For decades, American players dominated the NBA. However, as the sport is evolving, things are changing, and we’re seeing foreign players take over the stage in outstanding ways. One of such was Hakeem Olajuwon, the first international most valuable player (MVP) between the 80s and 90s.
Since his exploits, foreign b-ballers have emerged, transitioning onto the NBA drafts and into the mainstream of the league. It results in an extremely competitive league that has drawn further interest from far and wide across the world. The increased exposure is good news for everyone involved with the league. Teams earn more revenue, players get paid more, and even sportsbooks make much more as fans and punters engage in the regular season and NBA Finals betting.
In 2016, 26 international players were chosen in the NBA Draft — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic were a part of that group. These two incredible athletes have proven their mettle since then, sharing the MVP titles between themselves for the past four years.
These superstars and others like them have opened the door for many other foreign talents over the years. This article will focus on the top five foreign players who have changed the narratives and continue to dictate the pace in the NBA.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece)
Ranking #1 on our list today is no other than Giannis Antetokounmpo, alias the Greek Freak. He’s recognized as the best NBA player worldwide after the 2021 playoffs. In most of the playoff games last season, Antetokounmpo dominated and decided the matches through his magical plays.
He has become a household name in the NBA. He’s got the height, skills, strength, basketball IQ, and athleticism, and interestingly, he can effectively play five positions on the left and right ends. His stats last season include 29.9 PPG, 111.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 5.8 APG, and 1.4 BPG.
In only nine years of playing professionally, Antetokounmpo almost claimed everything, including MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, championship, and lots more. While all these might seem worth bragging about, the Greek Freak seems like he’s just starting.
Nikola Jokic (Slovenia)
Back-to-back NBA’s most valuable player (MVP), Nikola Jokic, is second on our list today. The Serbian biggie began his career in 2014 when the Denver Nuggets selected him to join the team. He didn’t start then, however, but the following year.
Now, Jokic has evolved into an NBA juggernaut, bagging the All-NBA awards and the All-Star award four times. Also, he’s become one of the best centers in the history of the game. His stats last season include 27.1 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 7.9 APG, and 0.9 BPG.
Last season, the Nuggets entered the playoffs without two of their star players — Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. However, Jokic was there to lead the team, and he did so elegantly. Now that both players are back and more role players have joined, we’re anticipating the Nuggets to give us a terrific watch next season.
Luka Doncic (Slovenia)
Luka Doncic is one of the youngest and most impressive pro-NBA players. The 23-year-old has been on a global scale, setting new records by winning the All-Star team and First All-NBA. He stands 6-foot-7 and has risen through the European leagues after playing for Real Madrid.
In 2018, he joined the Atlanta Hawks with a third overall pick in that year’s Draft before he was sold to the Dallas Mavericks. Last season was blissful for Doncic as he led the Mavericks to defeat Phoenix Suns in the playoffs’ second round. Also, 2021 marked his first entry into the Western Conference Finals.
Even though Jalen Brunson was traded off during this offseason, the Mavericks still rank one of the leading Western teams. Now, JaVale McGee and Christian Wood have joined the team. We hope to see a more fulfilling next season. Doncic’s points last season were 28.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 8.7 APG, and 0.6 BPG.
4. Andrew Wiggins (Canada)
Last season was fulfilling for the 6-foot-7 forward as he bagged his First-time championship and NBA All-Star. Canadian-born Andrew Wiggins appears to be in the prime of his career at the Golden State Warriors, with an ever-evolving prowess in what he’s doing.
Many believe Wiggins is the next LeBron James; with a rare talent and a high drive — he might surpass King James. The Cleveland Cavaliers chose Wiggins in the 2014 NBA draft, having the first overall pick, only after he’d played college basketball for a year with his college team, the Kansas Jayhawks. His stats last season are 17.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 2.2 APG, and 0.7 BPG.
5. Rudy Gobert (France)
Rudy Gobert is one player to reckon with on this list today. He recently transferred to the Minnesota Timberwolves from Utah Jazz this offseason, causing his new team to pay a huge transfer fee.
In 2013, Gobert was chosen by Denver Nuggets — ranking the 27th overall player in that year’s draft — then later sold to Utah Jazz. Gobert is a 3-time winner of the Defensive Player of The Year (DPTY) award.
His stats last season include 15.6 PPG, 14.7 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 1.1 APG, and 2.1 BPG. The French b-baller stands 7-foot-1 tall, has a wingspan of 7-foot-9 and has slowly emerged as one of the best guard players in basketball.
Next season, Gobert will play alongside two other top players, Anthony Evans and Karl-Anthony Towns. Now that Gobert has joined the team, we’re expecting the Minnesota Timberwolves to make the forthcoming season worth every penny and qualify for the Western Conference Finals, at least.
International NBA players have stepped up their games to take over the league with their diverse talents, unreal hunger, and determination to succeed. The good news is their performances are also opening the door for new international players to come through and show their talents on the biggest stage in basketball.