The NBA is the most competitive landscape in the world, even during the era of weaker defenses and softer rules. That is why NBA players dominate the Basketball Olympic Games whether they play for the United States or other countries such as France or Australia. The best NBA stars dominate the NBA, but even decent NBA players have great success playing abroad.
Former 2-time NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury made it fashionable for talented players to consider playing abroad and had arguably the best moments of his career playing in China. “Starbury” was a legend and superstar in China and his brand took a massive leap when he decided to dominate the Asian league. Of course, he had one of the greatest performances ever by an NBA player internationally for the Beijing Ducks. Marbury was not the only player to have success playing internationally, and here are the 10 greatest performances by NBA players playing internationally.
10. Tracy McGrady
38 Points, 13 Rebounds, 8 Assists, 12/20 FG
Tracy McGrady was a superstar in his prime and one of the greatest scorers that we have ever seen. Having made 7 All-Star games and 7 All-NBA Team appearances, McGrady’s talent earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
The 2-time scoring champion played his last season in 2012 for the Atlanta Hawks at 32 years old, appearing in 52 games. One year later, at age 33, McGrady played in China for the Qingdao Eagles and put up a spectacularly efficient performance. The Hall of Famer dropped 38 points on 60% shooting for one last reminder of how great T-Mac was.
9. O.J. Mayo
44 Points, 11 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 8/10 3PT FG
O.J. Mayo was one of the biggest “what-if” stories over the past two decades. Mayo was drafted No. 3 overall in the 2008 NBA Draft and made the All-Rookie Team by averaging a solid 18.5 PPG. A shooter and natural scorer, Mayo was supposed to be an All-Star shooting guard in the NBA.
But an untimely suspension threw off his career, forcing him into an early NBA retirement. But Mayo had some success playing in China for the Liaoning Flying Leopards which included one of the best sharpshooting games we have seen on an international stage. Mayo dropped 44 points on 80% shooting from three, proving he was a natural scorer who should have been on an NBA stage.
8. Michael Beasley
49 Points, 14 Rebounds, 2 Steals
Another “what-if” story, Michael Beasley was drafted No. 2 overall in the 2008 NBA Draft although doubts about his attitude were in question. What wasn’t in question was Beasley’s natural scoring ability at both forward positions, and he had a great start making the All-Rookie Team averaging 13.9 PPG.
But Beasley would not have the success expected of him as he bounced around 7 different teams but played the best game of his life in 2016. Beasley scored 49 points and 14 rebounds, and that was his best game in China. Beasley would play 2 more seasons after this performance but never repeated this success.
7. Stephon Marbury
52 Points, 10 Rebounds, 7 Steals, 17/27 FG
Speaking of Marbury and his incredible success playing in China, he had one of the best games ever for an NBA player playing overseas. Marbury sliced and diced his way to an incredible 52 pint showing for the Beijing Ducks, on 63% shooting from the field.
“Starbury” always knew he was an NBA player at heart and his all-around play was solid as well. The 2-time All-Star had Hall of Fame ability as a scorer and playmaker, but he certainly did not mind showcasing his talents overseas.
6. Ty Lawson
55 Points, 10 Rebounds, 5 Steals, 18/28 FG
The 5’11” speedster was drafted No. 18 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves although he would play the first 6 seasons of his career with the Denver Nuggets. Lawson was undersized but incredibly quick, using his strong center of gravity to get wherever he wanted on the floor.
Lawson had a successful NBA career and had All-Star talent, but his best statistical performance came in 2018 for the Shandong Golden Stars. Lawson put up a monster double-double including 55 points, 10 rebounds, and an efficient 64.3% shooting percentage.
5. MarShon Brooks
60 Points, 8 Rebounds, 12 Assists, 24/37 FG
MarShon Brooks was a solid role player for the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies, and mainly played the role of a spot-up shooter with NBA career averages of 8.0 PPG on 34.5% shooting from three.
But Brooks was a superstar talent in China, putting up a near triple-double with 60 points, 8 rebounds, and 12 assists for the Guangdong Southern Tigers. The 6’5” shooting guard will probably not return to the NBA and play significant minutes again, but this performance is more than enough to keep him satisfied.
4. Shabazz Muhammad
60 Points, 15 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 20/31 FG
Shabazz Muhammad was a ball of talent when he was drafted No. 14 in the 2013 Draft by the Utah Jazz. The swingman had a poor first season, before coming to life for the Minnesota Timberwolves by averaging 13.5 PPG and 4.1 RPG in his second season. But he could not improve his career as he only lasted 6 seasons in the league.
Muhammad found great success playing in China yet again, this time for the Shanxi Loongs. The 6’6” small forward put up a career-high 60 points and 15 rebounds, on an unbelievable shooting night where he drained 64.5% of his shots.
3. J.R. Smith
60 Points, 8 Rebounds, 6 Steals, 21/32 3PT FG
J.R. Smith is one of the most polarizing figures in NBA history because he was a talented scorer who would often produce boneheaded and head-scratching plays. Smith is also a social media legend because he was capable of producing spectacular basketball plays or meme-producing blunders at any given moment.
But there is no denying Smith had a successful NBA career, winning 6th Man of the Year in 2013 with the Knicks and winning 2 NBA championships alongside LeBron James in Cleveland and Los Angeles. But Smith’s most incredible game came for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, as he scored 60 points with 8 rebounds, 6 steals, and 14 three-pointers.
2. Joe Young
74 Points, 8 Steals, 5 Rebounds, 27/50 FG
Joe Young never found much success in the NBA, drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers. The 6’2” point guard was slender and rather miniature and only averaged 3.4 PPG and 0.9 APG in the only 3 seasons of his NBA career.
But playing in China seems to give a player some added motivation, as he dropped an unbelievable 74 points on 50 shots for the Nanjing Tongxi Monkey Kings. This happened in 2020, meaning the 29-year old might still be receiving some calls from NBA teams from this special performance.
1. Jimmer Fredette
75 Points, 8 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 24/34 FG
Jimmer Fredette was supposed to translate his college success into the NBA, as he was drafted No. 10 overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Fredette never had success in the NBA, averaging his career-high 7.6 PPG in his first season before seeing his numbers dip for 4 straight years.
But Fredette is a natural scorer and a marksman with a near-perfect jump shot. For the Shanghai Sharks, the former NBA bust showcased his offensive ability by dropping 75 points on 71% shooting from the field. Jimmer might never rediscover his college form in the NBA, but at least the 32-year old put forth the greatest international performance by an NBA player ever.
Credit: NBA Debates
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