Winning the MVP award is one of the ultimate honors any player could ever get, as it pretty much means you outplayed your entire opposition throughout the entire season but were also able to lead your team to success.
Throughout history, just a handful of players have been able to win such award, let alone win it multiple times, but there’s even a smaller and more exclusive group among them: the ones that were able to win the MVP award after being born overseas.
Making it to the league as a foreign player is no easy thing at all, so pulling off a historic campaign and actually becoming the NBA’s MVP should be twice as valuable for them. Today, we’re going to let you know about the only 4 foreign players that have won an MVP.
4. Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-94)
Hakeem Olajuwon sure came quite a long way. Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, he didn’t even play basketball until he was 17 years old. Then, he’d fall in love with this sport and travel from Nigeria to the US to play for the University of Houston and even ended up playing for Team USA in the Olympics as well.
Drafted with the 1st overall pick of the legendary 1984 NBA Draft – two spots ahead of Michael Jordan – Olajuwon led the Rockets to back-to-back Championships following Jordan’s first retirement.
During the 1993-94 campaign, he established himself as the most dominant two-way player in the league, averaging 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 3.7 blocks per game on 51% shooting. He won the MVP, Championships, and Finals MVP that year.
3. Steve Nash (2004-05, 2005-06)
Even though he’s known as a Canadian, Steve Nash was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, as the son of an English Man and a Welsh woman, so he’s as foreign as they come in the NBA.
Nash wasn’t exactly the archetype of the NBA point guard people were used to seeing, and he slipped to the 15th pick of the 1996 Draft. He wasn’t that athletic, that strong or that fast, but he sure found a way to impact and change the game.
Nash led one of the most entertaining offenses ever and won back-to-back MVPs with the Phoenix Suns after also leading the NBA in assists, with averages of 15.5 points/11.5 dimes and 18.8 points/10.5 assists per game, respectively. Also, he made it to the exclusive 50/4/90 club but wasn’t able to put the cherry on top of the sundae with a Championship.
2. Dirk Nowitzki (2006-07)
Coming out of Germany, Dirk Nowitzki was pretty much overlooked when he first made it to the league, as the Milwaukee Bucks traded his Draft rights after taking him with the 9th overall pick.
Dirk was a bit of a late bloomer, but once he settled as the Dallas Mavericks’ first scoring option, he grew up to become arguably the best foreign player to ever set foot in the NBA, even becoming the league’s all-time 6th leading scorer.
Nowitzki went on a great run during the 2006-07 campaign averaging 24.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game on 50/41/90 shooting, but it wasn’t until 2011 when he’d win his first – and only – NBA Championship.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (2018-19)
Born in Greece to Nigerian fathers, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s journey to the NBA is pretty unbelievable. He didn’t even know how he made it or watch much NBA during his time back home, according to his words, and now he’s the league’s MVP.
Giannis made it to the league as an unknown tweener prospect back in 2013, and people were mocking the Milwaukee Bucks for drafting him as high as 15th overall, but his freakish athleticism and restless work ethic have proved them right.
He’s coming off one of the best statistical seasons ever and won the MVP after leading the Bucks to a 60-win-season and the best record in the league, averaging 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists per game (all career-highs), 1.3 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game on 57% shooting, and it’s only a matter of time before he wins his first Championship.