The Top 10 European Players in NBA History
Finding the next European basketball star is every NBA team’s dream.
In an attempt to find these players, NBA scouts are constantly flocking to Europe to find the next Dirk Nowitzki or Pau Gasol.
With the second pick in the 2003 NBA draft, the Pistons, for instance, passed on a proven small forward from Syracuse to draft a young Serbian by the name of Darko Milicic.
The player selected at No. 3, Carmelo Anthony, has become the franchise player of the Nuggets.
Milicic, on the other hand, is coming off the bench for the Grizzlies.
European players are definitely intriguing.
Although most lack athleticism when compared to American players, they instead bring an entirely different set of skills–accurate shooting, pinpoint passing, and team defense.
Since the 1980s, there has been a steady influx of quality European players who went on to have successful careers in the NBA.
Today, I will list the top 10 European players who have had the greatest impact on the game while playing in the NBA.
No. 10: Vlade Divac (Serbia)
Divac had played with NBA legends such as Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Divac played for the Lakers, the Hornets, and the Kings, but he's forever known as the player who was traded for Kobe Bryant in 1996.
Nevertheless, Divac made a good career for himself. He averaged 11.8 ppg and 8.2 rpg.
He was named an All-Star in 2001.
No. 9: Sarunas Marciulionis (Lithuania)
He was known as the one of the first Europeans to play significant minutes for a NBA team.
Marciulionis was drafted by the Warriors in 1987, but didn’t play in the NBA until 1989.
He averaged 12.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, and 2.2 apg.
In the 1988 Olympics, he led the Russian basketball team to the gold medal.
No. 8: Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania)
He’s known simply as Big Z.
He’s a powerhouse down in the post, but is also able to step out into the perimeter for a jumpshot.
Early in his NBA career, he had suffered foot injuries, which led him to miss 135 games over two seasons.
Despite the injuries, Big Z has averaged 14.3 ppg and 7.9 rpg.
He was named an All-Star in 2003 and 2005.
No. 7: Detlef Schrempf (Germany)
Before there was Dirk, there was Detlef.
Not sure whether it was the buzz cut or his tough demeanor, but Schrempf was one of the few European players who really stood out during the Jordan years in the NBA.
He became a significant contributor during his years with the Pacers and the Sonics. He was named an All-Star in 1993, 1995, and 1997.
He averaged 13.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, and 3.4 apg
No. 6: Peja Stojakovic (Serbia)
Stojakovic was an integral part of the Kings team when they reached the Western Conference Finals in 2002, ultimately losing to the Lakers.
He’s primarily known as a three-point specialist. In 2002 and 2003, he won the NBA Three-Point Shootout competition.
He has averaged 17.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, and 1.8 apg.
He was named an All-Star in 2002-2004.
No. 5: Drazen Petrovic (Croatia)
Petrovic was drafted by the Blazers in 1986, but didn’t play in the NBA until 1989.
After spending a couple years in Portland, he then played for the Nets where he became a rising star in the league.
During the 1992-1993 season, he averaged 22.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, and 3.5 apg.
In 1993, Petrovic’s promising career was cut short as he was suddenly killed in a tragic car accident.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
No. 4: Arvydas Sabonis (Lithuania)
Sabonis was a legend in Europe.
He has won nearly all possible European award – European Player of the Year, Mr. Europa Player of the Year, European Championship MVP, Spanish League MVP, Euroleague MVP, and Top 35 Greatest Euroleague Player.
Sabonis was drafted by the Blazers in 1986, but didn’t play in the NBA until 1995. He entered the league as a 31-year-old rookie.
If it weren’t for his age and his injuries, Sabonis had the talent to become one of the greatest centers to ever play in the NBA.
Although his numbers in the NBA weren't astounding, his success in Europe has shown us otherwise.
While in the NBA, he averaged 12 ppg and 7.3 rpg.
No. 3: Pau Gasol (Spain)
The Spaniard has become the Ying to Kobe's Yang.
Gasol is a very gifted player in that he can dominate the glass, pull back for the perimeter shot, and command a double team while in the post.
There's no other big man in the league that can accomplish all three, and is still able to run the fast breaks like a gazelle!
Since entering the league, he has always been the starter for his respective teams.
He has averaged 18.8 ppg and 8.7 rpg.
He was named an All-Star in 2006 and 2009 and Rookie of the Year in 2002.
No. 2: Dirk Nowitzki (Germany)
Dirk's build and skill sets have revolutionized the game of basketball.
At 7'0" and 245 pounds, Dirk's perimeter shooting rivals most NBA guards.
In his career, he has shot 47.2 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from three-point.
He has averaged 22.7 ppg and 8.6 rpg.
Dirk led his Mavs team to the NBA Finals in 2006, ultimately losing to the Heat in six games.
He has been named the league's MVP in 2007 and an All-Star in 2002-2009.
He's the first German-born player to be named league's MVP.
No. 1: Tony Parker (France)
He's young, he's handsome, and he's married to one of the most beautiful woman in Hollywood.
Parker is the most underrated European player in the NBA.
He was drafted by the Spurs in 2001, but didn't become the starting point guard until his second year in the league.
As the starting point guard for the Spurs, he led the team to three NBA titles in 2003, 2005, and 2007.
At 6'2" and 180 pounds, he is one of the fastest guards in the league.
He has averaged 16.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, and 5.6 apg.
He is the only player on this list to have won a NBA title.