Greatest Australian Basketball Players of All Time
Basketball continues to grow as a sport in Australia and its surrounding areas, to the point that it's now one of the top 10 most popular sports in the country, overtaking bowling but still a smidge behind cricket.
The National Basketball League (NBL) that stretches across Australia and New Zealand is one of the premier foreign leagues in the world, and three No. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft have come out of Australia in the last 20 years. Australia even had a No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft in 2001.
Here's a look at the greatest basketball players of all time from Australia and New Zealand.
15. Chris Anstey, Center
Born: Jan. 1, 1975 (Melbourne, Victoria)
Height/Weight: 7-foot, 245 pounds
Teams: Melbourne Tigers (1994, 2005-10), South East Melbourne Magic (1995-97), Dallas Mavericks (1997-99), Chicago Bulls (1999-2000), Victoria Titans (2000-02), Ural Great (2002-03), UNICS Kazan (2003-05)
Career highlights: Three-time NBL champion (1996, 2006, 2008), two-time NBL MVP (2006, 2008), two-time NBL Grand Final MVP (2006, 2008), six-time All-NBL (2001, 2002, 2006-10), NBL Best Defensive Player (2008), NBL Most Improved Player (1996), NBL Best Sixth Man (2001), Australian International Player of the Year (2002), FIBA U22 World Championship MVP (1997)
Bottom line: Chris Anstey didn't begin playing basketball until he was 17 years old — he was a nationally ranked tennis player before that but grew to 7-foot making serves and volleys a little less practical.
Anstey played in the NBL for two seasons before the Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the No. 18 overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Dallas Mavericks and played three seasons in the NBA before heading back to the NBL, where he was a two-time MVP for the Melbourne Tigers in 2006 and 2008 and won three NBL championships.
14. Aron Baynes, Center/Power Forward
Born: Dec. 9, 1986 (Gisborne, New Zealand)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-10, 260 pounds
College: Washington State
Teams: Lietuvos rytas (2009-10), Oldenburg (2010-11), Ikaros (2011-12), Olimpija (2012-13), San Antonio Spurs (2013-15), Detroit Pistons (2015-17), Boston Celtics (2017-19), Phoenix Suns (2019-20), Toronto Raptors (2020-21), Brisbane Bullets (2022-present)
Career highlights: NBA champion (2014), Slovenian Cup champion (2013), LKL champion (2010), Lithuanian Cup champion (2010)
Bottom line: There are several young NBA players currently active who could take some of these lower spots or bump people off in the next few years — Dyson Daniels comes to mind — but Aron Baynes did play eight seasons in the NBA.
Baynes also picked up an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 when he won a title alongside fellow Australasian Patty Mills.
13. Sean Marks, Power Forward/Center
Born: Aug. 23, 1975 (Auckland, New Zealand)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-10, 250 pounds
Teams: Toronto Raptors (1998-2000), Slask Wroclaw (2000-01), Miami Heat (2001-03), San Antonio Spurs (2003-06), Phoenix Suns (2006-08), New Orleans Hornets (2008-10), Portland Trail Blazers (2010-11)
Career highlights: NBA champion (2005), Polish League champion (2001)
Bottom line: Sean Marks had a more-than-respectable NBA career, lasting 12 seasons with six different teams, including winning an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2005. Marks was the first player from New Zealand to play in the NBA and the first to win an NBA title. He became a U.S. citizen in 2007, retired from pro basketball in 2011 and won another NBA title as an assistant coach with the Spurs in 2014.
Marks has been the general manager for the Brooklyn Nets since 2016, which might make you wonder how bad an NBA team has to perform to actually get the general manager fired.
12. Patty Mills, Point Guard
Born: Aug. 11, 1988 (Canberra, Australia)
Height/Weight: 6-foot, 180 pounds
College: Saint Mary's
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers (2009-11), Melbourne Tigers (2011), Xinjiang Flying Tigers (2011-12), San Antonio Spurs (2012-21), Brooklyn Nets (2021-23), Atlanta Hawks (2023-present)
Career highlights: NBA champion (2014), NBA Sportsmanship Award (2022), two-time Australian International Player of the Year (2008, 2010), two-time All-WCC (2008, 2009), WCC Newcomer of the Year (2008), WCC All-Freshman Team (2008)
Bottom line: Patty Mills is one of two Australians on this list to have starred in college at Saint Mary's, and he teamed with New Zealand's Aron Baynes to win an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014.
Mills has been named Australian International Player of the Year twice and is entering his 14th NBA season in 2023-2024.
11. Andrew Gaze, Shooting Guard
Born: July 24, 1965 (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-7, 209 pounds
College: Seton Hall
Teams: Melbourne Tigers (1984-2005), Udine (1991-92), Washington Bullets (1994), Apollon Patras (1995), San Antonio Spurs (1999)
Career highlights: NBA champion (1999), two-time NBL champion (1993, 1997), seven-time NBL MVP (1991, 1992, 1994-98), 11-time NBL All-Star (1988-97, 2004), two-time NBL All-Star Game MVP (1989, 1992), 16-time All-NBL Team (1986-2001), NBL Rookie of the Year (1984), NBL 20th, 25th, 40th Anniversary Teams, six-time Australian International Player of the Year (1990, 1994-96, 1998, 2000), FIBA 50 Greatest Players (1991), All-Big East (1989)
Bottom line: It's kind of wild to think Andrew Gaze came a pair of free throws away from winning an NCAA national championship and an NBA title in an era when international players were few and far between on both levels.
Gaze was an All-Big East selection for Seton Hall's 1989 NCAA runner-up team and played for the San Antonio Spurs in 1999 when they won the NBA championship — all part of a 20-year pro career that saw him become the most honored NBL player of all time.
10. Joe Ingles, Small Forward/Shooting Guard
Born: Oct. 2, 1987 (Adelaide, Australia)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-9, 220 pounds
Teams: Australian Institute of of Sport (2005-06), South Dragons (2008-09), CB Granada (2009-10), FC Barcelona (2010-13), Maccabi Tel Aviv (2013-14), Utah Jazz (2014-22), Milwaukee Bucks (2022-23), Orlando Magic (2023-present)
Career highlights: EuroLeague champion (2014), Israeli League champion (2014), Israeli Cup champion (2014), two-time Spanish League champion (2011, 2012), two-time Spanish Supercup champion (2011, 2012), Catalan League champion (2012), NBL champion (2009), two-time NBL All-Star (2006, 2008), All-NBL Team (2009), NBL Rookie of the Year (2007), two-time Australian International Player of the Year (2009, 2012)
Bottom line: Joe Ingles has spent the last decade making his name as a gritty small forward/shooting guard in the NBA despite entering the league undrafted.
He's also put on for his native land, representing Australia in the Olympics four times in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2021.
9. Matthew Dellavedova, Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Born: Sept. 8, 1990 (Maryborough, Victoria, Australia)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds
College: Saint Mary's
Teams: Australian Institute of Sport (2007-09), Cleveland Cavaliers (2013-16, 2018-21), Milwaukee Bucks (2016-18), Melbourne United (2021-22, 2023-present), Sacramento Kings (2022-23)
Career highlights: NBA champion (2016), All-NBL Team (2022), two-time AP All-American (2012, 2013), WCC Player of the Year (2012), three-time All-WCC (2011-13)
Bottom line: The other one of two players from Australia who became an NCAA star at Saint Mary's, Matthew Dellavedova was a two-time All-American in college before playing a decade in the NBA.
Most famously, he was a key player for the Cleveland Cavaliers when they won an NBA championship with LeBron James leading the way in 2016.
8. Matisse Thybulle, Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Born: March 4, 1997 (Scottsdale, Arizona)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-5, 201 pounds
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers (2019-23), Portland Trail Blazers (2023-present)
Career highlights: Two-time NBA All-Defensive Team (2021, 2022), Naismith Defensive Player of the Year (2019), All-Pac-12 (2019), two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year (2018, 2019), two-time Pac-12 All-Defensive Team (2018, 2019)
Bottom line: It's hard not to love the way Matisse Thybulle plays basketball — he was named National Defensive Player of the Year at Washington in 2019, was two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and has been a two-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection through his first four seasons in the NBA.
Thybulle was born in Arizona but has dual American-Australian citizenship after spending the majority of his childhood living in Australia. He even played for the Australian National Team at the 2021 Olympics.
7. Steven Adams, Center
Born: July 20, 1993 (Rotura, New Zealand)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-11, 265 pounds
Teams: Wellington Saints (2011), Oklahoma City Thunder (2013-20), New Orleans Pelicans (2020-21), Memphis Grizzlies (2021-present)
Career highlights: NBA All-Rookie Team (2014), NBL champion (2011), NBL Rookie of the Year (2011), Big East All-Rookie Team (2013)
Bottom line: Steven Adams entered the NBA Draft as a lark in 2013 after his freshman season at Pittsburgh and wound up being selected in the lottery. He's spent the last decade as one of the NBA's more reliable big men and is the de facto "person you do not want to mess with" on whatever team he plays on.
Adams is the son of a Tongan mother and English father and one of 18 children. He's also not the only star athlete in his family — older sister Valerie Adams is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion shot putter.
6. Andrew Bogut, Center
Born: Nov. 28, 1984 (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
Height/Weight: 7-foot, 260 pounds
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks (2005-12), Golden State Warriors (2012-16, 2019), Dallas Mavericks (2016-17), Cleveland Cavaliers (2017), Los Angeles Lakers (2017-18), Sydney Kings (2018-20)
Career highlights: NBA champion (2015), All-NBA Team (2010), NBA All-Defensive Team (2015), NBA All-Rookie Team (2006), NBL Most Valuable Player (2019), two-time All-NBL Team (2019, 2020), NBL Best Defensive Player (2019), Australian International Player of the Year (2005), National College Player of the Year (2005), AP All-American (2005), MWC Player of the Year (2005), MWC Freshman of the Year (2004), FIBA U19 World Cup MVP (2003)
Bottom line: Born in Australia to a pair of Croatian immigrants, Andrew Bogut is the one player you can point to as having paved the way for the last 20 years of elite talent coming from Australia to the NBA.
Bogut was the National Player of the Year at Utah in 2005 and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, making the All-NBA Team in 2010 and winning an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2015. Bogut has been a steady presence for the Australian National Team since the early 2000s and played for the Boomers in three Olympics, leading them to their best finish ever of fourth place in 2016.
5. Josh Giddey, Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Born: Oct. 10, 2002 (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-8, 216 pounds
Teams: Adelaide 36ers (2020-21), Oklahoma City Thunder (2021-present)
Career highlights: NBA All-Rookie Team (2022), NBL Rookie of the Year (2021)
Bottom line: It's not too soon to include Josh Giddey among the greatest Australian basketball players of all time — you just have had to tune into an Oklahoma City Thunder game during the last two seasons.
Averaging 16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.6 assists in his second season in 2022-2023, Giddey is a remarkable talent as a 6-foot-8 combo guard paired in the backcourt with All-NBA pick Shae Gilgeous-Alexander. Don't be surprised if the Thunder become Western conference contenders in the next few years and Giddey eventually lands a max contract or something close to it.
4. Ben Simmons, Point Guard/Power Forward
Born: July 20, 1996 (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-10, 240 pounds
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers (2016-22), Brooklyn Nets (2022-present)
Career highlights: Three-time NBA All-Star (2019-21), All-NBA Team (2020), two-time NBA All-Defensive Team (2020, 2021), NBA Rookie of the Year (2018), AP All-American (2016), USBWA National Freshman of the Year (2016), All-SEC (2016), SEC Freshman of the Year (2016), Gatorade National Player of the Year (2015), Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2015), McDonald's All-American (2015), Parade High School All-American (2016)
Bottom line: Few players have seen their basketball fortunes bottom out like Ben Simmons has in the last few years. Simmons played one year of college basketball at LSU before the Philadelphia 76ers selected him No. 1 overall in 2016, although he sat out his first year with an injury. After that, Simmons' NBA career took off like a rocket — he was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2018 and made three consecutive All-Star appearances after that.
Following a 2021 playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks in which Simmons seemed to have a complete mental meltdown and essentially refused to shoot the ball, he refused to play the next season and forced a trade to the Brooklyn Nets but wouldn't play for them, either. Simmons only played 42 games for the Nets in 2022-2023 before he was ruled out for the reason of the season with "back issues" after posting career lows for minutes, points, rebounds and assists.
3. Luc Longley, Center
Born: Jan. 19, 1969 (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
Height/Weight: 7-foot-2, 265 pounds
College: New Mexico
Teams: Perth Wildcats (1986), Minnesota Timberwolves (1991-94), Chicago Bulls (1994-98), Phoenix Suns (1999-2000), New York Knicks (2000-01)
Career highlights: Three-time NBA champion (1996-98), two-time Australian State League champion (1989, 1990), Australian International Player of the Year (1989), two-time All-WAC (1990, 1991)
Bottom line: Outside of Ben Simmons, Luc Longley is perhaps the most well-known Australian basketball player ever, having won three NBA championships as a key role player on the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan from 1996 to 1998. Longley was the first player from Australia to win an NBA championship and still the only one to win three titles.
The 7-foot-2 Longley starred in college at New Mexico before the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him No. 7 overall in 1991, and he played 10 seasons in the NBA. He also represented Australia in the Olympics three times.
2. Lauren Jackson, Power Forward/Center
Born: May 11, 1981 (Albury, Australia)
Teams: Australian Institute of Sport (1997-99), Canberra Capitals (1999-2006, 2009-13, 2014-16), Seattle Storm (2001-12), Samsung Bichumi (2007), Spartak Moscow Region (2007-10), Ros Casares Valencia (2011-12), Heilongjiang Shenda (2013), Albury Wodonga Bandits (2022-present), Southside Flyers (2022-present)
Career highlights: Two-time WNBA champion (2004, 2010), three-time WNBA MVP (2003, 2007, 2010), WNBA Finals MVP (2010), WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (2007), eight-time All-WNBA Team (2003-10), five-time All-WNBA Defensive Team (2005, 2007-10), WNBA 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th Anniversary Teams, four-time WNBL MVP (1999, 2000, 2003, 2004), four-time WNBL Grand Final MVP (2002, 2003, 2006, 2010), five-time WNBL champion (1999, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2010), six-time WNBL All-Star Five (1999-2004), three-time Olympic silver medalist (2000, 2004, 2008)
Bottom line: Only one basketball player from Australia or New Zealand currently resides in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame — former WNBA superstar Lauren Jackson. Jackson was the No. 1 overall pick by the Seattle Storm in the 2001 WNBA Draft and went on to become a three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player and two-time WNBA champion, earning WNBA Finals MVP in 2010.
Jackson played 11 seasons in the WNBA, but her pro career has crisscrossed the globe. She's also been a star in Russia and her native Australia in the WNBL, where she's been named MVP four times. She was also an Olympic star, leading Australia to three consecutive silver medals in 2000, 2004 and 2008 and a bronze medal in 2012.
1. Kyrie Irving, Point Guard
Born: March 23, 1992 (Melbourne, Australia)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 195 pound
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (2011-2017), Boston Celtics (2017-2019), Brooklyn Nets (2019-23), Dallas Mavericks (2023-present)
Career highlights: NBA champion (2016), six-time NBA All-Star (2013-15, 2017-19, 2021, 2023), NBA All-Star Game MVP (2014), two-time All-NBA Team (2015, 2019), NBA Rookie of the Year (2012), NBA Three-Point Contest champion (2013)
Bottom line: Kyrie Irving is one of the most talented point guards to ever pick up a basketball. He was born to American parents in Australia while his father, Drederick, was playing pro basketball in the Southeast Australian Basketball League.
The family moved to the U.S. when Irving was just 2 years old. He was raised in New Jersey, played one year at Duke and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Irving won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and is an eight-time All-Star. He's also on his third team in four years headed into the 2023-2024 season with the Dallas Mavericks.