The NBA is the greatest basketball league in the world. The Association boasts the top talent, best salaries and biggest franchises. But over the years, more and more foreign players began putting their names in for the draft, and are joining the best American players. In fact, this season the NBA has a record 113 international athletes playing in the league, and I’m willing to bet some of you thought at least one of two of these players were American.
Steve Nash – Canada
The Canadian is probably one of the best foreign players, and overall players, to never win a ring. Nash made a name for himself during his 19-year career, including two MVP titles. He was drafted 15th overall by the Suns in 1996 but was traded two seasons later to the Mavericks. He played in Dallas for six seasons before returning to Phoenix. Eventually he retired at the end of the 2013-14 season, after playing for the Lakers for two seasons.
Yao Ming – China
The Chinese big man was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016. Ming was number one overall draft pick in 2002, going to the Houston Rockets. During his career he was an 8-time NBA All-Star and was named twice to the All-NBA Second Team. Ming averaged 19 points per game and 9.2 rebounds. But like several others on this list, Ming also retired from the NBA without a ring.
Pau Gasol – Spain
The former Lakers star, who is now playing in San Antonio alongside other foreigners on this list, is a six-time NBA All-Star and Rookie of the Year from 2002. The power forward/center won three Eurobasket gold medals as part of the Spanish national team, one World Cup gold medal, and two Olympic silver medals. Throughout his career he’s averaged 18 points per game and 9.5 rebounds, and is currently sitting out due to injury.
Detlef Schrempf – Germany
The German-born player won Sixth Man of the Year twice, in 1991, ‘91, and was selected to the All-Star team three times, in 1993, ‘95 and ’97. He finished off his career with the Portland Trailblazers at the end of the 2000-01 season, averaging 13.9 points per game for his career. Unfortunately, even though he was an NBA great, he never won a ring. In 2011, Schrempf made a guest appearance on several episodes of NBC’s Parks and Recreation.
Luol Deng – South Sudan
The 31 year-old from South Sudan is currently playing in his 14th season in the NBA as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Deng played for the Chicago Bulls for 10 seasons, during which he made the All Rookie Team in 2005. He was selected to the All Star Team in 2012 and 2013. In 2007 Deng also won the NBA’s sportsmanship award, by player vote, for exemplifying ethical behavior and integrity on the court.
Dražen Petrović – Croatia
The Croatian star was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. He was selected by the Portland Trailblazers in the 1984 draft and was later traded to the New Jersey Nets. But his career ended quickly, after only four seasons in the NBA, Petrović died in a car accident in Germany in 1993, he was 28 years old. His early death left a huge “what if?” mark on his short career.
Serge Ibaka – Congo
Ibaka was born in the Congo in 1989, and holds dual Spanish nationality. The big man, who made a name for himself as a ruthless blocker on the Oklahoma City Thunder, made All-Defensive First Team three times, in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and led the league in blocks in ‘12 and ‘13. The 27-year-old won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympic games as a member of the Spanish national team, and gold at the 2011 FIBA European Championship.
Arvydas Sabonis – Lithuania
The Lithuanian legend spent seven seasons with the Portland Trailblazers and was named NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1996. He was originally drafted by the Blazers in 1986, but did not join the team until 1995. He is considered by some of the best European basketball players of all time, and was awarded the Mr. Europa – the European Player of the Year award until 2010 – twice. He won a gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games as part of the USSR’s national team.
Vlade Divac – Serbia
The Serbian star played spent 16 seasons in the NBA, including eight seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and six seasons with the Sacramento Kings. He was named an All-Star in 2001, and made the All-Rookie Team during the 1989-90 season. Divac’s playing career may be over, but he’s stuck around the NBA. The 48-year-old was hired by the Kings to be the Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager in March, 2015.
Hedo Turkoglu – Turkey
Hedo Turkoglu retired from the NBA in 2015 after 15 seasons, averaging 11.1 points per game. Turkoglu was drafted by the Sacramento Kings, but spent most of his career – eight seasons – with the Orlando Magic, with stints playing in Toronto and Phoenix during the span of 10 seasons. The 6’10” Turkish-born player was voted the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2007-08, and won two silver medals as part of Turkey’s national team.
Marc Gasol – Spain
The Spanish star, and brother of Pau Gasol (also on this list), was selected to the All-Star Team three times, during his including this season (2017) and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. During his rookie season, Gasol scored at least 10 points in 10 straight games that November, and finished the season with 11.9 points per game, 7.4 rebounds and shooting 53% from field goal range,.
Peja Stojakovic – Serbia
The Serbian Stojakovic is known as one of the best players in Sacramento King’s history and currently serves as the team’s Vice President of player personnel & development/General Manager for the D-League. During his playing days, Stojakovic was a three-time NBA All-Star and won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. He averaged 17 points per game for his career and the Kings retired his #16 jersey in 2014.
Dikembe Mutombo – Congo
No, no, no. Dikembe Mutombo was not born in the United States. Dikembe Mutombo – whose full name is too long for this list – was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He’s an 8-time NBA All-Star, but sadly, never won a ring. He is best known for his blocking and signature finger wag (hence the no, no, no) as well as his deep voice. In recent years he even made fun of himself on GEICO commercials doing his signature move.
Rolando Blackman – Panama
Blackman spent 11 seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and his final two with the NY Knicks. He finished his career with 18 PPG and 84% shooting from the free throw line. The Panama-born star was selected to the All-Star Team four times, he was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015 (Blackman played for Kansas State from 1977-1981)and his number 22 jersey was retired by the Mavericks in March of 2011.
Rik Smits – Netherlands
The Dutch player was named All-Rookie First Team in 1989 and an All-Star nearly ten years later in 1998. He spent his entire career with a single franchise – the Indiana Pacers – averaging 14.8 points per game and 6.1 rebounds. Smits was nicknamed the Flying Dutchman after the legendary ghost ship that couldn’t dock at any port. Outside of basketball, Smits is known for his obsession with motorcycles and continues to collect them.
Al Horford – Dominican Republic
The Dominican player is currently in his 10th season in the NBA, playing for the Boston Celtics after 9 seasons with Atlanta. So far this season, his first with Boston after playing nine seasons in Atlanta, he’s averaging 15.2 points per game and 5.2 assists. The Hawks selected Hereford third overall in the 2007 draft, and over the years he was chosen to the All Star Team four times: 2010, 2011, 2015 and 2016.
Andrei Kirilenko – Russia
Kirilenko spent most of his 13 seasons in the NBA playing for the Utah Jazz, where he was selected to the All-Star team in 2004 and All Rookie First Team in 2002. The Russian-born player retired from the NBA after the ‘14-’15 season as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. Over his career he tallied 87 double-doubles, three triple-doubles, and only received a single technical foul over those 13 seasons.
Manu Ginobili – Argentina
The longtime San Antonio Spurs star has four NBA championships and is a two-time All Star. The Argentine is currently in the midst of his 15th season with the franchise, and he’s averaged 13.8 points per game over the years. He’s won several gold medals as part of the Argentinian National team, including a gold medal at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens and two gold medals at the FIBA America championships in 2001 and 2011.
Tony Parker – Belgium
The San Antonio star was born in Belgium and raised in France. He played two seasons in French leagues before he was drafted by the Spurs in 2001. Since then, he’s recorded four NBA championships, six All-Star appearances and was named NBA Finals MVP in 2007. Over the years, he’s tallied 98 double-doubles and is averaging 16.4 PPG. Parker won a gold medal, silver and two bronze medals as part of the French National Team.
Žydrūnas Ilgauskas – Lithuania
Ilgauskas was born in Lithuania in 1975 and was drafted 20th overall in 1996 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was injured his first year. In 1998 he was named to the All-Rookie Team and was part of the All-Star Team twice, in ‘03 and ‘05. He spent 12 of his 13 year career with the Cavaliers, before heading to Miami where he finished his career after a single season. The big man has 194 career double-doubles.
Andrew Bogut – Australia
The Australian is currently playing in his 12th NBA season. He won a NBA champion in 2015 with the Golden State Warriors, was named to the All-Rookie First Team in 2006 and was the NBA blocks leader in the 2010-11 season. Bogut led the University of Utah to the Sweet 16 in 2004-05 and was named National Player of the Year. The University retire this jersey in 2006.
Andrew Wiggins – Canada
The Canadian star and number one overall draft pick of 2014 has not disappointed. Wiggins is averaging 19.6 points per game over the last two and a half seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves and 4.1 rebounds. The Small Forward was named to the All-Rookie First Team in 2015, and was the overall Rookie of the Year. Since that rookie season Wiggins’ numbers have only gone up, so far this season he’s averaging 22.1 PPG.
Boris Diaw – France
The French forward was voted the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2006, and won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. He’s currently playing for the Utah Jazz, averaging only 4.9 points per game (down from his career high of 15.1 during the ’08-’09 season). Diaw won a gold medal in the 2013 EuroBasket as part of the French National Team, a silver medal in 2011, and three bronze medals, including the 2014 World Cup.
Anderson Varejão – Brazil
The Brazilian center is in his 14th NBA season. He played 12 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in the middle of the 2015-16 season, the year Cleveland won a championship. The Blazers then waived him and Varejão signed with the Warriors. That year, there was a lot of speculation about whether or not Varejão would, or should, accept a ring from the Cavaliers if offered one for being a member of the team during the championship season (he played 31 games that season).
Matthew Dellavedova – Australia
Unlike Varejão, Dellavedova did win an NBA Championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. But after three seasons with the Cavs, the Australian player was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in the summer. Dellavedova comes from a family of athletes, including two sisters who also came to the US to play college ball. During his college years, Dellavedova was named West Coast Conference 2012 Player of the Year, and Saint Mary’s College retired his jersey in 2014.
Ricky Rubio – Spain
The Spanish star was a sensation when he made his debut on the Timberwolves in 2012. That year he was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team. Rubio has a long list of titles from European leagues and Olympic and EuroBasket games. He was named Mister Europa Player of the Year in 2008, is two-time Eurobasket gold medalist, a silver medalist from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and bronze medalist in the latest games in Rio de Janeiro.
Luis Scola – Argentina
The Argentine player is currently in his 10th NBA season, playing for the Brooklyn Nets. During his first season in 2008, Scola was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team. throughout his NBA career, Scola tallied 129 double-doubles, including 32 during the ’09-’10 season with the Houston Rockets (where he spent his first five seasons). Internationally, Scola was a member of the 2004, olympic gold-winning, Argentine National Team,and has two FIBA America championships.
Tristan Thompson – Canada
The 25 year-old Canadian star made a splash on the Cavaliers from the beginning. He won his first championship with the team in 2016, and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 2012. In his five and a half years in NBA, Thompson has 126 career double-doubles, and we’re only half way through this season. Bonus fact for the Hollywood gossipers: Thompson is currently dating Khloe Kardashian, who was previously married to Lamar Odom.
Nenê – Brazil
Basketball’s Nenê, not to be confused with the footballer, was drafted 7th overall by the Knicks, who then gave the rights to Nenê to the Nuggets. That year he was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team in 2003. Nenê spent most of his career with the Nuggets before being traded to the Washington Wizards back in 2011-12. Over the summer Nenê signed a 1-year, $2.9 million a deal with the Houston Rockets.
Carlos Delfino – Argentina
The Argentine-Italian player spent eight seasons in the NBA hoping between teams. He posted his best season in 2010-11, averaging 11.5 points per game and 4.1 rebounds. Delfino won the Gold Medal at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and Bronze in Beijing in 2008 while representing Argentina alongside Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola (both are also featured on this list).
Kristaps Porzingis – Latvia
Porzingis shocked NBA fans, and specifically Knicks fans, when he was drafted fourth overall in 2015. with both his draft pick and his talent. Knicks fans booed the young Latvian and he even made kids cry. But he surprised everyone, the 21 year-old was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team last year, 2016, and is one of the most spoken about players in the league. Those kids are no longer crying, hopefully.
Dirk Nowitzki – Germany
German-born Nowitzki is probably best known for his fadeaway…and for beating LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the NBA Finals in 2011. But Nowitzki is an MVP and Champion. In 2011, Nowitzki was awarded Finals MVP and in 2007 the German was named MVP. He’s been All-NBA 1st Team four times, and at 38 years old, he’s still going strong averaging 12.8 points per game and 5.9 rebounds.
Hakeem Olajuwon – Nigeria
Hakeem Olajuwon is probably known as one of the best foreign NBA players ever, if not the best. During his 18 year career, the Nigerian-born legend won two championships in 1994 and 1995, he was finals MVP both those years and MVP in ‘94, he was named to the All-NBA First Team six times and is a 12-time All-Star. Olajuwon, who played 17 seasons with Houston Rockets, averaged 21.8 PPG and 11.1 rebounds for his career.
Toni Kukoc – Yugoslavia
Toni Kukoc, who in 2015 was named Special Adviser to the Chicago Bulls’ President and COO of the team, is Croatian, and was born in Yugoslavia in 1968. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, seven of them with the Bulls. He was part of three championship teams, and in 1995-96 was named Sixth Man of the Year. Kukoc averaged 11.6 points per game and 3.7 assists for his career.