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Top 10 International Players To Have played In The NBA

International players are making a significant impact now in the NBA, and we bring you the best of the best to do it ever since NBA opened up to foreign-born players
Hakeem Olajuwon & Giannis Antetokounmpo

Hakeem Olajuwon & Giannis Antetokounmpo

Throughout it's history, more than 4,500 players have played in the NBA, of which approximately 500 were born outside the United States. Each of these international players tried to leave their mark and be remembered for their performances and achievements, but only a few actually managed it. In recent years we are seeing a surge of international players who are there to make a difference and are often leading their respective teams to success. Today, we look at the best of the best, the top 10 international players who made a significant imprint in the league (some of them are still making it).

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Yao Ming, Marc Gasol, Detlef Schrempf, Drazen Petrovic


ACCOLADES: Three All-NBA Team selections, eight All-Stars, four Defensive Player of the Year awards, six All-Defensive Team selections

We are starting this list with an elite defender, Dikembe Mutombo. Mutombo entered the NBA relatively late, at the age of 25, but he very quickly became a defensive force on the floor. His ability to alter shots made him one of the most feared defenders a player in that era could face. An elite shot-blocker, he ranks 2nd in NBA history, ahead of the likes of Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Mutombo was famous for his finger-wagging, which he performed after blocking a shot. Dikembe Mutombo was a four-time Defensive Player of the Year, two-time rebounding champion, and block champion in three straight campaigns.


ACCOLADES: Three All-NBA 1st Team selections, three All-Stars, one Eurobasket gold medal, one Euroleague title, one Euroleague MVP award, and one Euroleague Final Four MVP award.

A special talent, Luka Doncic, has already won everything at the international level, and he continues to build his NBA legacy, breaking many records along the way. It is still early, but Doncic has the potential to find himself in the GOAT conversation one day, thanks to his mix of scoring, offensive craftiness, playmaking, and rebounding from the guard position. The future of the league is bright because of young and exciting players like Doncic.


ACCOLADES: Two MVP awards, three All-NBA 1st Team selections, four All-Stars, one Olympic silver medal

Another name that will rise more and more on this list in the coming years if it continues at this pace is of Nikola Jokic. The big man from Serbia was drafted during the Taco Bell commercial and continues to impress with a unique set of offensive skills that has rarely been seen in the NBA. Jokic is on pace to win his 3rd MVP in a row, putting him in the elite company of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird as the only players to ever win 3 MVP titles in a row. Jokic is truly one of the best passers today, not only for the big man but in general, and should have a long and fruitful career, given that his game is not based on athleticism but on high basketball IQ and a great set of skills.


ACCOLADES: Four NBA titles, two All-NBA 3rd Team selections, two All-Stars, one-time Sixth Man of the Year, one Olympic gold medal, one World Cup silver medal, four FIBA Americas medals, one Olympic tournament MVP, one FIBA Americas MVP, one Euroleague title, one Euroleague Finals MVP

Manu Ginobili is one of only two players to win NBA, Olympic, and Euroleague titles, the other one being Bill Bradley. Ginobili thrived in a role coming off the bench and giving the team a much-needed spark; that's why he is often considered one of the best 6th men in NBA History. Ginobili has for years been one of the key players in the Spurs machine, alongside Parker and Duncan. The Argentinian has also popularized the Euro-step, his signature move that we are often seeing in the modern NBA. Ginobili is arguably the biggest draft steal in NBA history, as he was selected with the 57th pick by the Spurs in 1999.


ACCOLADES: Four NBA titles, one Finals MVP, three All-NBA 2nd Team selections, six All-Stars, four Eurobasket medals, one Eurobasket MVP

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Tony Parker is maybe one of the most overlooked stars of the recent NBA era. Ultra fast and crafty point guard who had a great touch in the painted area but could also dictate the flow of the offense. Parker was a staple for the Spurs in their domination times, and he peaked in the 2007 NBA Finals when he won Finals MVP by averaging a series-high 24.5 points and shooting 57% from behind the Arc. Like Manu, he is also considered a big draft steal, having been picked 28th in the 2001 Draft.


ACCOLADES: Two NBA titles, four All-NBA selections, six All-Stars, three Olympic medals, one World Cup gold medal, seven Eurobasket medals, one World Cup MVP award, two Eurobasket MVP awards

Along with his impressive NBA career, Pau Gasol has had outstanding performances and results with the national team. Gasol has won 11 medals and multiple MVPs in FIBA tournaments with Spain and two NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers alongside Kobe (2009 and 2010). Pau's offensive versatility and defensive motor were a big reason for Lakers' success, and some analytics even claim that Gasol was the most important Laker on those two championship teams.


ACCOLADES: Two MVP awards, seven All-NBA selections, eight All-Stars, one FIBA Americas silver medal

Steve Nash, South Africa-born Canadian, is considered to be one of the greatest true point guards of all time. A spectacular passer, Nash led the league in assists 5 times and is currently sitting at the number 5 spot of all-time assist leaders. Steve Nash won back-to-back MVPs in 2005 and 2006, transformed the franchise, and was part of one of the most successful eras in Suns' history. Nash also recorded four seasons in the 50-40-90 club, a field goal, three-pointers, and free throw percentage, respectively; no one else has more than two. He is also second among the all-time leaders in terms of Free Throw percentage at 90.43%, just behind Steph Curry.


ACCOLADES: One NBA title, one Finals MVP, two MVPs, four All-NBA 1st Team selections, six All-Stars, one Defensive Player of the Year award, four All-Defensive 1st Team selections

Giannis came a long way from selling various products on the streets of Athens as an immigrant from Nigeria. At the age of 28, Giannis is currently 3rd on our TOP-10 list but has a legitimate potential to overtake Hakeem as our number one. Giannis' elite athleticism and frame make him an unstoppable force on both sides of the court. The Greek Freak led Milwaukee to their first title in 50 years and was named NBA Finals MVP along the way. His constant production and the impact he has on the Bucks might propel him even higher on this list over the course of years.


ACCOLADES: One NBA title, one Finals MVP, one MVP, 12 All-NBA selections, 14 All-Stars, one World Cup bronze medal, one EuroBasket silver medal

One of the greatest offensive forwards to ever play in the league, Dirk was a phenomenal shooter for someone his size and is often considered the best European player of all time. Dirk is best known for his unstoppable, high-arching fadeaway, which was unstoppable for opposing players. Nowitzki won his only MVP in 2007, averaging over 24 points along with 8.9 rebounds, and in the process, put up his only 50-40-90 season. But his greatest achievement is winning the NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Dirk and Mavs went on one of the greatest postseason runs ever, sweeping Kobe Bryant's Lakers, knocking out young Durant, Westbrook and Harden in 5 games, and to top it all off – defeating LeBron, Wade, and Bosh in a terrific 6-game series.


ACCOLADES: Two NBA titles, two Finals MVPs, one MVP, six All-NBA 1st Team selections, 12 All-Stars, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, five All-Defensive 1st Team selections, one Olympic gold medal

There is no debate about who takes the top spot in our rankings. Nicknamed "The Dream, "Hakeem had a rare combination of size, skill, and agility, making him one of the best (if not the best) post-players in NBA History. These skills and his impeccable footwork helped him perfect the iconic Dream Shake, wherein he used to fake one way, then spin the other and score before the defender could properly contest. Hakeem was almost unstoppable at offense; however, he is widely recognized for his elite defensive abilities. He earned himself two Defensive Player of the Year awards and is at the top of the NBA All-time blocks list – with 3,830 blocks.ž

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