Best European Basketball Players in NBA History
Every basketball lover knows that the best game is played in the United States, in the best league in the world — the NBA. People watched some of the greats like Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan over the years, but those are all American players. Sure, considering where basketball was invented, this should not come as a surprise. But what about European players?
Many of them came to this magical league, but not many of them made a mark. That is just how it is. European basketball is much different than the one played in the U.S. This is why the talented European players are not among the favorites even on offers like DraftKings bet 5 get 150, for example.
But that changed recently. Some pretty awesome guys from Europe changed the game.
Let's give some of them a well-deserved tribute.
Dirk Nowitzki is a retired German professional basketball player who spent his entire 21-year career with the Dallas Mavericks. He is considered one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history and is the highest-scoring foreign-born player in league history. That alone is enough to make people's jaw drop.
But let us see what else he did as a Maverick.
Nowitzki was drafted ninth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1998 NBA draft, but was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks, where he would spend the rest of his career. He quickly established himself as a dominant force in the league, earning his first All-Star selection in 2002 and leading the Mavericks to the NBA Finals in 2006, where they lost to the Miami Heat.
However, Nowitzki and the Mavericks would not be denied for long. In 2011, they got their revenge. The glorious Dirk led the team to the NBA championship, earning Finals MVP honors in the process. Nowitzki's performance in the playoffs that year was nothing short of legendary, as he led the Mavericks to a stunning upset of the heavily favored Miami Heat, who were led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
Over the course of his career, Nowitzki was a 14-time All-Star, a four-time All-NBA First Team selection, and a one-time NBA MVP.
He retired in 2019 as the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, with 31,560 points. Nowitzki's impact on the game of basketball cannot be overstated. He helped to revolutionize the power forward position with his unique combination of size, shooting ability, and athleticism.
Even though he did not seem as athletic as some other guys, like LeBron, for example.
Pau Gasol was born on July 6, 1980, in Barcelona, Spain. He began his professional career playing for FC Barcelona in the Spanish ACB League. In 2001, he was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies as the third overall pick in the NBA draft.
He quickly became one of the best players on the team, earning the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 2002. That showed the association they did not make a mistake. In 2008, Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played alongside Kobe Bryant and helped the team win two NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. In the second NBA Finals run, he was one of the most important ones on the court.
He was a six-time NBA All-Star and was named to the All-NBA Second Team three times and the All-NBA Third Team twice. After leaving the Lakers, Gasol played for several other NBA teams, including the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, and Milwaukee Bucks.
He also played for the Spanish national basketball team, winning two Olympic silver medals and a FIBA World Cup championship.
A true legend.
Nikola Jokic is much younger than the two we mentioned previously, and he has only spent eight years in the league so far, but he definitely deserves to be on this list.
Jokic was drafted by the Denver Nuggets back in 2014 during a Taco Bell commercial. According to his family, he was sleeping when that happened. This only shows that no one had big expectations and belief in a chubby Serbian, but boy, did he prove them wrong.
His start with the Nuggets was OK, but nothing more than that. He showed his soft touch and vision. Only a few years later did he show the basketball public what kind of player he is. Nikola won two back-to-back MVP titles (2021 and 2022) and took the Nuggets to the playoffs after a long time. But he was not satisfied with that.
In the 2023 season, he was robbed of a third consecutive MVP title, and he took it personally. At least, that was what people deduced from his improved performance in the playoffs. He recorded a historic triple-double run in the playoffs, with nine of them. No one before him did that.
Also, he was crowned the Finals MVP on the night he helped the Nuggets to get their hands on the first NBA championship title.
The best thing about Nikola Jokic? He is only 28 years old.
This article is a partnership with The Game Day.