Thanks in large part to the 1992 Dream Team, the NBA has become global.
Many foreign-born players have enjoyed long and brilliant careers in the best basketball league on the planet. Here are the best international players in NBA history.
Truly a Dream, Hakeem Olajuwon was the best big man of his generation. He led the Rockets to back-to-back championships in 1994 and ’95 and was named league MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP in 1994.
Dirk Nowitzki paved the way for big men – like Kevin Durant – to shoot from behind the three-point line. Dirk’s silky stroke has made him one of only six players in history to score at least 30,000 career points. The 2007 NBA MVP is the best player in Dallas Mavericks history and led the Mavs to their only title in 2011.
Born in Belgium and raised in France, Tony Parker is a six-time All-Star who directed the San Antonio Spurs to four NBA titles. The mercurial guard is a deadly shooter and is the Spurs all-time assists leader. The 2007 Finals MVP is now is his 18th NBA season.
A six-time All-Star who won two championships playing alongside Kobe Bryant in seven seasons with the Lakers, Pau Gasol was named Rookie of the Year in 2002. An all-around player with superb shooting range, Gasol is just the fourth player in NBA history to amass 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 3,500 assists, and 1,500 blocks in a career.
Unquestionably the best Chinese player of all time, Yao Ming enjoyed a short but brilliant career. The 7’6” center played just eight seasons but made the All-Star team in every one. Ming, who was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, posted career averages of 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and nearly two blocked shots per game.
A two-time All-Star and 2008 Sixth Man of the Year, Manu Ginobili was a key component – alongside Tony Parker – of four Spurs championship teams. A deft passer and rugged defender, the 6’6” Argentinian is one of two players to have won a EuroLeague title, an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal.
One of the best defenders of his era, Dikembe Mutombo was named Defensive Player of the Year four times and led the league in blocked shots in three separate seasons. An eight-time All-Star, the 7’2”Congolese led the NBA in rebounding in two of his 18 NBA seasons.
A key role-player on Michael Jordan’s second three-peat Chicago Bulls squad, Toni Kukoc didn’t arrive in the NBA until he was 25. One of the first established European stars to make the leap to the NBA, Kukoc had a deft shooting touch for a big man. The 1996 Sixth Man of the Year played for four different teams in 13 NBA seasons.
Detlef Schrempf could do it all. The 1992 German Player of the Year was perfectly engineered: Schrempf could score, pass, rebound and defend. In 1995, he shot better than 50 percent from behind the arc while playing in all 82 games for the Seattle Supersonics. Schrempf played 16 NBA seasons and was Sixth Man of the Year in both 1991 and 1992.
Rik Smits is the greatest player ever to come out of the Netherlands. The Dunking Dutchman led the Indiana Pacers to the playoffs in ten of his 11 NBA seasons. The second overall pick of the 1988 NBA draft, Smits was named to the All-Rookie team. The 7’4” pivotman made the 1998 All-Star squad and helped the Pacers reach the NBA Finals in 2000.