Best European NBA Players

By Andrew D

June 06, 2022

Image Courtesy of Alamy

Great European players have become a staple of the NBA that we simply take for granted in the modern game. But it was not always so.

Europe plays second fiddle only to North America when it comes to producing game-changing basketball stars. We read with interest the findings of an in-depth analysis of all the biggest stars of the huge pool of international talent. It listed the 75 greatest international players ever and over 50% of them were Europeans.

Over the years, superstars of the NBA have helped to drive overseas interest in the game. The vast sums of money that NBA stars are paid can’t have gone unnoticed either…

Here is our own list of the best European NBA players. It is decidedly less scientific and objective. Tribalism, as always, plays its part. One way or the other, however, we’re confident that all of the players here are a cut above the rest.


Born: June 19th, 1978 (age 43) – Wurzburg, Germany

Measurements: 7’0″ (2.13m) – 245lb (111kg)

Position: Center, power forward

Shoots: Right-handed

NBA Draft: 1st round (9th pick) Milwaukee Bucks (traded to Dallas Mavericks), 1998

NBA debut: February 5th, 1999

Teams: Dallas Mavericks

Games: 1,522

Minutes: (33.8 per game)

Points: 31,560 (20.7 per game)

Rebounds: 11,489 (7.5 per game)

Assists: 3,651 (2.4 per game)

Steals: 1,210 (0.8 per game)

Blocks: 1,281 (0.8 per game)

Turnovers: 2,494 (1.6 per game)

Career length: 21 years

NBA rank: 6th in scoring, 26th in rebounds, 53rd in blocks, 90th in steals, 151st in assists

  • NBA champion (2011), NBA Finals MVP (2011)

  • NBA Most Valuable Player (2007)

  • 14 x NBA All-Star (2002-12, 14, 15, 19), 4× All-NBA First Team (2005-07, 09), 5× All-NBA Second Team (2002, 03, 08, 10, 11), 3x All-NBA Third Team (2001, 04, 12), 50–40–90 club (2007), 11× All-Europeans First Team (2003–11, 13, 14), 9× All-Europeans Power Forward of the Year (2005–11, 13, 14)

  • NBA Teammate of the Year (2017), NBA 75th Anniversary Team

  • No. 41 retired by Dallas Mavericks

Quite simply, Dirk Nowitzki is one of the finest offensive forwards in the history of professional basketball. Coming to the NBA at a time when European players did not get much of a look-in, Dirk Nowitzki did not wait long to make an impact.

One of Nowitzki’s most devastating talents was his shooting ability

He was able to sink them from almost any range and angle. He seemed to be equally comfortable shooting right off the dribble or with his feet set. Among the bigger guys (7′ +) in NBA history, this is almost unheard of.

Nowitzki led the Dallas Mavericks to 15 NBA Playoffs appearances. They finally got their first and only championship in 2011.

You only have to glance at Nowitski’s list of accolades to see how important a player he was. The fact that he dedicated his entire career to the Mavericks even being rewarded with the retirement of his number.

A true legend of the game


Born: December 6th, 1994 (age 27) – Athens, Greece

Measurements: 6’11” (2.11m) – 242lb (109kg)

Position: Power forward, small forward, shooting guard, point guard.

Shoots: Right-handed

NBA Draft: 1st round (15th pick) Milwaukee Bucks, 2013

NBA debut: October 30th, 2013

Teams: Milwaukee Bucks

Games: 656

Minutes: 21,354 (per game)

Points: 14,321 (21.8 per game)

Rebounds: 6,149 (9.4 per game)

Assists: 3,020 (4.6 per game)

Steals: 764 (1.2 per game)

Blocks: 856 (1.3 per game)

Turnovers: 1,884 (2.9 per game)

Player fouls: 1,969 (3 per game)

Career length: 8 years (ongoing)

NBA rank: 145th in blocks, 200th rebounds, 204th in scoring, 249th in assists

  • NBA Champion (2021), NBA Finals MVP (2021)

  • 2x NBA Most Valuable Player (2019, 20), 6x NBA All-Star (2017-22), 3x All-NBA First Team (2019-21), 2x All-NBA Second Team (2017, 18), 3x All-Defensive First Team (2019-21), NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2017), NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2014)

  • NBA All-Star Game MVP (2021), NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2020), NBA Most Improved Player (2017)

  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

Interested in the MVP Award? Read our article here to discover The 50 Best Players Never to Win the MVP Award

The Milwaukee Bucks got the player of a franchise’s lifetime when they snapped up Giannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” is virtually impossible to guard against. He is big, fast, and skillful. A devastating combination.

Antetokounmpo has steadily improved his performance every season that he has been in the NBA

and is widely considered to be one of the best players in the game today. He is pushing hard for that to include all of NBA history as it surely will if he continues this way.

Some critics decry his perimeter shooting and claim it is a serious weakness. That may be so but he makes up for that in so many other areas that it is almost insulting to mention it. From explosive drives at the hoop and intelligent defensive movements, Giannis is pretty close to being the complete player as far as we’re concerned here at The Jump Hub.

He led the Bucks in all five major statistical categories (total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks) during their 2016-17 campaign. Anyone who sees that list of awards and honors in a mere 8 years of an NBA career knows that we’re dealing with a special kind of player here.


Born: July 6th, 1980 (age 41) – Barcelona, Spain

Measurements: 7’0″ (2.13m) – 250lb (113kg)

Position: Center, power forward

Shoots: Right-handed

NBA Draft: 1st round (3rd pick) Atlanta Hawks (traded to Memphis Grizzlies), 2001

NBA debut: November 1st, 2001

Teams: Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks

Games: 1,226

Minutes: 41,001 (33.4 per game)

Points: 20,894 (17 per game)

Rebounds: 11,305 (9.2 per game)

Assists: 3,925 (3.2 per game)

Steals: 606 (0.5 per game)

Blocks: 1,941 (1.6 per game)

Turnovers: 2,638 (2.2 per game)

Player fouls: 2,632 (2.1 per game)

Career length: 18 years

NBA rank: 21st in blocks, 28th in rebounds, 39th in scoring, 124th in assists

  • 2 × NBA Champion (2009, 10)

  • NBA Rookie of the Year (2002)

  • 6× NBA All-Star (2006, 09-11, 15, 16), 2× All-NBA Second Team (2011, 15), 2× All-NBA Third Team (2009, 10), NBA All-Rookie First Team (2002)

  • J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award (2012)

Pau Gasol was twice an NBA champion. Some of the statistics from his time with the Los Angeles Lakers actually show him as being the most important element of those two title teams. You may argue that at your leisure. Suffice it to say that Gasol was extremely skilled for a big man, and was able to get a shot away against just about anybody.

Six-time NBA All-Star, Pau will forever be remembered for his time with the Lakers, where he played alongside Kobe Bryant (RIP).

Gasol was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the third overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft. He was immediately traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Shareef Abdur-Raheem. Not only that, but the Hawks had to also offer up Brevin Knight and Lorenzen Wright on their side of the deal. Now, nobody is saying that Abdur-Rahim was a bad player. He actually hit a career-high 50-point game for the Hawks and was selected for the NBA All-Star game for that season.

But really? Does that seem like a good bit of business in hindsight?

We think not

Gasol went on to be a stalwart of the NBA. He was the first player from outside the USA to win Rookie of the Year and racked up an impressive list of accolades and achievements over his 18-year career.

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Born: May 17th, 1982 (age 40) – Bruges, Belgium

Measurements: 6’2″ (1.88m) – 185lb (83kg)

Position: Point guard

Shoots: Right-handed

NBA Draft: 1st round (28th pick) San Antonio Spurs, 2001

NBA debut: October 30th, 2001

Teams: San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets

Games: 1,254

Minutes: 38,279 (30.5 per game)

Points: 19,473 (15.5 per game)

Rebounds: 3,396 (2.7 per game)

Assists: 7,036 (5.6 per game)

Steals: 1,053 (0.8 per game)

Blocks: 98 (0.1 per game)

Turnovers: 2,865 (2.3 per game)

Player fouls: 2,059 (1.6 per game)

Career length: 18 years

NBA rank: 19th in assists, 53rd in scoring, 150th in steals

  • 4× NBA Champion (2003, 05, 07, 14), NBA Finals MVP (2007)

  • 6× NBA All-Star (2006, 07, 09, 12-14), 3× All-NBA Second Team (2012-14), All-NBA Third Team (2009), NBA All-Rookie First Team (2002)

  • No. 9 retired by San Antonio Spurs

Tony Parker was a rapid point guard with the ability to change direction which put him among the very best in NBA history.

The guy was like a bluebottle

He lacked range shots and was off level when it came to defensive duties but boy could he make a difference going forwards! His assists alone made him worth having on the team (he remains the franchise leader to this day) and his ability to get into the paint was hard to match.

He was a point guard right out of the top drawer and rightly took the NBA Championship 4 times. Along with a whole host of other awards and honors.

Parker’s No. 9 vest was retired by the Spurs when he decided to stop playing in 2019.


Born: February 19th, 1995 (age 27) – Sombor, Serbia

Measurements: 6’11” (2.11m) – 284lb (128kg)

Position: Center

Shoots: Right-handed

NBA Draft: 2nd round (41st pick) Denver Nuggets, 2014

NBA debut: October 28th, 2015

Teams: Denver Nuggets

Games: 527

Minutes: 16,018 (30.4 per game)

Points: 10,364 (19.7 per game)

Rebounds: 5,456 (10.4 per game)

Assists: 3,281 (6.2 per game)

Steals: 627 (1.2 per game)

Blocks: 376 (0.7 per game)

Turnovers: 1,462 (2.8 per game)

Player fouls: 1,467 (2.8 per game)

Career length: 6 years (ongoing)

NBA rank: 232nd in assists

  • NBA Most Valuable Player (2002)

  • 4× NBA All-Star (2019-22), 2× All-NBA First Team (2019, 21), All-NBA Second Team (2020), NBA All-Rookie First Team (2016)

  • 2× Serbian Player of the Year (2018, 21)

Nikola Jokić is only the 5th international player in NBA history to be named MVP. He is the first center to do so since David Robinson in 1994/95.

Jokić possesses superior passing and scoring skills

He lacks pure athleticism and explosive speed. Instead, he thinks fast, passes better than just about anybody, and is unselfish and a great facilitator on the court.

He seems to be improving his game year on year and this must be of concern to those opponents who are charged with stopping him. He played an important role in securing back-to-back NBA Playoff appearances for the Denver Nuggets and looks likely to be an elite player for many years to come.


Born: January 29th, 1985 (age 37) – Barcelona, Spain

Measurements: 6’11” (2.11m) – 255lb (115kg)

Position: Center

Shoots: Right-handed

NBA Draft: 2nd round (48th pick) Los Angeles Lakers (traded to the Memphis Grizzlies), 2007

NBA debut: October 29th, 2008

Teams: Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers

Games: 891

Minutes: 28,719 (32.2 per game)

Points: 12,514 (14 per game)

Rebounds: 6,604 (7.4 per game)

Assists: 2,996 (3.4 per game)

Steals: 792 (0.9 per game)

Blocks: 1,254 (1.4 per game)

Turnovers: 1,799 (2 per game)

Player fouls: 2,551 (2.9 per game)

Career length: 13 years (ongoing)

NBA rank: 57th in blocks, 140th in rebounds, 222nd in assists, 237th in scoring

  • NBA Champion (2019)

  • 3× NBA All-Star (2012,15,17), All-NBA First Team (2015), All-NBA Second Team (2013), NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2013), NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2009)

  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2013)

Marc Gasol is the younger brother of Pau Gasol (who also makes this list – have you not been paying attention?). They are the only siblings in NBA history to both win NBA Championships.

In a slightly bizarre twist, the deal that sent him to the Grizzlies after being drafted by the Lakers, sent his older brother Pau in the opposite direction!

He remained with the franchise until heading to Toronto in 2019. Although his stats were dropping by then, he still played a crucial part in securing the NBA Championship win for the Raptors.

He contributes consistently in terms of playmaking and creating space on the court

He is second only to his older brother here (how much has that haunted him through life?) in terms of average blocks made per game. His size has created problems for many opponents over the years and helped make him Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.

Marc Gasol eventually rejoined the Lakers (for whom he had never played) in 2020 for just one season before returning to Spain to play for Bàsquet Girona, a team that he founded himself.

Click here to read Paolo Banchero's NBA diary as the Magic rookie talks about getting set for his NBA debut.


Born: February 28th, 1999 (age 23) – Ljubljana, Slovenia

Measurements: 6’7″ (2.01m) – 230lb (104kg)

Position: Point guard, shooting guard

Shoots: Right-handed

NBA Draft: 1st round (3rd pick), Atlanta Hawks (traded to Dallas Mavericks), 2018

NBA debut: October 17th, 2018

Teams: Dallas Mavericks

Games: 264

Minutes: 8,928 (33.8 per game)

Points: 6,962 (26.4 per game)

Rebounds: 2,256 (8.5 per game)

Assists: 2,102 (8 per game)

Steals: 278 (1.1 per game)

Blocks: 111 (0.4 per game)

Turnovers: 1,080 (4.1 per game)

Player fouls: 587 (2.2 per game)

Career length: 3 years (ongoing)

Awards and honors:

  • 3× NBA All-Star (2020-22), 2x NBA First Team (2020, 21), NBA All-Rookie First Team (2019)

  • NBA Rookie of the Year (2019)

As much as Atlanta Hawks fans love Trae Young, it must gall them a little bit (I say must. I’ll rephrase that – it does, I can vouch for that) to have let one of the best European NBA players of recent times slip away. There is every chance that Luka Dončić will actually go on to be an all-time great. He’s certainly headed in the right direction.

Luka is clearly a special talent thanks to his incredible combination of scoring prowess and dynamite playmaking. He is also top-notch at taking rebounds although he is up against some very fierce competition on this particular list. `Dončić is yet to win an NBA Playoffs series but already has the best scoring average in NBA postseason history…

Luka may be young, but he has already dominated the European scene

He looks set to do the same in the USA. Youth is on his side and there is every chance he will reach legendary status in the NBA as his career progresses.

We wait and watch with bated breath (and bitterness in our Hawkish hearts)


Born: June 26th, 1992 (age 29) – Saint-Quentin, France

Measurements: 7’1″ (2.16m) – 258lb (117kg)

Position: Center

Shoots: Right-handed

NBA Draft: 1st round (27th pick) Denver Nuggets (traded to Utah Jazz), 2013

NBA debut: October 30th, 2013

Teams: Utah Jazz

Games: 611

Minutes: 18,301 (30 per game)

Points: 7,592 (12.4 per game)

Rebounds: 7,119 (11.7 per game)

Assists: 807 (1.3 per game)

Steals: 412 (0.7 per game)

Blocks: 1,357 (2.2 per game)

Turnovers: 1,008 (1.6 per game)

Player fouls: 1,579 (2.6 per game)

Career length: 8 years (ongoing)

NBA rank: 50th in blocks, 126th in rebounds

  • 3× NBA All-Star (2020-22), All-NBA Second Team, 3x All-NBA Third Team, 3x NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2018, 19, 21) 5x NBA All-Defensive First Team (2017-21)

  • NBA rebounds leader (2022), NBA Blocks leader (2017)

  • French Player of the Year (2019)

Rudy Gobert is not just one of the most impactful European NBA players ever but one of the most devastating defensive players of recent history in the NBA. Period.

Rudy Gobert has been the most dominant shot-blocker in the NBA for several years

He consistently averaging more than 2 per game. Twice winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award he is a superstar when it comes to the defensive end.

Critics and fans have bemoaned his lack of a real offensive game. Although he can still cause problems offensively when necessary.


Born: June 9th, 1977 (age 44) – Slavonska Pozega, Croatia

Measurements: 6’10” (2.08m) – 229lb (103kg)

Position: Small forward

Shoots: Right-handed

NBA Draft: 1st round (14th pick) Sacramento Kings, 1996

NBA debut: February 5th, 1999

Teams: Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks

Games: 804

Minutes: 26,966 (33.5 per game)

Points: 13,647 (17 per game)

Rebounds: 3,782 (4.7 per game)

Assists: 1,408 (1.8 per game)

Steals: 747 (0.9 per game)

Blocks: 106 (0.1 per game)

Turnovers: 1,090 (1.4 per game)

Player fouls: 1,398 (1.7 per game)

Career length: 13 years

NBA rank: 191st in scoring

  • NBA Champion (2011)

  • 3× NBA All-Star (2002-04), All-NBA Second Team (2004)

  • No. 16 retired by Sacramento Kings

Predrag “Peja” Stojakovic was among the best shooters in the NBA during his 13-year career.

Stojakovic was big for a center and an unerringly accurate shooter

He led the league in free-throw shooting accuracy twice and his 3-pointer success rate was 40 percent across his whole career.

Peja Stojakovic’s first 2 seasons with the Sacramento Kings were as a reserve. In his first season as a starter (2001), he showed what he had to offer and averaged 20.4 points and 5.8 rebounds.


  • Detlef Schrempf (Germany)

  • Drazen Petrovic (Croatia)

  • Vlade Divac (Serbia)

  • Toni Kukoc (Croatia)

  • Nikola Vucevic (Montenegro)

  • Joakim Noah (France)

  • Andrei Kirilenko (Russia)

  • Rik Smits (Netherlands)

  • Goran Dragic (Slovenia)

  • Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania)


Yes, we know we’ve missed your favorite ever player. We’ve included somebody you think is rubbish and despise. Tough. This is our list. We fought amongst ourselves enough already.

Let’s just agree that European NBA players have enhanced our enjoyment of basketball and brought us moments of great joy over the years.

They have helped teams to NBA titles, made league history, and generally given international players a good name in the USA.

Much obliged chaps.

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