Best European Basketball Players Of All-Time

0
221
Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, & Gregg Popovich
[Image via Joe Mitchell - Reuters]

When you look at the National Basketball Association today, you’ll see it taken over by impressive European players. Some Americans go on to even play in leagues all around the world, especially those in Europe. It used to be that the NBA might get some of the best European basketball players in the world well past their primes.

Today, however, we see them land there by 18 or 19 years-old most of the time. While some of the greatest European stars are clear to debate, many people discount the great European careers many men have in favor of NBA success. However, this is not fair to do at all. That is what led the #ManVs crew to debate the true best in history.

Should we judge it by NBA success or both European AND NBA success? Should we also add Americans who did well overseas? Do we need to judge off league success? Clearly, we had a lot to consider. In fact, many might not know some of the players we will bring up.

In spite of this, we also like to be as educational as possible too. If we can tell you about amazing players, it’ll only inform you of their greatness.

At the same time, you’ll also see a lot of players you know quite well. Our list is going to be filled with a lot of people but it is not a ranked format. Meaning, you could stack these men anywhere you feel like. With that said, let’s get started!

 

Boris Diaw

Boris Diaw
[Image via Equipes de France de Basket – Twitter]
  • NBA Champion (2014)
  • 2x French League Champion (2001, 2003)
  • 2x French Cup Champion (2002, 2003)

Boris Diaw is a French player who is considered by many to be one of the best European basketball players in history. Some discount this and say that he is not worthy of such an honor. Yet those same people will ignore his European success and only focus on his NBA career. In France, he was a notable player in the French League and one of their top young stars.

His impressive play caught the attention of NBA scouts, which is why he left France so young. In the NBA, Diaw had a hit and miss career to start out.

He was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks and did not do as well as hoped. Then Boris landed with the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns who liked to play “small ball.” Diaw was a true Small Forward but ended up playing the Power Forward and Center spots often in the Suns’ line-up. This allowed him to have great success and even gave him confidence when he left the Suns.

He’d later win an NBA Championship with the San Antonio Spurs. Looking back on his long NBA career, he was incredibly solid and one of the best role-players in the league during his 17-year career.

 

Kristaps Porzingis

Kristaps Porzingis
[Chris Szagola – Associated Press]
  • 2x ACB All-Young Players Team (2014, 2015)
  • EuroCup Rising Star (2015)
  • NBA All-Star (2018)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (2016)

Kristaps Porzingis had an awkward introduction to the NBA. He was shockingly taken by Phil Jackson, then-GM for the New York Knicks at 4th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. While Jackson turned out to be right about how good the Latvian sensation would become, he was booed by the New York crowd. The Knicks did pass on a lot of players considered superior.

Kristaps was also not known well for his time in the European scene as he left well before he became an MVP in the EuroLeague at all. Without a major resume, it was though to know how he might fare at the next level. However, “The Unicorn” silenced the critics when he showed up and balled out his rookie year in the NBA. He was nearly on track to becoming Rookie of the Year if not for that darn Karl-Anthony Towns.

Today, we acknowledge Porzingis as one of the best European basketball players ever. He is a 7-footer who can sink shots from anywhere on the court. Not to mention, he can play incredible defense. Big guys that can shoot are no longer considered “new” to the NBA. Yet Europeans that can shoot AND defend?!? That is unique.

While he played well for New York, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 2019. He was already out with an ACL injury but came back in the 2019-2020 season looking great. He and a fellow European we will discuss later could make some noise in the NBA for years to come.

 

Jonas Valančiūnas

Jonas Valančiūnas
[Image via ESPN]
  • 2x EuroBasket Silver Medalist (2013, 2015)
  • LKL Champion (2010)
  • LKL Cup Winner (2010)
  • 4× Lithuanian Player of the Year (2011, 2012, 2014, 2017)
  • 2× FIBA Young Player of the Year (2011, 2012)
  • LKL MVP (2012)
  • LKL Player of the Year (2012)
  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2013)

Jonas Valančiūnas has been in the NBA for around a decade yet his time in Europe seems to have largely been forgotten by many people. Jonas happens to be Lithuanian, so he began his basketball career quite young and bounced around professional leagues in the nation.

He happened to be gifted a huge opportunity, as Lithuania took it to Team USA in the Olympics as their toughest competition. Thus making many realize whatever is happening there seems to be working. The training system there was and still is impressive, allowing Jonas to learn the game at a young age and slowly progress in the system. Finally, he ended up in the LKL by 2010.

He became a top player in the league and helped his team win big. This caught the attention of NBA scouts who liked the bigger body Jonas came with, matched with his impressive shooting. That resulted in the Toronto Raptors taking him 65th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. He did not immediately make his way into the starting line-up for the team but by 2012 he had shown enough to land more playing time.

While he would be traded to Memphis in 2019, Jonas has been killing it ever since. All of this has made him, to us, one of the best European basketball players of all-time.

 

Miloš Teodosić

Miloš Teodosić
[Image via Sergio Perez – Reuters]
  • 2x Serbian Cup Winner (2005, 2007)
  • 2x Greek Cup Winner (2010, 2011)
  • 6x VTB United League Champion (2012-2017)
  • 2x Russian PBL Champion (2012, 2013)
  • EuroLeague Champion (2016)
  • FIBA Europe Player of the Year (2010)
  • Serbian Player of the Year (2016)
  • Euroscar Player of the Year (2016)

Miloš Teodosić is known by many to be one of the best European basketball players in history simply due to his European track record alone. Look at all of those accomplishments! Most were surprised that Miloš never jumped to the NBA for years.

We’d later find out that several NBA teams had an interest. He mostly played for two professional teams: Olympiacos & CSKA Moscow. While Russia is “technically” not considered European due to the nation dominating a good portion of Asia, European Leagues consider them to be part of Europe. Many Russian players play in Europe as well and it’s close proximity.

Teodosić dominated with CSKA as well as Olympiacos yet played elsewhere during the down periods. Not only that, but he also played for the Serbian National Team where he led the Serbs to a Silver Medal in both the FIBA World Cup of Basketball & The 2016 Olympic Games. Due to how well he played in Europe, the Los Angeles Clippers offered Teodosić a nice contract to play for them.

He finally took them up on it due to their major need for a point guard. He had an “okay” NBA career for about 2 years but decided to go back to Europe by 2019. Teodosić signed a three-year deal with Virtus Bologna of the Italian League but due to COVID-19, did not finish his first season. His career is not nearly over yet he has already accomplished so much!

 

Anthony Parker

Anthony Parker
[Image via EuroLeague Basketball]
  • 5x Israeli Super League Champion (2001, 2002, 2004–2006)
  • 5x Israeli Cup Winner (2001, 2002, 2004–2006)
  • 2x EuroLeague Champion (2004, 2005)
  • FIBA SuproLeague Champion (2001)
  • 3× Israeli Super League Quintet (2002, 2004, 2005)
  • 2× EuroLeague MVP (2005, 2006)
  • Israeli Super League MVP (2004)
  • MVC Player of the Year (1996)
  • EuroLeague All-Decade Team (2000-2010)

A small change of pace here when it comes to Anthony Parker. He is technically not European by birth, nor Middle-Eastern. He might mostly be known as the older brother of WNBA and formerly University of Tennessee star, Candace Parker.

Anthony was a college basketball star himself for Bradley University. He was so impressive that he won the Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year Award in 1996. That allowed him to be seen as NBA scouts as potentially a star in the league. He was drafted by the Nets 21st overall but traded to the 76ers. Injuries plagued his early career, resulting in an eventual trade to the Magic.

Parker found himself out of the NBA altogether by 2000. That was when he decided to play professionally overseas for a then lesser-known Israeli club known as Maccabi Tel Aviv. Parker quickly made an impact, resulting in Anthony playing there from 2000 to 2006 with a stint at Lottomatica Roma smashed in-between.

Due to how well he played, the NBA came calling. The Toronto Raptors signed him in 2006 and he’d become a valuable role-player for them from 2006 to 2009. While he’d finish his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers in a less than thrilling way, Parker still goes down as one of the best European basketball players ever. In spite of not “technically” being European himself.

 

Mirsad Türkcan

Mirsad Türkcan
[Image via Vid Ponikvar -SportIda]
  • 8× Turkish League Champion (1994, 1996, 1997, 2006–2008, 2010, 2011)
  • 6× Turkish Cup Winner (1994, 1996–1998, 2010, 2011)
  • 5× Turkish Super Cup Winner (1993, 1996, 1998, 2006, 2007)
  • FIBA Korać Cup Champion (1996)
  • Russian Championship Winner (2004)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (2001)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2002)

Mirsad Türkcan is considered by many to be one of the best Turkish players ever. Moreover, he’s likely the best Turkish League player due to all of his accomplishments. He has also never been someone to avoid when it comes to his work in the EuroLeague.

While Mirsad has been on a few second teams and a first team in the EuroLeague, he also held their regular-season MVP award in 2002. By 2017, his impressive time was noticed and the EuroLeague officially named him “a legend.” Yet before he ever reached legendary status, Mirsad did have a short run in the NBA for the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks.

His time there was pretty bad. Although there was interest in bringing him back to the league after he impressive again overseas, Mirsad never went back and chose to remain dominant. While he competed with several teams, including CSKA Moscow, the bulk of his career was spent with Fenerbahçe in Turkey.

Upon Türkcan’s retirement in 2012, the team retired his number (#6) to honor him.

 

Rudy Fernández

Rudy Fernández
[Image via EuroLeague Basketball]
  • 6x Spanish Supercup Winner (2012-2014, 2018-2020)
  • 5x Spanish League Champion (2008, 2014-2017)
  • 5x Spanish King’s Cup Winner (2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019)
  • 2x EuroLeague Champion (2015, 2018)
  • EuroCup Champion (2008)
  • FIBA EuroChallenge Champion (2006)
  • FIBA Intercontinental Cup Champion (2015)
  • All-ULEB Cup Player of the Year (2008)
  • All-ULEB Cup Guard of the Year (2008)
  • FIBA Young Player of the Year (2006)
  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2009)

Rudy Fernández is considered one of the best Spanish League players of all-time. Yet to us, he’s one of the best European basketball players ever. He is most known for his clear domination in the Spanish League where he became a stand-out for the Real Madrid basketball team.

He was a 4x All-Spanish League Team selection, was the league’s top scorer in 2008, and even won the Spanish League Most Spectacular Player award in 2013. Rudy has also been a member of Spain’s National Team for well over a decade. He led them to the Gold Medal at the 2006 & 2019 FIBA World Cup of Basketball. However, he also led the team to 2 Silver Medals & 1 Bronze Medal at the Summer Olympics (2008 & 2012-Silver, 2016-Bronze).

Rudy was drafted in the 2007 NBA Draft where he was taken 24th Overall by the Phoenix Suns but later traded to the Portland Trailblazers. He managed to have a good rookie campaign.

Fernández was mostly a bench player, yet played well when called upon. He’d leave Portland after three years to play for Denver, yet went back to Real Madrid after the 2011-2012 season. Rudy only continued his European dominance right where he left off. He’s still killing it in the sport and that might not change for a while.

 

Sergio Rodriguez

Sergio Rodriguez
[Image via EuroLeague Basketball]
  • 4× Spanish Cup Champion (2012, 2014–2016)
  • 3x Spanish Supercup Champion (2012-2014)
  • 3× Russian League Champion (2017-2019)
  • 3× Spanish League Champion (2013, 2015, 2016)
  • 2× VTB United League Champion (2018, 2019)
  • 2× EuroLeague Champion (2015, 2019)
  • Gloria Cup Winner (2019)
  • Italian Super Cup Winner (2020)
  • Torneo Córdoba Winner (2013)
  • Trofeo Carlo Lavari Champion (2020)
  • Copa EuroAmericana Champion (2014)
  • FIBA Intercontinental Cup Champion (2015)

The last two men know Sergio Rodriquez pretty well, as they played together for several years. It is clear that Sergio has had major success, likely due to being part of impressive teams. However, it is not like he was taking a backseat on any of the teams he has been on in Europe.

Rodriguez was able to stand out in Europe by 2005 and 2006. This is when he was taken 27th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2006 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Trail Blazers later that day. He had an okay NBA career but it was over by 2010.

Real Madrid came calling, where he reinvented himself and showed how impressive he truly could be. In 2014 & 2015 he was the EuroLeague Point Guard of the Year & 2014 EuroLeague MVP, EuroLeague Guard of the Year, Spanish League Domestic Player of the Year, & Most Spectacular Player.

The Philadelphia 76ers came for him in 2016 where he played one year before going back overseas, this time to play for CSKA Moscow. Rodriguez had reasonable success here, helping his team win. He would then sign with Pallacanestro Olimpia Milano where he made an immediate impact, helping them win the SuperCup. He’s not done and will likely continue to impress.

 

Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert - Block
[Image via the NBA]
  • French Player of the Year (2019)
  • NBA Blocks Leader (2017)
  • NBA All-Star (2020)
  • 4x NBA All-Defensive First Team (2017-2020)
  • All-NBA Second Team (2017)
  • 2x All-NBA Third Team (2019, 2020)
  • 2x NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2018, 2019)

While Rudy Gobert did not spend significant time overseas in France as a young player, he did play for Cholet Basket in France for around 3 years. It was here that NBA Scouts got ahold of some tape on how good Gobert was. The potential was there, but they had no idea if this 7-footer could realize that potential at the next level.

The Denver Nuggets drafted him 27th Overall in the 2013 NBA Draft but later traded him to the Utah Jazz. Unconvinced in his skills, they sent him to the G-League to develop a bit more. He would be brought in and out of the G-League to play for the Jazz in the 2013-2014 season. Yet in January of 2015, he was able to get 7 blocks in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This was when the Jazz felt he could be more than a random bench player and he managed to play big minutes for the team (when healthy) ever since. In that time, he has mostly been a defensive specialist. This has led to 2 Defensive Player of the Year wins, leading the league in blocks, and becoming an NBA All-Star. Gobert is certainly not done and will only add to his resume.

 

Vlade Divac

Vlade Divac
[Image via The Athletic]
  • 2x FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (1990, 2002)
  • Yugoslav League Champion (1987)
  • Yugoslav Cup Champion (1989)
  • FIBA Korać Cup Champion (1989)
  • Mister Europa Player of the Year (1989)
  • Named One Of FIBA’s Greatest Players (1991)
  • NBA All-Rookie First-Team (1990)
  • NBA All-Star (2001)

Most people know who Vlade Divac is by now, which is likely due to his impressive play in the NBA. The Serbian basketball star is actually one of the first players from Europe to be successful in the NBA. Before he ever arrived in the NBA, he was noted as one of the best European basketball players ever.

He became a star for KK Partizan in the Yugoslav League where he became league champion in 1987 & Cup champion in 1989. Of course, Vlade also helped his team win the FIBA Korać Cup in 1989 as well. All of this great success allowed him to become the Mister Europa Player of the Year that very same year. This caught the attention of NBA scouts.

He came out for the 1989 NBA Draft and was taken 26th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. At the time, it was widely assumed he’d be a great addition for the team that just lost Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Divac had an “okay” first few years but managed to truly stand out by 1994. He was a sure 15 points and 10 rebounds per game player.

Vlade would eventually play for the Hornets before joining the Sacramento Kings. With the Kings, he became a big rival to his former Lakers team. Divac would retire in 2005 and eventually had his number retired by the Kings. Vlade is one of a handful of European players to be honored with this.

 

Nikola Mirotić

Nikola Mirotić
[Image via EuroLeague Basketball]
  • 2x Spanish Cup Winner (2012, 2014)
  • 2x Spanish SuperCup Winner (2012, 2013)
  • Spanish Cup MVP (2014)
  • 2x Spanish League MVP (2013, 2014)
  • 3x All-ACB Team (2013, 2014, 2020)
  • 2x Spanish League Domestic Player of the Year (2014, 2020)
  • 2x EuroLeague Rising Star (2011, 2012)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (2015)
  • Olympic Bronze Medalist (2016)

Nikola Mirotić has been a relatively good player in the NBA but had a huge European career before he went there. Most of his impressive play happened in the Spanish League for Real Madrid. He was killing it in Spain for a solid 5 years or so, but right in the middle of this, he was randomly drafted by the NBA’s Houston Rockets in 2011.

His draft rights were traded around that night, landing with the Timberwolves and finally with the Chicago Bulls.

He was the EuroLeague Rising Star that year and would become one of the best players in the league in the next few years. The NBA clearly knew of Nikola, the hard part was getting him out of his huge deal with Real Madrid. Chicago needed a guy like Mirotić badly, so they bought him out of his contract with Real, and signed him to a three-year, $16.6 million contract.

Nikola certainly earned that deal. He put up around 11 points per game the first three years then 16 points per game in his fourth year. He played in New Orleans and Milwaukee the following years where he played well. However, after the 2018-2019 season, he went back to Europe and signed with FC Barcelona. The impact was felt quickly!

Mirotić became the MVP of the league yet again and is still playing incredibly well.

 

Dario Šarić

Dario Šarić
[Image via David Dow/NBAE – Getty Images]
  • 2x Croatian Cup Champion (2010, 2013)
  • Croatian League Champion (2013)
  • Turkish Cup Champion (2015)
  • 2x FIBA European Young Player of the Year (2013, 2014)
  • Adriatic League MVP (2014)
  • FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship MVP (2012)
  • FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship MVP (2010)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (2017)

Dario Šarić is an impressive Croatian basketball player that has already made a nice impact in the NBA, with a lot more years left to come should he remain healthy. Yet he stands out as one of the best European basketball players ever, and he’s been notable in Europe since he was 16 years old.

Many felt that he was so good at such a young age, that he could be a great NBA player. Šarić won titles wherever he went and seemed to be allergic to bad play. He was already unique, as he could shoot from anywhere on the court.

While this is not exactly rare, it is certainly rare to see a big man who can shoot as well as he can. He managed to become the Adriatic League Top Scorer in 2014 because no one could stop him. Daric was eventually drafted to the NBA in 2014 by the Orlando Magic (later traded to the 76ers). Yet he had already signed on to play for the Anadolu Efes.

He’d remain with the Efes over the next few years. Finally, he was able to join the NBA in 2016. He had a great start to his career in Philly but then randomly ended up in Minnesota and now Phoenix. Still, Šarić can score at a high level, so his time in the NBA is far from done.

 

Hedo Turkoglu

Hedo Turkoglu
[Image via Gary Bassing – Getty Images]
  • 2x Turkish Cup Champion (1997, 1998)
  • 2x Turkish Presidential Cup Champion (1998, 2000)
  • Turkish League Champion (1997)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (2001)
  • FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (2010)
  • NBA Most Improved Player (2008)
  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2001)

Hedo Turkoglu is one of the best European basketball players ever. Perhaps he stands out to people for his ability to be a fluid forward player who can rebound and shoot impressively. Maybe he stands out due to being capable of starting or coming off the bench and still showing productivity.

He began his major professional career in Turkey, his home nation. Hedo was quite successful there, helping his team win big the few years he played for them. By 2000, he had built his reputation up enough to be a possible pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. He’d go 16th overall to the Sacramento Kings where he played his first few years

While Turkoglu played for a small bit with the Spurs, he truly stood out for the Orlando Magic. This was where he became a major scorer. Up until 2010, he was quite a role-player in the league. Although he bounced around the league until 2015, he managed to always be a top threat to score. Hedo does not get enough credit for how impressive he happens to be.

 

Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko
[Image via Joe Camporeale – USA TODAY Sports]
  • 2× VTB United League Champion (2012, 2015)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2007)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (2011)
  • Summer Olympics Bronze Medalist (2012)
  • 4× Russian Player of the Year (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008)
  • 2× FIBA Europe Men’s Player of the Year (2007, 2012)
  • Russian League MVP (2000)
  • Euroscar Player of the Year (2012)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2012)
  • VTB United League MVP (2012)
  • NBA All-Star (2004)
  • NBA All-Defensive First Team (2006)
  • 2× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2004, 2005)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (2002)
  • NBA Blocks Leader (2005)
  • VTB United League Hall of Fame (2019)

Andrei Kirilenko was considered a defensive nightmare from the start. The potential for a Russian Super Defender was real but NBA scouts did not know if he could play well offensively at the NBA level. That resulted in Kirilenko falling to the 24th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft to the Jazz.

He quickly made an impact on the court, wearing the number 47 and being nicknamed “AK-47” due to it. The one thing that always seemed to hold Andrei back was his consistent injury history. Sadly, he never once played an entire NBA season. In spite of his injuries, he showed out heavily in Utah.

In the 2005 NBA season, he even led the league with 3.3 BPG. He followed it up with 3.1 BPG the next season. Yet AK also averaged around 12 to 15 PPG in Utah. During the NBA Lockout in 2012, he went back to play with his former Russian club, CSKA Moscow, and helped them win another league title. He’d go back after being done with his NBA period to yet again assist them in winning a league title.

Truly, we really undervalued Andrei Kirilenko. He might have been a massive asset in today’s NBA.

 

Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol - Raptors
[Image via USA Today]
  • Spanish League Champion (2004)
  • NBA Championship (2019)
  • 2x FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (2006, 2009)
  • 2x Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (2008, 2012)
  • Spanish League MVP (2008)
  • Euroscar Player of the Year (2014)
  • 3x NBA All-Star (2012, 2015, 2017)
  • All-NBA First Team (2015)
  • All-NBA Second Team (2013)
  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2013)

Marc Gasol does not get enough credit for being as good as he truly is. He was very impressive when playing in Spain for FC Barcelona. Not only did he help his team win the league but he was also named League MVP later on. Eventually, his impressive play landed him on Spain’s National Team where he helped them win gold at the World Cup in 2006 & 2009.

Eventually, the NBA caught wind of this second Gasol brother that was coming out. The Los Angeles Lakers would draft him in the second round at #48 in 2007. Yet in February of 2008, his draft rights were traded to the Memphis Grizzles in a big trade package for his brother, Pau. Marc would sign with the Grizzlies in 2008 and have an excellent career with Memphis.

Gasol was an All-Star and even won the Defensive Player of the Year!

The Memphis front office wanted a change and felt they could find a replacement for Gasol in the upcoming draft, resulting in a trade to Toronto. This turned out to be a huge blessing for Gasol as they’d win the NBA Championship. Marc might be in the twilight of his career now but it is clear that he is one of the best European basketball players in history!

 

Nikola Jokić

Nikola Jokić
[Image via the NBA]
  • Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (2016)
  • Serbian Player of the Year (2018)
  • ABA League MVP (2015)
  • 2x NBA All-Star (2019, 2020)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (2016)
  • All-NBA First Team (2019)
  • All-NBA Second Team (2020)

Nikola Jokić is a Serbian sensation that has taken the NBA by storm in the last few years. While many thought he could be a relatively good player, no one knew he’d be as impressive as he has been. However, if you saw the 7-footer play overseas in the Adriatic League, you’d be saying differently.

While we may not often see the Serbian league or anything close to it in America, NBA Scouts learn of an impressive player and check into how good they happen to be. It seemed that Nikola heard there was some buzz about him and decided to go out for the 2014 NBA Draft. Teams knew he had one more year left to play overseas but being so young…this only helped.

Jokić proved he could be a great force in the paint, showing his defensive and rebounding skill was there. Yet he can also shoot the mid-range jumper regularly with a high percentage of accuracy. This is combined with some impressive shooting from three.

It’s a bit rare to see so much in a raw package so the Denver Nuggets ended up taking Nikola 41st overall in the second round. He then joined the Nuggets a year later and had a solid rookie campaign. He was so good that the team decided to commit to him and made him a starter by 2016, surrounding him with great players. Now, Jokić has proven himself as one of the best European basketball players in the world.

 

Jiří Zídek Sr.

Jiří Zídek Sr.
[Image via KOS Magazin]
  • 6× Czechoslovakian League Champion (1965, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1974)
  • FIBA Saporta Cup Champion (1969)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (1967)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (1969)
  • 10× Czechoslovakian League All-Star Five (1965–1974)
  • 2× Czechoslovak Player of the Year (1970, 1972)
  • Czechoslovak League All-Time Leading Scorer
  • FIBA Hall of Fame (2019)

Jiří Zídek Sr. is considered by many to be the single greatest Czechoslovak player in history. He is one of the best players we’ve ever seen in Europe overall too, which is likely why he was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame. Jiří mostly made his name in an era where European basketball was just starting to get hot, just as basketball overall was.

He mostly played professionally throughout the 1960s & 1970s. In this period, Zídek was a nearly unstoppable scorer. He led the EuroLeague Finals in scoring in 1966 & led the Saporta Cup Finals in scoring in 1968. Jiří is currently the all-time leading scorer in the Czechoslovak League, a record he has held for over 50 years!

Zídek is also a 2-time FIBA European selection, which is their equivalent to an All-Star game. Yet Zídek also played at the international level for his native Czechoslovakia. He managed to take his team to some impressive success with both a silver and bronze medal at the EuroBasket tournament.

Ask any Czech basketball fan who the greatest player was to ever come out of their nation, chances are, they’ll say Jiří Zídek Sr.

 

Dražen Dalipagić

Dražen Dalipagić
[Image via Yugoslavia Basketball Team – 1989]
  • 2× FIBA Korać Cup Champion (1978, 1979)
  • 2× Yugoslav League Champion (1976, 1979)
  • Yugoslav Cup Winner (1979)
  • 3x EuroBasket Gold Medalist (1973, 1975, 1977)
  • FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (1978)
  • Summer Olympics Gold Medalist (1980)
  • Mediterranean Games Gold Medalist (1975)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (1981)
  • FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (1974)
  • Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (1976)
  • 2x FIBA World Cup Bronze Medalist (1982, 1986)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (1979)
  • Summer Olympics Bronze Medalist (1984)
  • 4× FIBA European Selection (1978, 1981, 2x in 1982)
  • 2× Mister Europa Player of the Year (1977, 1978)
  • Euroscar Player of the Year (1980)
  • Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (2004)
  • FIBA Hall of Fame (2007)

Dražen Dalipagić is one of the greatest players to ever come out of Serbia. Yet most might know him best for his time playing with the Yugoslavian National Team. He helped lead them to some major victories with 3 different EuroBasket Gold Medals, a FIBA World Cup gold medal, Olympic Gold Medal, & Mediterranean Games Gold Medal.

He is one of the very few to have won the gold at all four major international events. Yet he went on to help win a silver medal at all but the Mediterranean Games. This also includes 4 total bronze medals. Dalipagić is the only player to ever really accomplish this.

Yet he was just as successful while playing for his club teams. This could be how he was able to win the Mr. Europa and Euroscar Player of the Year awards. It is clear that based on his resume alone, Dražen Dalipagić is one of the best European basketball players to ever lace up a pair of sneakers.

 

Luis Scola

Luis Scola
[Image via the NBA]
  • 3x Spanish Cup Winner (2002, 2004, 2006)
  • 3x Spanish SuperCup Winner (2005-2007)
  • Spanish League Champion (2002)
  • Summer Olympics Gold Medalist (2004)
  • Summer Olympics Bronze Medalist (2008)
  • 2x FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (2002, 2019)
  • 2x FIBA AmeriCup Gold Medalist (2001, 2011)
  • 4x FIBA AmeriCup Silver Medalist (2003, 2007, 2015, 2017)
  • 3x FIBA AmeriCup Bronze Medalist (1999, 2009, 2013)
  • Pan American Games Gold Medalist (2019)
  • 2x Spanish League MVP (2005, 2007)
  • 4x FIBA AmeriCup MVP (2007, 2009, 2011, 2015)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (2008)

Luis Scola might be Argentinian, but he has been a darn good player in Europe for years. He is one of the greatest international players in history, especially when it comes to FIBA competitions. This has made Scola one of the best European basketball players to ever live.

He truly stood out from 1998-2007 when he played for Saski Baskonia. It was here that he won pretty much anything available to win in the Spanish League and EuroLeague. Scola was an MVP caliber player in the EuroLeague and that caught the attention of the NBA. Luis was taken 56th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2002 NBA Draft.

The Spurs attempted to negotiate a buyout for Scola with Baskonia. Sadly, NBA rules and more resulted in the deal falling through. Finally, in 2007 his draft rights were traded to Houston.

He made an impact right away and was a great role-player/second-to-third option for the Rockets until 2012. He bounced around the league before finally leaving in 2017. Scola played in China for a few years before returning to Europe.

 

Goran Dragic

Goran Dragic - Slovenia
[Image via OZAN KOSE -Getty Images]
  • Slovenian League Champion (2008)
  • Slovenian Cup Champion (2008)
  • Basque Cup Champion (2011)
  • Slovenian SuperCup Champion (2008)
  • FIBA EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2017)
  • FIBA EuroBasket MVP (2017)
  • Euroscar Player of the Year (2017)
  • NBA All-Star (2018)
  • NBA Most Improved Player (2014)

It should come as no surprise to see Goran Dragic on this list of the best European basketball players. From Slovenia, Dragic was one of the best teenage players in Europe. This caught the attention of the Slovenian League. He began with the Second League at the age of 17, for KD Ilirija.

Due to his impressive play, he was brought up to Slovan then eventually played for Saski Baskonia in the Spanish League.

Dragic would land back in the Slovenian League in 2007 where he played for Union Olimpija, helping them win the league. It was then that the NBA learned of him and that resulted in Goran going out for the 2008 NBA Draft. He was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round, 45th overall. However, he was traded to the Phoenix Suns that night.

He played relatively well for the Suns but then signed with the Rockets a few years later. The Suns wanted him back so he returned and became one of the best young players in the league. Even winning the Most Improved Award. Dragic then ended up in Miami where he has been ever since.

It’s clear that his impressive time both in Europe and the NBA makes him one of the best Europe has to offer.

 

Bojan Bogdanović

Bojan Bogdanović
[Image via NBC Sports]
  • Turkish League Champion (2014)
  • Turkish SuperCup Winner (2014)
  • Croatian League Champion (2010)
  • Croatian Cup Champion (2009)
  • Turkish Cup Winner (2013)
  • Croatian League All-Star (2010)
  • Turkish League All-Star (2013)
  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2015)

Bojan Bogdanović is a tremendous player in the NBA who is coming off of his best season as of this writing (2019-2020 season). It is clear that Bojan had a successful European career. Most of his success occurred in Turkey & Croatia where he dominated both leagues.

He played as part of the EuroLeague from 2007 to 2014. While he initially did not stand out in the crowd, he quickly picked things up and became a top player. His success caught the eye of NBA scouts, resulting in the Miami Heat taking him 31st overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. However, he was traded twice that same night. Once to the Timberwolves then to the Nets.

The Brooklyn Nets could not seem to agree on a buyout of his European deal. Therefore, he remained with his squad there until he could jump to the NBA in 2014. Once he came to the NBA, he signed a three-year $10 million deal with the Nets and quickly earned his money.

He played with them for a few years then for the Wizards and Pacers. The Pacers wanted to keep him but the Utah Jazz offered a four-year, $73 million contract that he could not turn down. Bojan signed on and had his best season to date in nearly every category.

 

Bogdan Bogdanović

Bogdan Bogdanović
[Image via the NBA]
  • 4x Serbian League Champion (2011-2014)
  • 2x Serbian Cup Winner (2011, 2012)
  • 2x Turkish League Champion (2016, 2017)
  • Turkish Cup Winner (2016)
  • Turkish President’s Cup Winner (2016)
  • 2x Adriatic League Champion (2011, 2013)
  • FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (2014)
  • Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (2016)
  • EuroLeague Champion (2017)
  • 2x EuroLeague Rising Star (2014, 2015)
  • 2x Serbian Player of the Year (2017, 2019)
  • EuroLeague 2010-2020 All-Decade Team (2020)
  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2018)

If we’re going to talk about big brother, might as well include the little brother. We say that, but the Bogdanović boys aren’t “technically” related. Bogdan Bogdanović is just as impressive as Bojan but his European career is far better.

While he was drafted by the Phoenix Suns 27th overall in 2017, he was traded to the Sacramento Kings. He has been an excellent starting forward/guard or sixth man for the team ever since.

Bogdan is known for being a three-point specialist, who can hit the shot on the move or in a set-up.  When healthy, he is a deadly scorer who has been one of the main reasons for the Kings’ improvement. Before all of this, the Serbian stand-out was a top player in Europe throughout the continent for numerous teams. He became a EuroLeague dynamo that could help any team win.

The EuroLeague felt he was so impressive in his time playing in Europe that they named him to the 2010-2020 All-Decade Team, which is a massive honor. While he is still impressing in the NBA and is only going to get better, he is already one of the best European basketball players we’ve ever seen.

 

Jan Veselý

Jan Veselý
[Image via FOX Sports]
  • 3× Adriatic League Champion (2009–2011)
  • 3× Serbian League Champion (2009–2011)
  • EuroLeague champion (2017)
  • 3x Turkish League Champion (2016-2018)
  • 3x Turkish Cup Winner (2016, 2019, 2020)
  • 2× Turkish President’s Cup Winner (2016, 2017)
  • 3× Serbian Cup Winner (2009–2011)
  • 2× Czech Player of the Year (2012, 2016)
  • FIBA European Young Player of the Year (2010)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2019)

Jan Veselý is a curious case. He is recognized as one of the best European basketball players in the world today, with a long resume to prove it. He is STILL killing it overseas. Just this past season, he won the Turkish President’s Cup and in 2019 he was the EuroLeague MVP. Why is it that Jan just cannot seem to make it in the NBA?

Perhaps it comes down to bad systems that do not know how to properly utilize him. He was drafted back in 2011 to the NBA by the Washington Wizards. As most will recall, Jan was highly touted as a potential “next big thing” and taken 6th overall. Jan was traded to Denver in 2014 and then found his way back to Europe by 2014. He has played with the top-tier Fenerbahçe ever since.

Yet again, Jan is proving he can be wildly successful when given the right system to work in. Most feel the NBA will give him another call when his deal is up with Fenerbahçe but time will tell. He remains one of the best European basketball players in history in spite of his lack of proper opportunity in the NBA.

 

Sergio Llull

Sergio Llull
[Image Juanjo Martin – EFE]
  • 6x Spanish League Champion (2007, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019)
  • 6× Copa del Rey Winner (2012, 2014–2017, 2020)
  • 5× Supercopa de España Winner (2012–2014, 2018, 2019)
  • 3x EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2009, 2011, 2015)
  • 2x Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (2012, 2016)
  • 2× EuroLeague Champion (2015, 2018)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (2013)
  • FIFA World Cup Gold Medalist (2019)
  • FIBA Intercontinental Cup Champion (2015)
  • FIBA Intercontinental Cup MVP (2015)
  • Spanish League MVP (2017)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2017)
  • EuroLeague Basketball All-Decade Team (2010-2020)

Sergio Llull is one of the most decorated European basketball players in history. It’s not hard to see why, as he has played at a high-level in the Spanish League. This is considered by many to be one of the best leagues outside the NBA on the planet. Sergio has been playing for well over a decade and his time as a player was certainly not overlooked by NBA scouts.

Back in 2009, he was taken by the Denver Nuggets 34th overall in the NBA Draft that season. The Rockets saw his potential and purchased his draft rights from the Nuggets for $2.25 million. This made him the most expensive player taken in the second round to be purchased by another team in NBA history.

Sergio is playing well with Real Madrid in Spain and never gave up his Spanish career for a jump to the NBA. While he’d land with the Rockets if he did, Sergio does not seem to have an interest. The Rockets have not even attempted to buy him out of his Real Madrid contract. As a result, Llull remains one of the Spanish League’s top stars.

He has consistently been an MVP of finals, cups, and much more. Not to mention, he has landed on numerous EuroLeague top teams, even their all-decade team.

 

Luka Dončić

Luke Doncic
[Image via Mac Engel]
  • 3× Liga ACB Champion (2015, 2016, 2018)
  • 3× Torneo de L’Hospitalet Champion (2013–2015)
  • 2× Trofeo Costa de Sol Champion (2016, 2017)
  • 2× Spanish King’s Cup Winner (2016, 2017)
  • FIBA Intercontinental Cup Champion (2015)
  • EB Next Generation Tournament Champion (2015)
  • EuroLeague Champion (2018)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2017)
  • 2× ACB Best Young Player (2017, 2018)
  • 2× EuroLeague Rising Star (2017, 2018)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2018)
  • Euroscar Player of the Year (2019)
  • Liga ACB MVP (2018)
  • Slovenian Sportsman of the Year (2018)
  • EuroLeague All-Decade Team (2010-2020)
  • NBA All-Star (2020)
  • NBA Rookie of the Year (2019)
  • All-NBA First Team (2020)

When Luka Dončić declared for the 2019 NBA Draft, everyone in the NBA was excited. Many felt Luka could be franchise-changing, but they also knew it would be hard to live up to the hype. He was a massive asset for Real Madrid in the Spanish League overseas. However, being from Slovenia he was not tied to the Spanish nation like others.

Everyone in Spain knew how special he was. Doncic was playing with the adults in his mid-teens. As the son of a pretty good player himself, Doncic learned quite a lot growing up about the game. Yet no one realized he’d be THIS good.

Luka was so good that he was projected as a Top 5 pick. Some even felt he could go #1 overall. He actually ended up going 3rd overall to the Atlanta Hawks who then traded him to the Dallas Mavericks on draft night. The rest, as they say, is history. From his first season to today, Luka has been one of the best players in the NBA.

He lived up to every bit of hype and has proven to be one of the best European basketball players in the world.

 

Nick Calathes

Nick Calathes
[Image via Panathinaikos]
  • 6x Greek League Champion (2010, 2011, 2017–2020)
  • 4x Greek Cup Winner (2012, 2016, 2017, 2019)
  • EuroLeague Champion (2011)
  • EuroCup Champion (2013)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (2009)
  • 3× Greek League MVP (2017–2019)
  • 3× Greek League All-Star (2011, 2018, 2019)
  • 2× Florida Mr. Basketball (2006, 2007)
  • Greek Cup MVP (2019)
  • EuroCup MVP (2013)
  • SEC Rookie of the Year – AP (2008)

Nick Calathes is technically American but truly Greek-American. He is the son of a Greek-American father and an Irish mother, holding dual citizenship in both the United States and Greece. Calathes has been playing basketball since he was young due to a father who played.

He ended up playing basketball for the University of Florida after a major high school career from 2007 to 2009. He went out for the NBA Draft in 2009 and was drafted 45th overall in the second round by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Considered a good defender, Calathes was mostly drafted for that purpose. However, Calathes decided to bypass the NBA to play for Panathinaikos.

This Greek team is one of the most well-known teams in Europe and Calathes only added to that by helping them win. Eventually, there was a huge need for him in the NBA. Minnesota traded his draft rights that finally ended up in Memphis. Mike Conley was hurt and Calathes could be essential so it only helped to have him.

Sadly, he only played for a few seasons before going back to Europe. He went back to his winning ways again with Panathinaikos but in 2020 signed with FC Barcelona. Yet again, Calathes is killing it. Truly, he is one of the best European basketball players ever!

 

Peja Stojaković

Peja Stojaković
[Image via The Smoking Cuban]
  • NBA Champion (2011)
  • FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (2002)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2001)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (1999)
  • Greek Cup Winner (1995)
  • 3x NBA All-Star (2002-2004)
  • 2x NBA Three-Point Contest Champion (2002, 2003)
  • 2× Mister Europa Player of the Year (2001, 2002)
  • Euroscar Player of the Year (2001)
  • Greek League MVP (1998)
  • All-NBA Second Team (2004)

Peja Stojaković is considered by many to be one of the greatest shooters in NBA History. As of this writing, he is still in the Top 25 for Three-Pointers made & Top 10 in career three-point percentage (0.401%). Yet before he ever arrived in the NBA, he played overseas and was almost impossible to stop.

While in Europe, he competed mostly in the Greek League. Most of his time was spent with PAOK Thessaloniki, whom Stojaković led to a Greek Cup win. He was impressive from the start with the team and NBA scouts took notice. This led to Peja being drafted in the 1996 NBA Draft at 14th overall by the Sacramento Kings. Peja still had 2 more years on his European deal and eventually landed with the Kings in 1998.

Peja rode the bench for his first two years but in the 2000-2001 season, he had a breakout year and put up over 20 points per game. He’d average this for about 6 years and that allowed him to land on several All-Star teams as well as help the Kings compete in the competitive Western Conference.

While he’d play in New Orleans for a while, he’d finish his career with the veteran Dallas Mavericks team. There, he’d capture an NBA Championship to finish off an incredible legacy.

 

Dragan Kićanović

Dragan Kićanović
[Image via FIBA]
  • 3× Yugoslav League Champion (1976, 1979, 1981)
  • 3x EuroBasket Gold Medalist (1973, 1977, 1979)
  • 2x Mediterranean Games Gold Medalist (1971, 1975)
  • 2× FIBA Korać Cup Champion (1978, 1979)
  • Summer Olympics Gold Medalist (1980)
  • FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (1978)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (1981)
  • Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (1976)
  • FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (1974)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (1979)
  • FIBA Saporta Cup Champion (1983)
  • Yugoslav Cup Winner (1979)
  • 2× Mr. Europa Player of the Year (1981, 1982)
  • 2× Euroscar Player of the Year (1981, 1982)
  • FIBA World Cup MVP (1974)

Dragan Kićanović has been named Yugoslavia’s best basketball player of the 20th Century more times than we can count. But what is so funny is that he was born in Serbia. Yet he made Yugoslavia his home, especially when he played in the Yugoslav League for several years. He helped his team win three league championships and one Yugoslav Cup!

Yet it was his success on the Yugoslavian National Team that everyone loves to talk about. He is the only man to have 3 gold medals from EuroBasket, 2 gold medals from the Mediterranean Games, a gold medal from the Olympics, and a gold medal from the FIBA World Cup. He also has a load of silver and bronze medals to add on top of this.

It’s not shocking why he became a 2-time Euroscar & Mr. Europa Player of the Year in 1981 & 1982. What’s so compelling is that those were won, not by national team success but by his domination on his club team in the Yugoslav League! Kićanović was also named one of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players back in 1991 & was a 3-time FIBA European Selection.

 

Nando de Colo

Nando de Colo
[Image via Nando de Colo – Twitter]
  • 6x Russian League Champion (2014-2019)
  • 5x VTB United League Champion (2014-2016, 2018, 2019)
  • 5x Gomelsky Cup Champion (2014–2016, 2018, 2019)
  • 2× EuroLeague Champion (2016, 2019)
  • EuroCup Champion (2010)
  • Turkish Cup Winner (2020)
  • French Leaders Cup Winner (2008)
  • FIBA World Cup Bronze Medalist (2019)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2013), Silver Medalist (2011), Bronze Medalist (2015)
  • 3× VTB United League MVP (2015, 2016, 2018)
  • 2× French Player of the Year (2015, 2016)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2016)
  • French League French Player’s MVP (2008)
  • EuroLeague All-Decade Team (2010-2020)

Nando de Colo is one of the best players that Russian basketball has ever seen. Both in the VTB United League & Russian League have seen him atop the standings nearly 6 times each. Yet overall, the EuroLeague has seen Nando remain one of the most feared players they have seen in the last decade. This is likely why they named them to their 2010-2020 All-Decade Team.

Funny thing is, Nando is a French player who has managed to dominate in Russian leagues while playing other international teams across Europe. It does not matter what teams he goes against, Nando has found a way to win. Yet he was not always impressing. When he went to the NBA, drafted in the second round 53rd overall, he never really went beyond a bench player.

Both with San Antonio & Toronto, he never could seem to break out as a player. Many assumed after he left CSKA Moscow in 2019, he might give the NBA another shot. Instead, he chose to play for Fenerbahçe, a top basketball club based in Turkey. He may never go back to the NBA but one thing is for sure. Nando is one of the best European basketball players ever!

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo
[Image via Ashley Landis-Pool – Getty Images]
  • 2x NBA MVP (2019, 2020)
  • 2× All-NBA First Team (2019, 2020)
  • 4x NBA All-Star (2017-2020)
  • 2× NBA All-Defensive First Team (2019, 2020)
  • 2× All-NBA Second Team (2017, 2018)
  • NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2017)
  • Euroscar Player of the Year (2018)
  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2020)
  • NBA Most Improved Player (2017)

Before Giannis Antetokounmpo was a top player in the NBA, he was a young player in the Greek B Basket League with Filathlitikos. This is a semi-pro team that Giannis played on as a mere teenager! At just 18, he signed on with Spanish Club, CAI Zaragoza. The team included NBA Buyouts for every season, in case he was drafted there and wanted to jump.

He never really did play for the team as he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013 NBA Draft at 15th overall. Giannis has been one of the most impressive players in the league since he started. He managed to improve in every major statistical category in each of his first 5 seasons. This is one of the best growth periods in NBA history.

Due to his impressive play, he has been named the NBA MVP twice as of this writing. This goes along with four all-star appearances, a defensive player of the year award, and landing on the All-NBA First Team & All-NBA Second team twice. Truly, Giannis is one of the best European basketball players to ever live!

 

Ricky Rubio

Ricky Rubio
[Image via Joe Camporeale – USA TODAY Sports]
  • 3x Spanish Cup Champion (2008, 2010, 2011)
  • 2x EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2009, 2011)
  • Spanish League Champion (2011)
  • EuroLeague Champion (2010)
  • EuroCup Champion (2008)
  • FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (2019)
  • Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (2008)
  • Summer Olympics Bronze Medalist (2016)
  • 3x FIBA Young Player of the Year (2007-2009)
  • FIBA World Cup MVP (2019)
  • Mister Europa Player of the Year (2008)
  • ACB Defensive Player of the Year (2009)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (2012)

Before Ricky Rubio arrived in the NBA, the Spaniard was killing it overseas in Europe. He originally began his pro-career with Joventut but eventually went to the powerhouse FC Barcelona club. He was a top player for both teams, even helping them both win the Spanish Cup. With Joventut, he assisted them in winning the EuroCup Championship. Of course, he won the EuroLeague Championship with FC Barcelona later on.

Rubio was actually drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 5th overall pick in 2009. Yet his contract with Joventut included a high buyout clause of around $6.6 million to $8.2 million. The NBA had a rule that said a team could not pay more than $500,000 for a buyout. This meant he had to play at least another year overseas to avoid the buyout issue.

Yet he wanted out of Joventut anyway, so Barcelona paid to get him. He played there a few years, allowing the buyout clause to reduce enough for Rubio and Minnesota to pay it. Since his arrival, Rubio has been impressive. He is one of the best passers in the league and shoots incredibly well. Rubio has even managed to continue international success with Spain in both the World Cup & Olympics! He is still one of the best European basketball players going today!

 

Nikos Galis

Nikos Galis
[Image via USA Today]
  • 8× Greek League Champion (1983, 1985–1991)
  • 7× Greek Cup Winner (1985, 1987–1990, 1992, 1993)
  • Greek Super Cup Winner (1986)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (1987)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (1989)
  • 5× Greek League MVP (1988–1992)
  • Euroscar Award (1987)
  • Mr. Europa Award (1987)
  • FIBA EuroBasket MVP (1987)
  • Mediterranean Player of the Year (1987)
  • ECAC Player of the Year (1979)
  • Haggerty Award (1979)
  • 11× Greek League Top Scorer (1981–1991)
  • 8× FIBA EuroLeague Top Scorer (1986–1992, 1994)

Nikos Galis has one of the most curious stories ever for one of the best European basketball players of all time to have. He was a nice youth player in Greece before getting an opportunity to go play college basketball for Seton-Hall. This was, at the time, one of the premier destinations for a college basketball star. He did relatively well there, even averaged near 28 PPG his final season.

He was then taken in the 1979 NBA Draft, in the fourth round, by the Boston Celtics. After getting hurt in the pre-season, Boston decided against offering him a deal for the team and that

Throughout his time in the Greek League, he led the league in scoring nearly every year. This included being EuroLeague’s top scorer 8 times….including his last season. Yet he also led both in assists at one point too! Galis one of the greatest scorers to ever play, which is likely why he led Greece to both a gold & silver medal in EuroBasket Tournaments.

 

Krešimir Ćosić

Krešimir Ćosić
[Image via Doug Martin – Brigham-Young University]
  • 6x Yugoslav League Champion (1965, 1967, 1968, 1974, 1975, 1982)
  • 3x Yugoslav Cup Winner (1981–1983)
  • 3x EuroBasket Gold Medalist (1973, 1975, 1977)
  • 2x FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (1970, 1978)
  • Summer Olympics Gold Medalist (1980)
  • 3x EuroBasket Silver Medalist (1969, 1971, 1981)
  • 2x Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (1968, 1976)
  • 2x FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (1967, 1974)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (1979)
  • FIBA Saporta Cup Champion (1982)
  • 2x Italian League Champion (1979, 1980)
  • 3× First-Team All-WAC (1971–1973)
  • 2× EuroBasket MVP (1971, 1975)
  • College Basketball Hall of Fame (2006)
  • Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (1996)
  • FIBA Hall of Fame (2007)

Krešimir Ćosić is considered by many to be one of the greatest basketball players ever, not just one of the best European basketball players of all time. On an international level, there was not a lot that could be done to stop Ćosić. A Mormon man, he decided to leave his native land of Croatia to go to college in America at Brigham Young University.

There he was a top college athlete, even landed on the All-WAC First-Team 3 times. He did enough to be recognized for the College Basketball Hall of Fame. Yet he did not seem to care about playing in the NBA, as European basketball was pretty hot in this period and offering just as much monetarily. Krešimir dominated in his time.

While playing for Yugoslavia National Team, he led them to numerous gold medals at all major international competitions: Olympics, World Cup, EuroBasket, and even the Mediterranian Games. Other than the Olympics he won gold at least twice in all of them. Whether it was the Yugoslav or Italian league, you could bet Ćosić was capable of beating some teams on his own.

 

Wayne Brabender

Wayne Brabender
[Image via Mexico.as.com]
  • 13x Spanish League Champion (1968–1977, 1979, 1980, 1982)
  • 7x Spanish Cup Winner (1970–1975, 1977)
  • 4x EuroLeague Champion (1968, 1974, 1978, 1980)
  • 4x FIBA Intercontinental Cup Champion (1976–1978, 1981)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (1973)
  • EuroBasket MVP (1973)

Due to how long ago he happened to play, Wayne Brabender may not be a recognizable name for even the biggest European basketball fans. Yet many Spanish fans likely remember him quite well. He was a huge star there, where he won the Spanish League title 13 times. He’d do all of this with the terrific Real Madrid club.

What’s so compelling is that Wayne is Spanish-American and was born in America, even attended high school and college there.

Many assumed he’d play in the NBA and he was even drafted by the 76ers. Yet he never played in the NBA and went overseas to play in Spain. Even then, it was a tough league to succeed in. However, as you can see, Brabender had very little struggles playing for Real Madrid. Yet he did not only succeed in the Spanish League, as he helped his team win the EuroLeague Championship 4 times.

FIBA named him one of the most influential European players ever. To us, he’ll always be one of the best European basketball players of all time!

 

Paulius Jankūnas

Paulius Jankūnas
[Image via Delfi.it]
  • 14x Lithuanian LKL Champion (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011-2020)
  • 4x Baltic BBL Champion (2005, 2008, 2011, 2012)
  • 5× Lithuanian LKF Cup Winner (2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2015)
  • 3× Lithuanian King Mindaugas Cup Winner (2017, 2018, 2020)
  • Lithuanian Super Cup Winner (2012)
  • Lithuanian 2nd Division Champion (2003)
  • FIBA World Cup Bronze Medalist (2010)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (2015)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (2007)
  • 7× Lithuanian LKL All-Star (2008, 2009, 2011–2015)
  • 2× Lithuanian LKL Finals MVP (2011, 2014)
  • Lithuanian LKF Cup MVP (2011)
  • Baltic BBL MVP (2009)
  • EuroLeague All-Time Leader In Total Rebounds (Career)

Paulius Jankūnas has been playing since 2003 and as of this writing, is still managing to play at a high level for Žalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania. It has been said by many people, but some might find it controversial. Paulius might be one of the single greatest Lithuanian players to ever live, perhaps THE best. At least at the Forward/Center position.

The man has played with only two clubs, the aforementioned Žalgiris Kaunas & Khimki Moscow. In his time with Žalgiris Kaunas, he helped the club win 14 (yes you read that right), 14 LKL Championships! This also includes 4 Baltic BBL Championships, 5 LKF Cup wins, and even a Lithuanian Super Cup!

As a member of the Lithuanian National Team, he has been relatively successful with a World Cup bronze medal, and a silver & bronze medal in the EuroBasket tournament. While he might not be considered a rebounding freak, his time playing has allowed him to become the all-time leader in total rebounds for the EuroLeague. Truly, Paulius Jankūnas is one of the best European basketball players ever!

 

Dražen Petrović

Dražen Petrović
[Image via Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE – Getty Images]
  • 2x EuroLeague Champion (1985, 1986)
  • 2x FIBA Saporta Cup Champion (1987, 1989)
  • FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (1990)
  • FIBA World Cup Bronze Medalist (1986)
  • 2x Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (1988, 1992)
  • Summer Olympics Bronze Medalist (1984)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (1989)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (1987)
  • Summer Universiade Gold Medalist (1987)
  • Summer Universiade Silver Medalist (1983)
  • 4x Euroscar Player of the Year (1986, 1989, 1992, 1993)
  • 2x Mr. Europa Player of the Year (1986, 1993)
  • All-NBA Third Team (1993)
  • FIBA World Championship MVP (1986)
  • FIBA EuroBasket MVP (1989)
  • Olympic Order (1993)
  • Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (2002)
  • FIBA Hall of Fame (2007)
  • FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players (1991)

Dražen Petrović might have gone down as the greatest European star to ever exist. While he is still one of the best European basketball players ever, his career was cut short after a car accident in 1993. Before his time on Earth ended far too young at the age of 28, Dražen already had an amazing resume.

This included massive success overseas with 2 EuroLeague Championships. He played for Šibenka, Cibona, and eventual Real Madrid as a European player. He was so impressive that he won every award one could win. In every tournament he was part of, Petrović was the top scorer.

He eventually managed to get a shot in the NBA when he was taken in Round 3 by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1986. While he rode the bench in his first two seasons, he quickly managed to get more time and opportunity when he joined the New Jersey Nets. It was like an overnight improvement. He went from around 4 points a game to 12. Then popped up to over 20 points per game in his last two seasons. Truly, Petrović was a special player that passed far too soon.

 

Miki Berkovich

Miki Berkovich
[Image via EuroLeague Basketball]
  • 16x Israeli League Champion (1972–1975, 1977–1988)
  • 13x Israeli Cup Winner (1972, 1973, 1975, 1977–1983, 1985, 1986, 1987)
  • 2x EuroLeague Champion (1977, 1981)
  • FIBA Intercontinental Cup Gold Medalist (1980)
  • Asian Games Gold Medalist (1974)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (1979)
  • 4× FIBA European All-Star (1978, 1981, 1982, 1987)
  • EuroBasket MVP (1979)
  • FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players (1991)

Miki Berkovich is constantly overlooked when it comes to lists like this, yet he is clearly deserving of inclusion. To us, he is one of the best Europan basketball players ever. The man won the Israeli League Title 16 times! Ric Flair would be impressed! Yet he also won the Israeli Cup too.

While domestic success is important, Berkovich also led his team to 2 EuroLeague Championships too. As the leader of the Israeli National Team for several years, Miki led them to some impressive success. This includes a gold medal at the Asian Games, a silver medal at the EuroBasket Tournament, and another gold at the FIBA Intercontinental Cup!

He began a semi-pro career at just 11 with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He’d eventually join their Junior Squad for a few years then made the Senior Team at age 17. Berkovich played in some form with Tel Aviv for around 17 years. He also played for Maccabi Rishon LeZion for another 5 after that.

Due to all of his success throughout more than 20 years of basketball, Miki Berkovich has been labeled the greatest Israeli basketball player to ever live.

 

Theodoros Papaloukas

Theodoros Papaloukas
[Image via EuroLeague Basketball]
  • 7× Russian League Champion (2003–08, 2013)
  • 7× Acropolis Tournament Champion (2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
  • 3× Russian Cup Winner (2005–07)
  • 3× Greek Cup Winner (2002, 2010, 2011)
  • 2× EuroLeague champion (2006, 2008)
  • Adriatic League Champion (2012)
  • Israeli Super League Champion (2012)
  • VTB United League Champion (2013)
  • Israeli State Cup Winner (2012)
  • Triple Crown Champion (2006)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2005)
  • Stanković Continental Champions’ Cup Gold Medalist (2006)
  • FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (2006)
  • 3× Russian League Player of the Year (2005, 2006, 2007)
  • FIBA Europe Men’s Player of the Year (2006)
  • All-Europe Player of the Year (2006)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2007)
  • EuroLeague All-Decade Team (2000-2010)

Theodoros Papaloukas is constantly overlooked when conversations about the best European basketball players begin. He was a relatively recent player, so some would assume Theo is fresh on most people’s minds at this point. Like some before him, Papaloukas was able to get it done wherever he landed.

He played for some pretty notable teams and was a huge reason for their success. While he played a lot of places to begin his career, by 2001 he landed with Olympiacos for a season before going to CSKA Moscow from 2002 to 2008 where he helped them capture 6 league championships & 2 EuroLeague Titles. He’d then go back to Olympiacos where he helped them win their league.

Theo also popped in to help Maccabi Tel Aviv win a bit before ending his career with another league title on Russia’s CSKA Moscow squad. As a representative of the Greek National Team, he helped them win gold medals in the EuroBasket & Stanković tournaments. That also included 7 Acropolis Tournament Championships too!

Truly, Theodoros Papaloukas is one of the greatest to ever play European basketball.

 

Dimitris Diamantidis

Dimitris Diamantidis
[Image via EuroLeague Basketball]
  • 10× Greek Cup Winner (2005–2009, 2012–2016)
  • 9× Greek League Champion (2005–2011, 2013, 2014)
  • 3x EuroLeague Champion (2007, 2009, 2011)
  • 2x Triple Crown Winner (2007, 2009)
  • FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (2006)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2005)
  • Stanković Continental Champions’ Cup Gold Medalist (2006)
  • 11× All-Greek League Team (2004–2008, 2010–2014, 2016)
  • 6× Greek League MVP (2004, 2006–2008, 2011, 2014)
  • 6x All-Greek League Player of the Year (2004, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014)
  • 2× Greek Cup MVP (2009, 2016)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2011)
  • Mister Europa Player of The Year (2007)
  • All-Europe Player of the Year (2007)
  • EuroLeague All-Decade Team (2000-2010)
  • EuroLeague All-Decade Team (2010-2020)
  • Greek League All-Time Leader In Steals
  • EuroLeague All-Time Leader In Steals

Dimitris Diamantidis will always go down as one of the EuroLeague’s greatest players, and he’s one of the few to make it on two different All-Decade teams for them. While he began his career in 1999 with Iraklis Thessaloniki, after a successful 4 to 5 seasons, he landed on Panathinaikos where he has been ever since. Somehow, Dimitris went undrafted in the 2002 NBA Draft.

Diamantidis would even get some minor revenge when Team Greece defeated Team USA in the FIBA World Cup back in 2006. He showed he could not only compete in the NBA by helping to defeat them but that he could be a star there. Most of his time has been spent winning Greek Championships, but he’s also helped Panathinaikos win the EuroLeague Championship three times.

Two of those times he became a Triple Crown Champion. Truly, he could play almost anywhere on the court, playing both forward and guard multiple times in his nearly two-decade-long career. It is clear that Dimitris Diamantidis is one of the best European basketball players to ever live. In fact, he’s simply a legend!

 

Vassilis Spanoulis

Vassilis Spanoulis
[Image via Panagiotis Moschandreou/EuroLeague Basketball – Getty Images]
  • 9× Acropolis Tournament Champion (2004–2010, 2013, 2015)
  • 7× Greek League Champion (2006, 2008–2010, 2012, 2015, 2016)
  • 4× Greek Cup Winner (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011)
  • 3x EuroLeague Champion (2009, 2012, 2013)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2005)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (2009)
  • FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (2006)
  • FIBA Intercontinental Cup Champion (2013)
  • 10× All-Greek League Team (2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011–2013, 2015–2017)
  • 10× Greek League All-Star (2005, 2006, 2008–2011, 2013, 2014, 2018, 2019)
  • 3× Greek League MVP (2009, 2012, 2016)
  • 2× All-Europe Player of the Year (2012, 2013)
  • 2× Acropolis Tournament MVP (2007, 2009)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2013)
  • EuroLeague Player of the Decade (2010-2020)
  • 5× Greek League Assists Leader (2005, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2015)
  • Professional Greek League All-Time Leading scorer
  • Professional Greek League All-Time Leader in assists
  • EuroLeague All-Time Leading Scorer
  • EuroLeague All-Time Leader In Assists

Vassilis Spanoulis is, without a doubt, one of the best European basketball players to ever live. While a lot of his best work happened in Greece, he had to do it against some stiff competition. That includes the previously mentioned Dimitris Diamantidis, of course. Yet he had far more success in the EuroLeague, managing to become one of the greatest players the league has seen.

Vassilis managed to land on the All-EuroLeague Team 8 times in his career and even became the EuroLeague’s all-time leader in Performance Index Rating. While most of his work has been on impressive Euro Powerhouses like Panathinaikos & Olympiacos, he did play in the NBA for a short period. He landed on the Houston Rockets squad for only the 2006-2007 season.

Spanoulis then returned to Europe and has played there ever since. Despite playing since 1999, Spanoulis has been wildly successful! Truly, it is hard to find many with the accomplishments he has.

 

Dino Meneghin

Dino Meneghin
[Image via Biografieonline.it]
  • 12× Italian League Champion (1969–1971, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1982, 1985–1987, 1989)
  • 7x EuroLeague Champion (1970, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1987, 1988)
  • 6x Italian Cup Winner (1969–1971, 1973, 1986, 1987)
  • 4× FIBA Intercontinental Cup Champion (1967, 1970, 1973, 1987)
  • 2× FIBA Saporta Cup Champion (1967, 1980)
  • 2x EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (1971, 1975)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (1983)
  • Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (1980)
  • FIBA Korać Cup Champion (1985)
  • 2× Mister Europa (1980, 1983)
  • Euroscar (1983)
  • FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players (1991)
  • Italian Basketball Hall of Fame (2006)
  • FIBA Hall of Fame (2010)
  • Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (2003)

Dino Meneghin is one of the most well-known Italian League players ever. The Italian League at the time he played was a lot like what the Spanish League became. Back then, European basketball was considered to be on par with anything you might be seeing in the NBA. Potentially, it was better at times due to the shooting ability most people had there.

This is why so many European stars were able to jump to the NBA and sort of shock the world a bit. Guys like Dino showed out everywhere he went. A Center, Meneghin was tough to stop. He began playing in the Italian League at just 16 years old, due to being as good as the men around him.

Of course, he dominated most of the time he played with 12 league titles to his name. Yet 7 EuroLeague Titles is among the best ever! Dino also played a lot of international games for Italy, 271 games in fact. He managed to lead them to several medals against the world’s best!

He is now in pretty much every single Hall of Fame available to him, proving Dino Meneghin is one of the best European basketball players ever!

 

Juan Carlos Navarro

Juan Carlos Navarro
[Image via EuroLeague Basketball]
  • 8× Liga ACB Champion (1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014)
  • 7× Spanish Cup Winner (2001, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2018)
  • 5× Spanish Supercup Winner (2004, 2009–2011, 2015)
  • 2x EuroLeague Champion (2003, 2010)
  • 2x EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2009, 2011)
  • FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (2006)
  • 2x EuroBasket Silver Medalist (2003, 2007)
  • 2x EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (2001, 2017)
  • FIBA Under-19 World Cup Gold Medalist (1999)
  • 2x Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (2008, 2012)
  • Summer Olympics Bronze Medalist (2016)
  • FIBA Korać Cup Champion (1999)
  • 3x All-Europe Player of the Year (2009-2011)
  • 3× Spanish Supercup MVP (2009–2011)
  • Mister Europa Player of the Year (2010)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2009)
  • EuroBasket MVP (2011)
  • Spanish League MVP (2006)
  • EuroLeague All-Decade Team (2000-2010)
  • EuroLeague All-Decade Team (2010-2020)
  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2008)
  • EuroLeague All-Time Leader in Field Goals Made
  • EuroLeague All-Time Leader In Three-Pointers Made

Juan Carlos Navarro does not get nearly enough credit for being one of the best European basketball players that the EuroLeague has ever seen. Back in 2014, even though he was still playing, the EuroLeague named him a legend. They’re not wrong for this, as he has been impressive everywhere he has gone.

Navarro would even play in the NBA for a small spell with the Memphis Grizzlies. He was drafted in 2002 but did not play for a while, resulting in his draft rights shifting to where Memphis ended up with them. Juan Carlos managed to put together a pretty good rookie season but wanted to go back to Europe.

In Europe, his entire career had been spent with Barcelona. It is hard to find someone with more consistent play in EuroLeague history. It’s not a wonder he landed on the All-EuroLeague First Team 5 times, won numerous MVPs, and won several championships.

 

Ramūnas Šiškauskas

Ramūnas Šiškauskas
[Image via EuroLeague Basketball]
  • 5× Russian League Champion (2008–2012)
  • 3× VTB United League Champion (2008, 2010, 2012)
  • 2× Lithuanian LKL Champion (2000, 2002)
  • 2× EuroLeague Champion (2007, 2008)
  • Greek League Champion (2007)
  • Italian League Champion (2006)
  • North European Champion (2002)
  • Russian Cup Winner (2010)
  • Italian Cup Winner (2005)
  • Greek Cup Winner (2007)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2003)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (2007)
  • Summer Olympics Bronze Medalist (2000)
  • 2× Lithuanian LKL MVP (2001, 2002)
  • Lithuania Player Of The Year (2008)
  • Russian League Player of the Year (2009)
  • All-Europe Player of the Year (2008)
  • EuroLeague MVP (2008)
  • EuroLeague All-Decade Team (2000-2010)

If you want to see a man that pretty much spent his time being a European assassin, look no further than Ramūnas Šiškauskas. It is clear that he is one of the best European basketball players ever. But one thing is clear, he won literally everywhere he went. It is possible to say that a player gets help to win a title in their career. Even the greats had a tag team partner sometimes.

However, when you win a league championship in 6 different leagues….it’s obvious that YOU are the lucky charm. He played for 5 different teams in his time. How could he win a title in 6 leagues then? Some teams are able to play in a few leagues at a time, such as many of the Russian teams.

In his early years, Šiškauskas played for Sakalai Vilnius, Lietuvos rytas Vilnius, & Benetton Treviso before landing on Panathinaikos Athens for a year, then CSKA Moscow for the last 5 years of his career.

Ramūnas is a EuroLeague legend, but ultimately one could say he’s a European basketball legend. Few people have even attempted to do what he has done, and few have ever come close to accomplishing it.

 

Tony Parker

Tony Parker Drives
[Image via NBAE/Getty Images]
  • 4-time NBA Champion (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014)
  • 2× L’Équipe Champion of Champions (2003, 2013)
  • 2x EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (2005, 2015)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2013)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (2011)
  • 6× NBA All-Star (2006, 2007, 2009, 2012–2014)
  • 3× All-NBA Second Team (2012–2014)
  • 2× FIBA Europe Player of the Year (2013, 2014)
  • 2× Euroscar Player of the Year (2007, 2013)
  • NBA Finals MVP (2007)
  • All-NBA Third Team (2009)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (2002)

Tony Parker has been one of the greatest point guards that the NBA has ever seen. The native Frenchman has spent a lot of time in the United States with the San Antonio Spurs, yet he never forgot about France. He helped them with several European or International tournaments.

This includes the L’Équipe Champion of Champions twice, as well as helping them win the gold medal at the infamous EuroBasket Tournament. He also helped them win the silver and a few bronze medals at the same tournament.

Yet his major accomplishments came in the NBA where he was a huge asset to helping the Spurs win 4 NBA Championships. He was named the NBA Finals MVP in the 2007 run for the title. Tack that onto 6 NBA All-Star appearances and being named to the All-NBA Second Team three times!

It’s clear that Tony Parker is one of the best European basketball players ever! When Parker decided to call it a career in 2019, the Spurs honored him by retiring his number (#9). Yet it should be noted that Parker is not the only international player that has played with the Spurs.

 

Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol
[Image via Kenzo Tribouillard -AFP/Getty Images]
  • 3x EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2009, 2011, 2015)
  • 2x NBA Champion (2009, 2010)
  • 2× Spanish League Champion (1999, 2001)
  • FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (2006)
  • 2x EuroBasket Silver Medalist (2003, 2007)
  • 2x Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (2008, 2012)
  • Spanish King’s Cup Champion (2001)
  • 6× NBA All-Star (2006, 2009–2011, 2015, 2016)
  • 4× Euroscar Player of the Year (2008–2010, 2015)
  • 2× FIBA Europe Player of the Year (2008, 2009)
  • 2× Mister Europa Player of the Year (2004, 2009)
  • NBA Rookie of the Year (2002)
  • 2× FIBA EuroBasket MVP (2009, 2015)
  • FIBA World Championship MVP (2006)
  • 2× All-NBA Second Team (2011, 2015)
  • 2× All-NBA Third Team (2009, 2010)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (2002)

Pau Gasol is known as one of the best players to ever come out of Spain. He was a notable asset to the Spanish National Team on numerous occasions. He led them to 3 EuroBasket Gold Medals, as well as Silver Medals in the Summer Olympics. Not to mention a FIBA World Cup Gold Medal. Of course, before he ever arrived in the NBA he was a top-tier Spanish League star.

He played for Barcelona and helped them win the Spanish League twice & a Spanish King’s Cup. Due to his major success in Spain, NBA scouts took notice when he came out for the 2001 NBA Draft. Gasol was taken 3rd overall by Atlanta but traded his draft rights to Memphis. Gasol quickly became a star for the Grizzlies.

He played for them until 2008 when he was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers. Teaming with Kobe Bryant, Gasol won 2 NBA Championships. Overall, he became a 6-time NBA All-Star and landed on the All-NBA Second or Third Teams twice each. He might be the greatest big man to ever come out of Spain.

 

Toni Kukoč

Toni Kukoč
[Image via the NBA]
  • 4× Yugoslav League Champion (1988–1991)
  • 3x NBA Champion (1996-1998)
  • 3× EuroLeague Champion (1989–1991)
  • 2x EuroBasket Gold Medalist (1989, 1991)
  • 2× Yugoslav Cup Winner (1990, 1991)
  • FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (1990)
  • 2x Summer Olympics Silver Medalist (1988, 1992)
  • Italian League Champion (1992)
  • Italian Cup Winner (1993)
  • 5× Euroscar Player of the Year (1990, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998)
  • 4× Mister Europa Player of the Year (1990–1992, 1996)
  • 3× Croatian Sportsman of the Year (1989–1991)
  • NBA Sixth Man of the Year (1996)
  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team (1994)
  • FIBA Hall of Fame (2017)

Toni Kukoč was always considered one of the best European basketball players in the world back in the 1980s & 1990s. Yet when he decided to come out for the NBA Draft in the 1990 NBA Draft, it made sense to take him. The Chicago Bulls knew taking Toni would result in not seeing him play for them for several years due to his European deal.

During this time, Toni became a major player and won the EuroLeague Championship, Italian League Title, and Italian Cup. Yet he was already highly decorated from his time in Yugoslavia.

He came to the Bulls in 1993 right around the time Michael Jordan retired for the first time. Yet MJ would return to the Bulls around the playoff period, but by then Toni had proved himself. He would come off the bench and play with Scottie Pippen and MJ a few times and earn 3 NBA Championships.

When MJ retired again, Toni became a permanent member of the starting line-up. He’d eventually move around to play for the Bucks and 76ers. Internationally, he played for both his native Croatia & Yugoslavia where he won several medals. Overall, his time internationally resulted in his induction into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2017.

 

Manu Ginóbili

Manu Ginóbili
[Image via Marcelo Endelli/LatinContent – Getty Images]
  • 4× NBA Champion (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014)
  • 2× Italian Cup Winner (2001, 2002)
  • 2x FIBA AmeriCup Gold Medalist (2001, 2011)
  • FIBA Diamond Ball Gold Medalist (2008)
  • Summer Olympics Gold Medalist (2004)
  • FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (2002)
  • FIBA South American Championship Silver Medalist (2003)
  • EuroLeague Champion (2001)
  • Italian League Champion (2001)
  • 3× Italian League All-Star (1999, 2000, 2001)
  • 2× Italian League MVP (2001, 2002)
  • 2× NBA All-Star (2005, 2011)
  • NBA Sixth Man of the Year (2008)
  • 2× All-NBA Third Team (2008, 2011)
  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2003)
  • 2× Olimpia de Oro (2003, 2004)
  • Italian Cup MVP (2002)

Many consider Manu Ginóbili to be one of the best European basketball players to ever live, in spite of his Argentinian status. Manu was known in his mid-to-later years on the San Antonio Spurs for coming off the bench, yet this was considered an impressive strategy.

He could come off the bench and become a massive scoring machine for the second unit. It resulted in many high-scoring games for Ginóbili.

He also had trouble with injuries, so it gave him the opportunity to stay healthier and be a massive asset. This truly worked and helped the Spurs win 4 NBA Championships. Yet Manu was a badass internationally and in Europe before jumping to the NBA. He has several FIBA titles along with a EuroLeague & Italian League Championship.

Representing Argentina, Manu led his team to the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. Even helping them defeat powerhouse nations like Spain, Italy, and even the United States. On the international circuit, few teams were more feared than Argentina during Manu’s time there.

Manu will always go down as one of the greatest stars Europe has ever seen.

 

Arvydas Sabonis

Arvydas Sabonis
[Image via Getty Images]
  • 3× USSR League Champion (1985–1987)
  • 2× ACB League Champion (1993, 1994)
  • Summer Olympics Gold Medalist (1988)
  • FIBA World Cup Gold Medalist (1982)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (1985)
  • FIBA World Cup Silver Medalist (1986)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (1995)
  • 2x Summer Olympics Bronze Medalist (1992, 1996)
  • 2x EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (1983, 1989)
  • LKL Champion (2004)
  • Spanish Cup Winner (1993)
  • 6× Euroscar Player of the Year (1984, 1985, 1988, 1995, 1997, 1999)
  • 2× Mr. Europa Player of the Year (1985, 1997)
  • 2× Spanish League MVP (1994, 1995)
  • EuroLeague Regular Season MVP (2004)
  • EuroBasket MVP (1985)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (1996)
  • FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players (1991)
  • FIBA Hall of Fame (2010)
  • Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (2011)

Arvydas Sabonis spent most of his career in Europe playing for several clubs in Russia, Spain, and his native Lithuania. At the time, if you played for a team in a specific nation, you could be added to their national team. This led Sabonis to be part of the Soviet Union National Team where he won several gold medals in competition.

However, Sabonis eventually have the chance to represent his native Lithuania where he won numerous medals in several major tournaments. In a funny situation, Sabonis was actually taken in the NBA Draft in 1986 by Portland.

Various injuries got in the way, resulting in Portland failing to sign him sooner. By the time he did, it was nearly 10 years after he was drafted! Nevertheless, he played for Portland from 1996 to 2003 and was quite impressive.

Sabonis never won a title in the NBA, but at the international level, he’s a clear Hall of Famer. Thus, he’s now in both the Basketball and FIBA Hall of Fames respectively.

 

Šarūnas Jasikevičius

Šarūnas Jasikevičius
[Image via Richard Mackson – US Preswire]
  • 4× EuroLeague Champion (2003–2005, 2009)
  • 4× Triple Crown Winner (2003–2005, 2009)
  • 3× Spanish Cup Champion (2001, 2003, 2013)
  • 2× Spanish League Champion (2001, 2003)
  • 3× Greek League Champion (2008–2010)
  • 3× Greek Cup Winner (2008, 2009, 2012)
  • 2× Israeli Super League Champion (2004, 2005)
  • 2× Israeli State Cup Winner (2004, 2005)
  • EuroBasket Gold Medalist (2003)
  • EuroBasket Bronze Medalist (2007)
  • Summer Olympics Bronze Medalist (2000)
  • Turkish Super League Champion (2011)
  • Turkish Cup Winner (2011)
  • Lithuanian LKL Champion (2014)
  • Slovenian Cup Winner (2000)
  • 2× All-Europe Player of the Year (2004, 2005)
  • Mr. Europa Player of the Year (2003)
  • Slovenian League MVP (2000)
  • Slovenian Cup MVP (2000)
  • Israeli Super League MVP (2005)
  • Greek Cup MVP (2012)
  • EuroLeague All-Decade Team (2000-2010)

Šarūnas Jasikevičius is a Lithuanian legend and one of the best European basketball players ever. He single-handedly helped the Lithuanian National Team beat some of the best teams of his era. That included top-tier teams like Spain and the United States.

Ultimately, his greatest accomplishments happened at his club teams such as two stints with FC Barcelona & Panathinaikos. He also played for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Jasikevičius also played in the NBA for a bit with teams like the Pacers & Warriors. He did not have a great NBA career, but he managed to kill it in Europe. That resulted in 4 separate EuroLeague Championships, 3 Spanish League Titles, 3 Greek League Championship, 2 Israeli Super League Championships, Turkish League Championship, LFL Championship, and several cup-wins.

On the international stage, he has a gold and bronze medal from the EuroBasket Tournament. That has resulted in numerous MVPs, & Player of the Year Awards. However, Jasikevičius also has done well as a coach, leading his team to 4 Lithuanian League Championships as of this writing. Plus 3 Lithuanian League Coach of the Year Awards.

 

Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki
[Image via ESPN]
  • NBA Champion (2011)
  • EuroBasket Silver Medalist (2005)
  • FIBA World Cup Bronze Medalist (2002)
  • 14× NBA All-Star (2002–2012, 2014, 2015, 2019)
  • 6× Euroscar Player of the Year (2002–2006, 2011)
  • 2× FIBA Europe Men’s Player of the Year (2005, 2011)
  • NBA Most Valuable Player (2007)
  • NBA Finals MVP (2011)
  • Mister Europa Player of the Year (2005)
  • BBL Most Valuable Player (1999)
  • FIBA World Championship MVP (2002)
  • FIBA EuroBasket MVP (2005)
  • 4× All-NBA First Team (2005–2007, 2009)
  • 5× All-NBA Second Team (2002, 2003, 2008, 2010, 2011)
  • 3× All-NBA Third Team (2001, 2004, 2012)
  • NBA Three-Point Contest Champion (2006)

Dirk Nowitzki might be the greatest European basketball player ever. It’s truly hard to argue the case for anyone else if we’re being honest. The man literally won every major thing he could win in the NBA from an NBA MVP award to an NBA Championship.

While he did have some minor success in Europe before jumping to the NBA in 1998, it was here that he truly became a European legend. He landed on All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams. He’s a 14-time NBA All-Star and even won medals as a member of the German National Team.

Dirk could rarely be stopped in the NBA and the Dallas Mavericks had wild success with him at the helm for nearly two decades. Of course, it’s clear that when you talk about the best European basketball players ever, Dirk will always be near or at the very top of the list for most. Simply put, the big 7 footer’s greatness is hard to overlook.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here