The NBA has obviously been dominated mostly by American players, as their college system and the huge population favors them, as well as the obvious fact that the NBA is an American League and even if it’s a worldwide product, it’s mostly US oriented.
Nevertheless, over the course of history, we’ve seen some outstanding talents that came from abroad to make a name for themselves on US Soil, dominating both European and NBA basketball to work as NBA ambassadors in their native countries.
Given how competitive Eurobasket is, most of those talents from overseas come from Europe, and the number of European youngsters that come into the NBA to impress everybody, like Kristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokounmpo, keeps rising on a yearly basis. So today, we’ll take a look at the top 10 best European players of all-time.
Honorable Mentions: Toni Kukoc, Sarunas Marciulionis, Andrei Kirilenko
10. Hedo Turkoglu
The prolific Turkish player came into the league in 2000 as the 16th overall pick by the Sacramento Kings after a very successful three-year tenure with Efes Pilsen S.K, instantly making an impact off the bench and even being a constant frontrunner for the 6th Man of the Year award.
Hedo was never able to become an NBA Champion, but he was a very productive player overall through his 15-year NBA stint, averaging 11.1 points, 4.0 boards and 2.8 assists per game on over 45% from the floor and over 36% from beyond the arc.
9. Marc Gasol
Just like his older brother did, Marc walked the first steps of his very successful career at Barcelona, finally making it to the NBA in 2008 after being drafted in the 2nd round of the draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, just to deal him to the Grizzlies in order to sign Pau.
After a couple of tough years showing to be quite a rough prospect, Marc took the leap to the league’s elite, even winning the 2012-2013 Defensive Player of the Year and being the ultimate leader of the Memphis Grizzlies as an 8-year veteran.
8. Detlef Schrempf
Before Dirk Nowitzki, Detlef was the ultimate German NBA player, being one of the most consistent and reliable players off the bench for the Mavericks, Pacers, Sonics and Blazers through a 16-year NBA career, being drafted 8th overall by the Mavs in 1985.
The Grand Teuton won two 6th Man of the Year awards, and even made it to 3 All-Star games, averaging 13.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 dimes per game as a very productive forward, shooting almost 50% from the court and almost 40% from downtown.
7. Arvydas Sabonis
Domantas Sabonis' father was one of the most dominant centers in Europe before becoming an all-time Portland Trail Blazers great, spending some time playing for Zalgiris Kaunas, Forum Valladolid and Real Madrid before being drafted 24th overall in 1986 by the Blazers.
Through his NBA career, the Lithuanian center did just enough to become a Hall of Famer, leaving career averages of 12 points, 7.3 rebounds 2.1 assists and 1.1 blocks per contest, as well as becoming one of the first centers to be a consistent three-point shooter.
6. Vlade Divac
Divac impressed pretty much everybody when he took the reins of Yugoslavia’s major squad after failing to succeed as a soccer goalkeeper, playing for his hometown team Sloga Kraljevo and KK Partizan, being drafted 26th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, where he was set to replace the recently retired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
And over the course of his successful NBA career, Divac was a very productive Center, averaging 11.1 points, 8.2 boards and 3.1 dimes per contest and even making 1 All-Star appearance. On top of that, the Lakers owe him the glory of having Kobe Bryant on their squad, as the historic shooting guard was traded for Divac to the Hornets in 1996.
He was the member of Sacramento Kings when they played the epic series against Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
5. Drazen Petrovic
We all know Drazen Petrovic's tragic history, passing away in a car accident at the tender age of 29 after being one of the greatest players in Yugoslavia and Croatia history, drafted in the 3rd round of the 1986 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Through just 4 seasons in the NBA, Drazen made a name for himself as a lethal shooting guard with an outstanding ability to put points on the scoreboard, leaving career averages of 15.4 points, 2.3 boards and 2.4 assists per game on over 50% from the field.
4. Peja Stojakovic
Stojakovic was yet another player out of Yugoslavia that took the league for assault, being drafted 14th overall in 1996 by the Sacramento Kings as a lethal sharpshooter out of PAOK Salonica.
Over his 14-year NBA career with the Kings, Pacers, Hornets, Raptors and Mavericks, Stojakovic averaged 17 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 helpers per game, averaging over 45% from the floor and over 40% from beyond the arc, one of the highest career percentages in the history of the league, as well as being the youngest player to reach 1500 three-pointers in league history.
3. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol has to be considered the best basketball player in Spanish history, and arguably one of the greatest athletes in European sports overall, coming to the NBA to shine with the Memphis Grizzlies before winning a couple of championships alongside Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
The 15-year veteran has had an impeccable career, with averages of 17.4 points, 9.4 boards and 3.2 assists per game to go along with 1.7 blocks per game on 51% from the floor and over 36% from three, making it to 6 All-Star games and winning the Rookie of the Year award.
2. Tony Parker
The silver medal of our ranking goes to Monsieur Tony Parker, one of the main reasons why the San Antonio Spurs have been so consistent and successful over the past decade and a half, being drafted 28th overall by Gregg Popovich in 2001.
In these successful 16 years, Parker has averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 assists in one of the most prolific offenses in the history of the game on his way to 4 NBA Championships, 6 All-Star games, and 1 Finals MVP.
1. Dirk Nowitzki
And of course, the golden spot has to go to the greatest player in Dallas Mavericks history, the one and only Dirk Nowitzki, 9th pick of the 1998 NBA draft, and a guy that completely changed the way to play the power forward position.
Scoring over 30,000 career points as a versatile scorer, the blonde bomber led the Mavericks to a championship, as well as winning 1 MVP and 1 Finals MVP, making it to 13 All-Star games in 18 seasons and averaging 21.7 points and 7.8 rebounds through his entire career.