 ppg
Fabricio Oberto, 3.5 ppg
Eduardo Najera, 5.3 ppg
Rasho Nesterovic, 6.9 ppg
Marco Belinelli, 6.8 ppg
Samuel Dalembert, 8 ppg
Tim Duncan, “The Big Fundamental”
- Born: U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Criox (a U.S. Territory)
- 4 NBA titles, MVP’s, NBA Finals MVP’s
- 13 seasons
- 21.4 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg
- Born: U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Criox
- 9 seasons
- 10.3 ppg, 41.1% 3’s