Tuesday 29th July 2014,
The Hoop Doctors

Top 20 All-Time Best International Basketball Players in the NBA

Rob January 21, 2010 R.S. De France 54 Comments

January 21, 2010 – R.S. De France

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

Honorable Mention

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

Role Players

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

Technically Ineligible

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

Raja Bell

  • Born:  U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Criox
  • 9 seasons
  • 10.3 ppg, 41.1% 3’s

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  • http://thehoopdoctors.com allenmoll

    Excellent list R.S.

    One omission has to be Arvydas Sabonis who was a good player for the Blazers, but rumor had it that his best years were in Europe.

    Also, I would have Toni Kukoc a bit higher with 3 NBA titles(even though he was a 3rd or 4th option).

    • Michael Brumagin

      Definitely missed on Arvydas Sabonis.

  • John

    I would say that Andris Biedrins is more of a raising star..

    and Tony Parker is a French National

  • Isaac

    You are CRAZY to have chosen Gasol over Nash. Gasol over a two-time league MVP??????

    • Aurik

      @Isaac, I know, right?

    • jagger

      @Isaac,

      exactly what i was gonna say “NO WAY Gasol before Nash”

    • Michael Brumagin

      Gasol is a better all-around player. Nash is barely passable, if not terrible, on defense. One of his MVP’s realistically should have been Kobe’s.

      Also, Gasol is far more accomplished than Nash. Two MVP’s don’t compare to two NBA championships (’09-10), two Olympic Silver medals (’08,’12), World Cup Gold medal (’06), World Cup MVP (’06), two Eurobasket Gold medals, two Silver medals and one Bronze, NBA Rookie of the Year…

      Nash DOES NOT compare historically to Gasol.

  • HP

    The title of the article is ignorant and I found it offensive; though Wilkins (who was born in France because his father in the US Military was stationed overseas) and Olajuwon were born outside the USA, they were American basketball players and played for our national team. So really they’re just as “technically ineligible” as Duncan or Raja Bell. You should rename the article “Best Players in the NBA Born Outside of America” or take them off the list, they aren’t “international” basketball players.

    • mike

      Olajuwon is an international player but Nique is an american.

      • Saulo

        @mike, just so you know.. the american nationality system is territory based. A person, whose parents are born in the u.s but is born outside of the u.s can claim citizenship just as well.. Nique however would probably have both nationalities.. i guess it depends more on where he learned to play the game in his case.. but playing on the national team does not mean you are of that nationality originally, it means you have citizenship…

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  • http://yessuz.blogas.lt yessuz

    and how could you forget Sarunas Marciulionis, Arvydas Sabonis?

    Some of the top 20 are much worse than two mentoned above.

  • bigjohnny

    Arvydas Sabonis should have been mentioned

  • efrias5

    I guess like every other list out there it is meant to stir controversy but this one was just too easy to critique:

    - like HP mentions, Wilkins and Olajuwan just happened to be born outside of the US and grew up (basketball-wise) in the USA. Olajuwan even won a gold medal with the Dream Team, how can you consider him an international player?!?
    - Same thing applies to Patrick Ewing, although in his case it is even worse: he won TWO gold medals in the Olympics representing the USA.
    - Yao number 8 is a disgrace. Not only he hasn’t had a single dominant season where he hasn’t ended with an injury but he hasn’t been able to carry his team beyond the first round of the playoffs.
    - Pau Gasol ahead of Steve Nash? Gasol couldn’t do anything before he had Kobe as his sidekick, ask the Memphis fans.
    - and Dirk at number 2. Forget it.

    Like I said, too easy to critique, I expected better from TheHoopDoctors.

  • http://dailythoughts.me Jeremy

    He’s not Your-vydas, he’s Arvydas!!!!

    And yeah seriously….slap in the face to Blazer nation to leave him off this list.

    Also, if Nic Batum keeps improving, you have to consider him on the 5-years and less list.

  • http://www.johnhutch.net John

    what, no sabonis? that guy was a legend.

  • LG

    Tony Parker is French (he was born in Belgium).
    Dominique Wilkins is American (although he was born in Paris, France)

  • Erik

    Why isn’t Sabonis on this list???

  • MB

    Sabonis should be in the top 5

  • http://www.shwibly.com R.S. De France

    So right most of you are–of course Arvydas Sabonis belongs on the list. I had him as maybe #21 on my list, but, as an over sight, he was left off. Good call! His best years were in International Basketball, so I chose not to rank him higher. I’d have to agree, he was a legendary player in International ball, though.

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  • MB

    R.S. De France… You didn’t even put Sabonis on the honorable mention… You put Muresan. Wow.

    Based on the statistics Sabonis should be in the top 15 alone. He averaged 15 pts, 9 rbs in his last three years with the Blazers playing along side star players (Rasheed Wallace, J.R. Rider, Steve Smith, Bonzi Wells, Scottie Pippen, Brian Grant, etc.). The Blazers were a playoff contender every year. Instead you put Rony Seikly on the list when Miami was always horrible, until after he was gone at least.

    Sorry, but this list is a joke.

  • mookie

    First thought I had when I saw this post, “what ranking did Sabonis get?”

    I might also note no mention for Luc Longley, at least as an honourable mention, given his titles.

    Well put together list though, R.S.

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  • xrumer blast

    Dominique Wilkins is American … he was born in Paris, France, due to his father being stationed there while in the U. S. Air Force.

  • crazy sab

    i like the list but Manu Ginobolli and Yao Ming are rated way to high. Also were is Arvydas Sabonis? He was on of the greatest international guys i ever remembered playing in the league. If anything Sabonis should be at 8 and no Yao on the list because Yao is just a big bust in the NBA.

    • Anklesnap

      @crazy sab, Good call on Sabonis. Arvydas was amazing, it’s too bad he came to the league so late in his career.

  • Nigerian-American

    Hakeem Olajuwon’s background and Wilkins’ are completely different scenarios. Dominque was an American at birth (though he may also have had simultaneous U.S. citizenship). Hakeem is a NATURALIZED U.S. citizen (like Mutombo has become), that does not mean he didn’t have a past history as an international. He is not even like me, for instance, who although having lived in Nigeria continuously for almost a decade as a kid, was born in the U.S.

    Further, Hakeem played for the Nigerian basketball team and has indicated that his soccer and handball bacground in Nigeria accentuated his skills, so it cant be said that he “grew up” basketball wise in the U.S. His foundation and fundamentals where in Nigeria where he was till he joined Houston at about 18. by comparison, Dirk started playing ball in the U.S. at the age of 20, only two yrs later than Hakeem. So yes, he is an American national but for purposes of this list he would qualify.

  • Juan Santos

    This is garbage! Drazen is the best

  • Michael Brown

    Tim Duncan was born in The West Indies. So I guess he would have to be No. 1, 2 or 1a.

  • Drazen

    Drazen is best by far!!

  • Ivan

    Drazen Petrovic is the best foreign player 2 ever play the game.If it wasnt for him half of these players wouldnt even b playing basketball.Only reason why hes not on this list is because he played 4 seasons and one might argue that was to short of a period.
    Arvidas Sabonis,same thing.He belongs in top 10 but concidering he also didnt spend much time in the league its somewhat arguable.
    The Toni Kukoc and Peja Stojakovic could be ranker a bit higher.
    4 Dino Radja its understandable he was just an honorable mention as he spent only 3 seasons in the league but he did avarage 17 points and 8 rebounds throughout his NBA career.
    Deng shouldnt have been on this list as hes 2 young and hasnt really acomplished much,instead id put Kiriljenko…

  • NBA Historian

    The omission of Sabonis decreases the credibility of the list. Deng, Gordon & Seikaly are way too high on this list, in my opinion. We’ll have to give Ginobili, Parker, Dirk, and a couple of others time to move up this list. I predict Gallinari, Bargnani will make the list at some point (barring no injuries).

  • http://www.mkvmkv.com/ mkv

    Dirk Nowitzki is the best one!

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  • Nbjhbjhb

    where is Dražen Petrovi? ?best player on world

  • BIATCH

    c’est de la merde votre classement, robinson est un ricain, manu devrait etre plus haut et wilkins aussi est un ricain…… ce classement c’est du tajine pour chien, et encore je le donnerai pas a médore, il merite mieux que ca ce con, A CHIER

  • xxx

    Drazen Petrovic(the best european player ever) and Arvydas Sabonis should have been mentioned

  • Kingeligijus

    Where’s Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis?

    • Anonymous

      Not currently in the nba.
      Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry Torch

      • Dream Fan

        Hakeem is one of the most underrated players in history.  Mad skills for any player
        but in a center–never before and not since–no one even close.  
        In every aspect of the game–scoring, blocks, steals, team defense
        (he could guard guards on the perimeter)
        a class act and
         truly one of the top 3 players in history from any nation.

  • Kukoc Not Olympic Champ

    Toni Kukoc NEVER WON 3 Olympic Gold Medals! You have to be kidding me. He won the World Championship 1 time and Euro Championship 2 times.

  • Dar……

    Not to mention Drazen Petrovic in the top twenty best European players ever is an insult. One of the best European players ever who was a great finisher and had a great knowledge of the game. Drazen was a great shooter, leader,winner and made everyone better around him.He would eat you up alive on the court just like the great Michael Jordan. Not too many players like Draz. Truly he had the passion for the game that only certain players do and he delivered night in and night out.His game lives on in many that have seen him play. Petro was the essence of a superstar from Europe in the NBA !!!!!!!

  • proud lithuanian

    sabonis should be in the top 5 for he is the main reason for the USA put the dream team together,plus he is the cause of Shaqs only rejection from agame

  • DrazenCro

    Where is Drazen Petrovic,the best of all the time? He was genius,Mozart of basketball…

  • Marco Kern

    drazen petrovic was the best european basketball player of all time and probably after bird the best white player ever

  • RR

    miss Arvydas Sabonis and Drazen Petrovic should be no.1 best international player ever !!

  • Joe

    The lack of Sabonis on this list is a tragedy. You clearly are clueless.