The greatest European players in NBA history are often overlooked. This is because they rely on skill and fundamentals rather than posterizing dunks and flashy crossovers which fans love. That’s why prominent names such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James are the wallpaper of most basketball fans.
While the NBA is dominated by American athletes, it goes without saying that European players definitely belong in the league. Some Europeans definitely left an impact in their respective franchises, while others become NBA legends themselves.
Best European NBA players
Now, it’s time to recognize those players who made an everlasting impact on an American sport. Here are the 7 greatest European players in NBA history.
Toni Kukoc was the definition of versatility. For a 6 ft 11 player out from Croatia, he can shoot, pass, and defend which teams nowadays absolutely love.
Now, we all remembered him as the sixth man who played with the Bulls’ big three—Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman. While being away from the spotlight, he definitely was a big part of the Bulls’ three-peat championship in the 90s.
Arvydas Sabonis was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers out of Lithuania in 1986. But due to political turmoil in Europe back then, he played his first NBA game a decade later when he was 30 years old already.
During his stint in the league, he showcased his skills in front of the American audience. He was the first “Point Center” due to his amazing passing and shooting for a big man. Just imagine if he played in the league during his prime.
Deemed as the “Mozart of Basketball”, Drazen Petrovic was a maestro on the hardwood. His game mostly shined on the New Jersey Nets wherein he averaged over 20 points per game and continues to improve year after year.
While in America, he displayed his unreal passing and shooting skills. He was all doing this while being efficient on the floor. However, after just playing 5 seasons in the league, Petrovic was killed in a car accident in Germany. He was considered as one of the biggest “what if” players in NBA history.
Who could’ve thought that a skinny kid from Greece would become a top 5 player in the league today?
Named as the “Greek Freak”, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a freakish athlete who can run the floor and posterize anyone at his will. He has already won 2 MVP awards with the Milwaukee Bucks and is definitely hungry for more. Remember, he is still just 26 years old and continues to exponentially improve year after year.
Point guards nowadays are all about scoring, crossing defenders, and posterizing tall defenders. But with Tony Parker, it’s all about winning. It’s all about helping the team win.
Drafted from Spain, Pau Gasol was one of the most talented big men during his prime. He was the first European player to win the Rookie of the Year award during the 2001-2002 season with the Memphis Grizzlies.
However, we all know that he shined the best in the Los Angeles Lakers wherein he won two championships with Kobe Bryant. During his stint there, he averaged a near double-double with over 17 points and 9 rebounds per game.
Dirk Nowitzki was the best shooting big man to ever play the game. Period.
Hailed as one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history, the German was definitely a rare specimen. At 7 feet, he was playing like a shooting guard in a center’s body. Nobody could simply stop him with his trademark fadeaway and three-point shooting. He won the 2006-2007 MVP award and a championship in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks.