Every year, we see more and more international players make their ways to the NBA and international players look to be taking over the league. Just last season, we saw four non-American born players (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Pascal Siakam, and Rudy Gobert) win major awards and this year, an NBA-record 19 international players are participating in All-Star Weekend.
International players have been taking the league by storm since the NBA’s beginning with guys like Hakeem Olajuwon and Dirk Nowitzki leave their marks on the league and in today’s article, we will be ranking the best player from 50 countries.
50. Trinidad and Tobago – Ken Charles
8.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.5 APG
Ken Charles played in the NBA for five seasons. He was drafted in the 3rd round of the Draft by the Buffalo Braves, where he played from 1973-76 before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks.
There, he only played 21 games before being waived.
49. Norway – Torgeir Bryn
1.3 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 0.0 APG
Torgeir Bryn had a long and successful career as a professional basketball player. However, he only made a handful of appearances during his brief NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Born in Oslo, he succeeded as a center overseas and even made 111 appearances with his national team.
48. Tanzania – Hasheem Thabeet
2.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.1 APG
It’s crazy to think that Hasheem Thabeet was drafted 2nd overall in 2009 ahead of players like Stephen Curry, James Harden, Brandon Jennings or Jrue Holiday.
He was supposed to dominate the paint thanks to his 7’3” but clearly that wasn’t the case. He’s spent most of his career in the G-League and is unlikely to be called up again.
47. Czech Republic – Jan Vesely
3.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.6 APG
Jan Vesely didn’t find much success as an NBA player, but he surely lived up to his potential overseas, where he became a key player for Fenerbahce en route to a Euroleague title.
He had a brief stint with the Denver Nuggets after three seasons with the Washington Wizards.
46. Iran – Hamed Haddadi
2.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.3 APG
Hamed Haddadi is the first Iranian born player to make it to the NBA, and the second to play in the U.S after Behdad Sami. He played for the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns but didn’t find much success.
Now, he’s playing center for the Chinese club Nanjing Monkey King.
45. Sudan – Manute Bol
2.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.3 APG, 3.3 BPG
Manute Bol was one of the most impressive human beings to ever set foot on an NBA hardwood. He was a constant threat below the rim as his huge wingspan made it easy for him to alter shots and get a lot of blocks.
He was a 7’6”, 200 lb superhuman that could’ve had a more successful NBA career if it wasn’t due to his physical limitations. He spent 8 years in the NBA and was the father of the Denver Nuggets’ Bol Bol.
Achievements: 2-time Block Champion, 1 All-Defensive
44. Romania – Gheorghe Muresan
9.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 0.5 APG, 1.5 BPG
Gheorghe Muresan is the tallest player in NBA history, even ahead of Manute Bol. Sitting at 7’7”, he enjoyed a brief, but successful 5-year career in the NBA, winning the Most Improved Player award in 1996.
He retired in 2005 after coming back to Europe to play the final years of his career.
Achievements: Most Improved Player
43. Venezuela – Carl Herrera
5.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.6 APG
Carl Herrera gets the nod over Greivis Vasquez as the best Venezuelan player ever because of his two NBA Championships. He played a key role in the Rocket’s epic comeback in the Finals, as his contagious defense was a catalyst for the rest of his teammates.
He also played for the San Antonio Spurs before a long and successful career in Venezuela.
Achievements: 2-time NBA Champion
42. Austria – Jakob Poeltl
5.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 BPG
Jakob Poeltl had an intriguing start to his NBA career as he looked like a capable big man in the making. However, Pascal Siakam’s surge and his trade to the San Antonio Spurs took a toll on his development.
Even so, he’s got all the physical tools to stay in the league for a very long time. He’s smart, long, and disciplined.
41. Ukraine – Vitaly Potapenko
6.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 0.7 APG
Vitaly Potapenko enjoyed a decent 11-year career in the NBA. Drafted 12th overall in 1996 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, he also played for the Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings, and Seattle Supersonics.
He was a solid and physical defender but never lived up to the hype surrounding him in college.
40. Georgia – Zaza Pachulia
6.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.3 APG
Zaza Pachulia was a strong and physical big man that wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work. Perhaps, even a little too dirty at times. He set solid screens and wasn’t afraid to get in anybody’s face.
He was the starting center during the last two NBA Championships the Golden State Warriors won and is now a part of their staff.
Achievements: 2-time NBA Champion
39. Japan – Rui Hachimura
13.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.5 APG
Hachimura is having a very strong rookie year. He’s proven that he’s capable of filling up the stat sheet and contribute in both ends of the court.
His shot is still a work in progress as well as his body control, but once the game starts to slow down a little bit for him, he’ll have the chance to be one of the league’s stars.
38. Sweden – Jonas Jerebko
6.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.8 APG
Jonas Jerebko made it to the league after a long and successful career overseas. He looked like a solid contributor that could stretch the floor with his ability to knock down shots from deep and also hold his own in the paint.
He didn’t live up to the expectations but still managed to have a somewhat nice career in the NBA.
37. Poland – Marcin Gortat
9.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 BPG
For years Marcin Gortat was one of the best pick-and-roll players in the league. Both in offense and defense, Gortat found the way to make his presence feel down low.
He was a bit heavy-footed for modern basketball and lacked the range big men need to thrive in the small-ball era, but he enjoyed a nice 12-year career in the best league in the world.
36. Israel – Omri Casspi
7.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.1 APG
Omri Casspi is the first Israel born player to make it to the NBA. Drafted 23rd overall by the Sacramento Kings, he also played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies and even Golden State Warriors.
He made a living out of his ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc.
Achievements: NBA Champion
35. Mexico – Eduardo Najera
4.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.8 APG
Eduardo Najera was one of the biggest Latin points of pride in the NBA this past decade. He was the second Mexican player in NBA history and had a successful 12-year career.
Over that time, he played for the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks and Charlotte Bobcats showcasing his great defensive instincts and three-point shooting skills.
34. Senegal – Gorgui Dieng
7.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.0 BPG
Gorgui Dieng is a hustler. He’s a strong, physical post presence and a guy capable of altering a lot of shots below the rim.
He may not be much of an offensive force but makes up for it with top-notch defensive instincts and a feel for feeding his teammates. He’ll have a long career in the NBA as a backup big man.
33. Switzerland – Clint Capela
12.2 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.5 BPG
Clint Capela’s development was kind of slow until Chris Paul brought the best of his offensive repertoire. Now, he’s one of the best old-school big men in the league. He’s a great rim-runner and shot-blocker who can jump off the roof and has put a lot of work on his shot.
The Rockets simply didn’t need him anymore, but that didn’t have anything to do with him.
32. Finland – Lauri Markannen
16.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.3 APG
Lauri Markkanen hasn’t been able to live up to the expectations surrounding him after a strong rookie season. Still, he’s one of the most promising big men in the league right now and a huge offensive talent.
His defense is still a work in progress as he tends to get caught in screens and is not much of a rim protector, but his offensive skill set makes him a perfect stretch-five.
31. Puerto Rico – J.J. Barea
9.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 3.9 APG
JJ Barea doesn’t get enough recognition, but his work with the Dallas Mavericks deserves a lot of praise. He’s been one of the most reliable sources of offense off the bench for years.
He’s been a strong veteran presence and a mentor for their young players and more importantly; he’s an NBA Champion.
Achievements: NBA Champion
30. Brazil – Nene
11.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 SPG
Nene Hilario would’ve had a much better career in the NBA if it wasn’t for his constant injuries. However, he made sure to make his presence feel every time he stepped on the court.
He may not be an NBA Champion like Leandro Barbosa, but he was a great defender and a reliable scorer in the post throughout his entire career.
29. Bosnia – Jusuf Nurkic
11.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 BPG
Jusuf Nurkic is a bit of a combination between an old-school big man and a skilled, light-footed modern center. He does most of his damage from within close range and his bigger virtues are his size and physicality, but he’s a much more gifted ball-handler than people credit him for.
He’s the presence the Blazers crave so much below the rim this season.
28. New Zealand – Steven Adams
9.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 BPG
Steven Adams’ numbers have to be looked at with a grain of salt. He would’ve average way more rebounds per game without Russell Westbrook next to him, but he wouldn’t have scored nearly half of his points if it wasn’t for Russ’ skills in the pick-and-roll.
Adams is a defensive specialist many contending teams would die to have on their ranks.
27. Turkey – Hedo Turkoglu
11.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.8 APG
Most young NBA fans may not remember Hedo Turkoglu, but this guy could do it all at both ends of the floor. He could run the offense, score from all three levels, rebound at a high clip and play some solid defense.
He was a master at drawing contact and taking charges and was the kind of 3-and-D presence you always love to have on your team.
Achievements: All-Rookie, Most Improved Player
26. Montenegro – Nikola Vucevic
15.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.5 APG
Nikola Vucevic took a bit of a step back this year after posting career-high numbers during his contract year. However, he’s still one of the most impactful offensive big men in the league right now.
He’s a walking double-double and has even added the three-pointer to his offensive repertoire, but it looks like his talents could be better used elsewhere.
25. Great Britain – Luol Deng
14.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG
There was a time when Luol Deng was one of the most respected small forward in the league. He could light it up and put 25 points on one end of the floor and then play some lockdown pesky defense on the other end.
Sadly he was never a part of a Championship team and injuries took a toll on his game later on his career.
Achievements: 2-time All-Star, All-Rookie, All-Defensive
24. Australia – Andrew Bogut
9.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.5 BPG
Andrew Bogut went from being an offensive force earlier on his career to becoming a top-notch defensive stopper towards the sunset of his career.
As a former first overall pick, some people thought he underperformed due to the expectations but truth to be told, he did pretty well and may look to add another Championship to his resume before retiring from the NBA.
Achievements: NBA Champion, Block Champion, All-Defensive, All-NBA, All-Rookie
23. Latvia – Kristaps Porziņģis
17.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2.0 BPG
Kristaps Porzingis’ Draft stock rose drastically towards the Draft day after being an almost unknown prospect before. It didn’t take him long to show why, as he has the offensive skills of a guard trapped in the body of a big man.
He’s a much better defender than people think and a strong presence below the rim. Injuries and poor rebounding have held him back, though.
Achievements: All-Star, All-Rookie
22. Italy – Danilo Gallinari
16.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.1 APG
Danilo Gallinari made it to the league with a reputation of being a walking bucket and he made sure to prove so. He’s capable of knocking down shots from everywhere on the court and can even hold his own on defense vs. some of the best scorers in the league.
He’s got the size to play both forward spots, but his proneness to get hurt prevented him from being a perennial All-Star.
21. Lithuania – Arvydas Sabonis
12.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 BPG
Arvydas Sabonis played in the NBA for just 7 seasons, but even so, he quickly became one of the most entertaining players the league had seen at that time, especially because of his playmaking ability.
He was one of the first big men capable of consistently knock down shots from deep. He had a strong feel for getting his teammates involved and could make a huge impact on both ends of the floor.
Achievements: All-Rookie, Hall of Famer
20. Croatia – Drazen Petrovic
15.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.4 APG
It took Drazen Petrovic a while, but once he settled on the NBA, he proved that he was by far one of the most talented players the league had seen.
He was capable of making a huge impact on both ends of the court, especially with his incredibly efficient stroke from beyond the arc. Sadly, he passed away before entering his prime.
Achievements: All-NBA, Hall of Famer
19. The Bahamas – Mychal Thompson
13.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.3 APG,1.1 BPG
The Thompson family knows what it takes to win an NBA Championship, as long before Klay Thompson; Mychal Thompson took a couple of rings home.
He was a big contributor during the Lakers’ Showtime era, even though most people don’t usually bring up his name when talking about those golden years.
Achievements: 2-time NBA Champion, All-Rookie
18. Russia – Andrei Kirilenko
11.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.8 BPG
Andrei Kirilenko has to be one of the most underrated players in the history of the NBA. He was the only guy capable of posting a 5×5 on a nightly basis. He blocked more shots than most big men and was a steals machine as well.
Kirilenko played top-notch defense and knocked down shots from deep at a high clip while also being above the average as a playmaker. He was truly one of a kind.
Achievements: All-Star, Block Champion, 3 All-Defensive, All-Rookie
17. The Netherlands – Rik Smits
14.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.3 BPG
Rik Smits is an Indiana Pacers icon. He stood there for 12 years and even made it to one All-Star team after becoming a fan favorite thanks to his electrifying dunks.
He’s the fourth most beloved Pacers player ever behind Reggie Miller, Mel Daniels and Jermaine O’Neal, but sadly had to retire without a ring right after losing the NBA Finals vs. the Lakers.
Achievements: All-Star, All-Rookie
16. Panama – Rolando Blackman
18.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.0 APG
Rolando Blackman was one of the fiercest scorers of the league during his prime. He was a huge reason for pride for the NBA’s Latin community, which gathered around the team’s premises just to get a glimpse at him during his time at Dallas and New York.
He then pursued a career overseas before becoming an assistant coach.
Achievements: 4-time All-Star
15. Dominican Republic – Al Horford
14.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 BPG
Al Horford turned a lot of heads for his great performances with the University of Florida. And while he may have not been the dominant big man everybody expected him in the NBA, he’s still one of the smartest and most skilled big men the league has seen in a while.
He can play lockdown defense and is a great playmaker for a center as well. He’s tailor-made for modern basketball.
Achievements: 5-time All-Star, All-NBA, All-Defensive, All-Rookie
14. Slovenia – Luka Dončić
24.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.1 SPG
Luka Doncic has only been around the league for one season and a half, yet people already know he’s a once in a lifetime kind of talent. He’s dominating the best defenders in the world and almost averaging a triple-double per game throughout his sophomore season.
He’ll be leading the MVP race in no time and can turn the Dallas Mavericks into legit Championship contenders.
Achievements: Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Rookie
13. Cameroon – Joel Embiid
24.0 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.8 BPG
Even though Joel Embiid hasn’t been around the league for long, it’s pretty clear that he’s one of the most talented big men in the history of the game.
He’s a guy that could consistently be a candidate for both the MVP and DPOY award. Injuries and inconsistency have taken a toll on his public image, but there’s no denying his sky-high potential.
Achievements: 3-time All-Star, 2 All-NBA, 2 All-Defensive, All-Rookie
12. China – Yao Ming
19.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.9 BPG
Yao Ming’s impact off the court was as significant as what he achieved on it. He became the main icon for the Asian fanbase and an ambassador of the game back home.
Sadly, he couldn’t put the cherry on top of the sundae with an NBA Championship. Some may argue he should’ve been way more dominant given his physical gifts, but truth to be told; he did pretty well.
Achievements: 8-time All-Star, 5-time All-NBA, All-Rookie, Hall of Famer
11. Serbia – Peja Stojakovic
17.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.8 APG
Peja Stojakovic is one of the greatest shooters in the history of the league. He played a huge role on most of the teams he played for, except for the Dallas Mavericks; where he finally won his NBA Championship.
Peja was way more than just a shooter. He was an underrated defender, a solid and willing playmaker, and a guy with one of the quickest triggers in the league.
Achievements: NBA Champion, 3-time All-Star, All-NBA
10. Congo – Dikembe Mutumbo
9.8 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.8 BPG
You could make a strong case for Dikembe Mutombo being the greatest defender in the history of the game. He’s tied with Ben Wallace with 4 DPOY awards, which is most in the history of the game.
He led the league in blocks three times and is the second all-time in total blocks with 3,289.
Achievements: 4-time Defensive Player of the Year, 8-time All-Star, 3-time Block Champion, 2-time Rebound Champion, 3 All-NBA, 6 All-Defensive, All-Rookie, Hall of Famer
9. Argentina – Manu Ginobili
13.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.3 SPG
Manu Ginobili is one of the main examples of why Gregg Popovich is a basketball mastermind. He took a chance on a guy that nobody knew in the U.S but was supposed to be a killer in Europe, and the rest is history.
Ginobili made the Eurostep popular and molded the way lefty shooting guards should play. He was the ultimate Sixth Man, a guy that was going to put his body on the line every time out there, and someone you could always trust in the clutch.
Achievements: 4-time NBA Champion, Sixth Man of the Year, 2-time All-Star, 2 All-NBA, All-Rookie
8. France – Tony Parker
15.5 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 5.6 APG
Like Ginobili, Tony Parker also proved that European players could dominate the NBA. He never put up huge numbers or impress with athleticism, but he was always the smartest guy on the court.
He knew how to get everybody involved and also find his sweet spots, and would always get hot when his team needed him the most.
Achievements: 4-time NBA Champion, 6-time All-Star, Finals MVP, 4 All-NBA, All-Rookie
7. Spain – Pau Gasol
17.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.6 BPG
Kobe Bryant played his heart out during his last two Championships, but that team would’ve never gotten that far if it wasn’t for Pau Gasol’s contributions as well.
He’s a FIBA legend and a future Hall of Famer for sure, after almost averaging a triple-double through 18 years and winning a couple of Championships.
Achievements: 2-time NBA Champion, 6-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, 4 All-NBA, All-Rookie
6. Jamaica – Patrick Ewing
21.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.4 BPG
Patrick Ewing was the superstar the NBA and the New York Knicks needed when he came into the league. He was entertaining, electrifying, a guy that could put everybody off their feet in the blink of an eye.
Ewing could score in bunches and then swat a shot into the 15th row in the very next possession. Sadly, he couldn’t win a Championship for his beloved Knicks.
Achievements: 11-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, 3 All-Defensive, 7 All-NBA, All-Rookie, Hall of Famer
5. Canada – Steve Nash
14.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 8.5 APG
Steve Nash wasn’t fast or athletic, but he’s one of the greatest point guards ever. He completely changed the way the position was played and became a huge role model for modern playmakers.
Nash was the most efficient scorer in the league for years, as well as the mastermind behind one of the most entertaining offenses the league has ever seen.
Achievements: 2-time MVP, 8-time All-Star, 5 Assists Champion, 7 All-NBA, Hall of Famer
4. Greece – Giannis Antetokounmpo
19.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG
Giannis Antetokounmpo has worked harder than anybody to get to where he is right now and he makes sure to live by that reputation every time he’s on the court. You’ll never out-hustle him, you’ll never see him quit.
He’s getting better by the year and once he starts consistently knocking down shots he’ll be the best player in the league.
Achievements: MVP, Most Improved Player, 4-time All-Star, 2 All-Defensive, 3 All-NBA, All-Rookie
3. Germany – Dirk Nowitzki
20.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.4 APG
Nobody ever thought Dirk Nowitzki would go on to become the greatest foreign scorer in the history of the game. He scored over 31,000 points through his career and led the Dallas Mavericks to 2 trips to the NBA Finals.
Nowitzki wasn’t exactly athletic but could shake off defenders with ease with his signature fadeaway move, which all modern big men copy nowadays.
Achievements: NBA Champion, MVP, Finals MVP, 14-time All-Star, 12 All-NBA
2. Nigeria – Hakeem Olajuwon
21.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 3.1 BPG
Hakeem Olajuwon has to be considered the most talented big man ever. He could do it all at both ends of the floor and is one of the few players to win the DPOY and MVP in NBA history.
He made the most of the opportunity to dominate the league during Jordan’s first retirement and led his Rockets to a couple of Championships, and is the all-time leader in blocks with 3,830.
Achievements: 2-time NBA Champion, 2 Finals MVP, MVP, 2-time Defensive Player of the Year, 3 Block Champion, 2 Rebound Champion, 12-time All-Star, 12 All-NBA, 9 All-Defensive, All-Rookie, Hall of Famer
1. The USA – Michael Jordan
30.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG
You can’t have a list of the best players on earth without Michael Jordan’s name on it. He completely dominated the league throughout his entire career and was as impactful in the defensive end as he was on offense.
Nobody’s ever going to match his 10 scoring titles, he was a perfect 6/6 in the Finals, and he could also lock down the greatest scorers ever on the other end. He was a fierce competitor and no one will ever come close to his greatness.
Achievements: 6-time NBA Champion, 5-time MVP, 6 Finals MVPs, 3 Steal Champion, 10 Scoring Champion, Defensive Player of the Year, 14-time All-Star, 3 All-Star MVP, 9 All-Defensive, 11 All-NBA, Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie, Hall of Famer
Now, let’s clear up some things on the list.
The reason for Luka Doncic’s low ranking is because he has only played in two seasons. It is very likely that after a few more seasons, he would jump up 10, ranking wise. For most of the ranking, player achievements were the criteria used instead of player potential.
Looking at Serbia, Nikola Jokic will be the best player to have been born from there but as of right now, Peja holds this spot due to his longevity and achievements accomplished during his playing career.
Now, this ranking is just opinion-based, and we could see a lot of change from it in as little as a year. In the end, this list gives us a good understanding of just how many non-American born players have had a huge effect on the league and the international scene in the league is only going to continue to get bigger.