Outside of North America, Europe is by far the biggest basketball hotbed in the world – as proved by the large contingent of players from the Old Continent in the NBA in the last three decades.
When we put together our list with the 75 greatest international players ever, more than half of those who made the cut were Europeans.
Here’s how we ranked them:
Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) 🇩🇪
Top accolades: One NBA title, one Finals MVP, one MVP, 12 All-NBA selections, 14 All-Stars, one World Cup bronze medal, one Eurobasket silver medal
NBA rank: 6th in scoring, 26th in rebounds, 53rd in blocks, 90th in steals, 151st in assists
One of the finest offensive forwards in basketball history, Dirk Nowitzki is also widely considered the top European player of all time. Nowitzki didn’t just carry those Mavs teams to multiple deep playoff runs and ultimately a championship, he did so without star companions. Nowitzki did similarly with Germany, winning a couple of medals with teams pretty much devoid of top-notch talent. Nowitzki’s shooting ability from all angles and ranges, off the dribble or with his feet set, was truly unmatched, especially among 7-footers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) 🇬🇷
Top accolades: One NBA title, one Finals MVP, two MVPs, three All-NBA 1st Team selections, five All-Stars, one Defensive Player of the Year award, three All-Defensive 1st Team selections
NBA rank: 145th in blocks, 200th rebounds, 204th in scoring, 249th in assists
There’s a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo may end up being considered the top international talent when all is said and done. No small feat for a player who didn’t even have Greek citizenship growing up. Antetokounmpo makes up for his lone shortcoming – his shooting – with unreal length, tenacity and scoring down low. He’s legitimately unstoppable once he gets in the paint. Not much success in FIBA tourneys so far, surprisingly, but that could change in the future, too.
Pau Gasol (Spain) 🇪🇸
Top accolades: Two NBA titles, four All-NBA selections, six All-Stars, three Olympic medals, one World Cup gold medal, seven Eurobasket medals, one World Cup MVP award, two Eurobasket MVP awards
NBA rank: 21st in blocks, 28th in rebounds, 39th in scoring, 124th in assists
Pau Gasol had a terrific NBA career to go with perhaps the best National Team career of any player ever, having won 11 medals and multiple MVPs in summer FIBA tournaments. A two-time NBA champion, some of the analytics actually rated Gasol as the most important Laker on those two title teams. Gasol was extremely skilled for a big man, with a length that helped him finish over just about anyone down low.
Tony Parker (France) 🇫🇷
Top accolades: Four NBA titles, one Finals MVP, three All-NBA 2nd Team selections, six All-Stars, four Eurobasket medals, one Eurobasket MVP
NBA rank: 19th in assists, 53rd in scoring, 150th in steals
A super quick point guard with elite change-of-direction skills, Tony Parker made a living getting into the paint and finishing among the trees because of his unstoppable tear-drop floater. Didn’t have much range as a shooter and wasn’t an elite defender by any stretch, but he’s an all-time great guard anyway, which speaks to just how solid he was at lead guard, no easy accomplishment for guys out of Europe.
Nikola Jokic (Serbia) 🇷🇸
Top accolades: One MVP award, two All-NBA 1st Team selections, three All-Stars, one Olympic silver medal
NBA rank: 232nd in assists
A team can build an elite NBA offense around Nikola Jokic thanks to his super passing and scoring skills. Only the fifth international player to win the MVP award and the first center to do so this century, Jokic should age well considering his game doesn’t rely at all on athleticism or explosiveness. Truly one of the best passers in the game today, not just among centers, but among anyone.
Marc Gasol (Spain) 🇪🇸
Top accolades: One NBA title, one All-NBA 1st Team selection, three All-Stars, one Defensive Player of the Year award, one All-Defensive 2nd Team selection, two Olympic silver medals, two World Cup gold medals, five Eurobasket medals
NBA rank: 57th in blocks, 140th in rebounds, 222nd in assists, 237th in scoring
The leader on various fine Grizzlies teams, Marc Gasol eventually became a champion anchoring the defense of the Raptors while contributing plenty as a playmaker and floor-spacer. Gasol was also a key component to very successful Spanish squads in FIBA tournaments.
Luka Doncic (Slovenia) 🇸🇮
Top accolades: Two All-NBA 1st Team selections, two All-Stars, one Eurobasket gold medal, one Euroleague title, one Euroleague MVP award, one Euroleague Final Four MVP award
It goes without saying, but simply put, Luka Doncic is a special talent with a chance to enter GOAT conversations down the road thanks to his unbelievable mix of scoring and playmaking as well as rebounding from the lead-guard spot at his size. Doncic has already won pretty much everything at the international level. Though he has yet to win a playoff series, he has the best scoring average in NBA postseason history as of now.
Rudy Gobert (France) 🇫🇷
Top accolades: Two All-NBA Team selections, two All-Stars, three Defensive Player of the Year awards, five All-Defensive 1st Team selections, one Olympic silver medal, two World Cup bronze medals, one Eurobasket bronze medal
NBA rank: 50th in blocks, 126th in rebounds
Rudy Gobert’s combination of length, mobility and smarts make him one of the most devastating defensive players in NBA history. Without much of an offensive game, Gobert can still do a lot of damage on that end on screen-and-rolls and finishing lobs. Despite a great NBA career, he has many doubters mostly because of perceived shortcomings in the playoffs. That may change in the future with a deep postseason run with the Jazz. Gobert has had quite a bit of success with the French National Team already, but to this point, has fallen short of gold.
Drazen Petrovic (Croatia) 🇭🇷
Top accolades: One All-NBA 3rd Team selection, two Olympic medals, one World Cup gold medal, one Eurobasket gold medal, one World Cup MVP award, one Eurobasket MVP award, two Euroleague titles
Quite possibly the best European player in the 20th century thanks to amazing shooting prowess and will to win, Drazen Petrovic was the first Euro player to make an All-NBA Team and to this day just one of a handful to do it so as a guard. Didn’t bring much to the table aside from scoring. His tragic car accident robbed us of a great player way too early, and he’d likely be higher here had he been able to have a long career. Petrovic remains absolutely iconic overseas to this day.
Predrag Stojakovic (Serbia) 🇷🇸
Top accolades: One NBA title, one All-NBA 2nd Team, three All-Stars, one World Cup gold medal, one Eurobasket gold medal, one Eurobasket MVP
NBA rank: 191st in scoring
Generally remembered as the second wheel on those fun Chris Webber-led Sacramento King teams of the early 00’s, Predrag Stojakovic was among the best shooters in the NBA during his time. He had phenomenal size for a small forward and a jumper that would so often hit nothing but net. Stojakovic led the league in free-throw shooting accuracy twice and shot over 40 percent from three for his career.
Arvydas Sabonis (Lithuania) 🇱🇹
Top accolades: One Olympic gold medal, one World Cup gold medal, four Eurobasket medals, one Eurobasket MVP award, one Euroleague title, one Euroleague MVP award, one Euroleague Final Four MVP award
A do-it-all giant, Arvydas Sabonis was one of the game’s first unicorns. Unfortunately, his super dominant time in Europe that’s so often glossed over didn’t last very long. He was very limited physically by age 24 due to major leg injuries, and it was around that time when he signed with an average Valladolid squad in Spain’s first division. Despite physical limitations, he still managed a sensational career in FIBA basketball and eventually enjoyed seven solid seasons as a center for the Trail Blazers.
Sabonis will always be known as one of the biggest what-ifs in basketball, although major injury problems for players of his size are hardly uncommon. He displayed a magnificent vision of the court and outside shooting when centers were not really doing those things. It was a joy to watch.
Detlef Schrempf (Germany) 🇩🇪
Top accolades: One All-NBA 3rd Team, three All-Stars, two Sixth Man of the Year awards
NBA rank: 112th in rebounds, 120th in scoring, 136th in assists
Known by this generation for his cameo appearances on Parks and Rec, Detlef Schrempf was far from a slouch during his time in the Association, making one All-NBA team and three All-Star appearances in his heyday thanks to his outside shooting touch and fantastic size for a forward at 6-foot-10.
Vlade Divac (Serbia) 🇷🇸
Top accolades: One All-Star, one Olympic gold medal, two World Cup gold medals, three Eurobasket gold medals
NBA rank: 30th in blocks, 50th in rebounds, 76th in steals, 161st in assists, 199th in scoring
Best known for his time with the Kings, Vlade Divac was a charismatic figure in the game for many years. Divac was perhaps the best passing center in the game during his time in the league, and though he didn’t really work on his body a lot, he still had a phenomenal career both in the league and FIBA competitions with Yugoslavia.
Toni Kukoc (Croatia) 🇭🇷
Top accolades: Three NBA titles, one Sixth Man of the Year award, two Olympic silver medals, one World Championship gold medal, two Eurobasket gold medals, one World Championship MVP award, one Eurobasket MVP award, three Euroleague titles, three Euroleague Final Four MVP awards
NBA rank: 204th in assists
Toni Kukoc was a terrific all-around player, so crafty and smooth with the ball in his hands yet tenacious when he needed to be. Kukoc played a big role in three championship teams for the Bulls, though things didn’t go so well when he was tasked with being the No. 1 guy post-Last Dance. You don’t often see winning runs like the one he had between 1989 and 1998.
Nikola Vucevic (Montenegro) 🇲🇪
Top accolades: Two All-Stars
NBA rank: 99th in rebounds, 199th in blocks
A highly skilled center who can pull down double-doubles in his sleep, Nikola Vucevic is very difficult to defend because he can do so many things with the basketball. Vucevic can shoot, pass and post up, and you don’t want to foul him because of his shooting touch from the foul stripe.
Joakim Noah (France) 🇫🇷
Top accolades: One All-NBA 1st Team selection, two All-Stars, one Defensive Player of the Year award, two All-Defensive 1st Team selections, one Eurobasket silver medal
NBA rank: 131st in blocks, 176th in rebounds
One of the most energetic players ever, Joakim Noah was considered one of the best centers in the league at his peak. Even though his jumper didn’t have much range on it, Noah was still quite skilled thanks to his ball-handling and playmaking out of the high post/short midrange areas. Also an elite defender in his prime mostly thanks to effort and instincts.
Andrei Kirilenko (Russia) 🇷🇺
Top accolades: One All-Star, three All-Defensive Team selections, one Olympic bronze medal, one Eurobasket, gold medal, one Eurobasket MVP award, one Euroleague MVP award
NBA rank: 40th in blocks, 130th in steals
Long and athletic, the Russian forward was adept at filling the stat sheet from top to bottom. Andre Kirilenko was a Swiss Army knife on both ends of the floor, capable of filling multiple roles, though he particularly shined defensively thanks to his fantastic instincts, quick feet and great length.
Rik Smits (Netherlands) 🇳🇱
Top accolades: One All-Star
NBA rank: 75th in blocks, 220th in scoring
A skilled but lean big man with fantastic size at 7-foot-4, Rik Smits had soft touch around the basket that helped him knock down turnaround jumpers with aplomb. He did struggle some as a rebounder, though, due to his slender frame.
Goran Dragic (Slovenia) 🇸🇮
Top accolades: One All-NBA 3rd Team selection, one All-Star, one Most Improved Player award, one Eurobasket gold medal, one Eurobasket MVP award
NBA rank: 110th in assists
A point guard with a lot of tenacity and energy on offense, Goran Dragic could often create a fast break out of nothing. He has also been an adept halfcourt scorer who could use screens to get to the basket, where he was one of the best finishers in the paint thanks to his iron-clad shoulders. Dragic was also a fine outside shooter, making him the whole package offensively.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania) 🇱🇹
Top accolades: Two All-Stars
NBA rank: 49th in blocks, 165th in rebounds
Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a unique big man thanks to his size and slender frame, but he was productive and effective in his role as a floor-spacing center who could block some shots on the defensive end.
Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania) 🇱🇹
Top accolades: Two All-Stars
Southpaw big man with playmaking, rebounding and scoring chops down low, Domantas Sabonis has developed into a very well-rounded, All-Star-level big man, already posting a more impressive NBA career than his father did.
Ricky Rubio (Spain) 🇪🇸
Top accolades: Two Olympic medals, one World Cup gold medal, two Eurobasket gold medals, one World Cup MVP award, one Euroleague title
NBA rank: 69th in assists, 93rd in steals
Although he may have not fully lived up to the hype created by his legendary Euro YouTube highlight videos before getting to the NBA, Ricky Rubio has still enjoyed a fantastic NBA as well as international career thanks to his wizardry as a passer and solid ball-handling.
Dino Radja (Croatia) 🇭🇷
Top accolades: Two Olympic silver medals, one World Championship bronze medal, two Eurobasket gold medals, two Euroleague titles, one Euroleague Final Four MVP
Dino Radja formed a beyond dominant duo in Europe along with Kukoc in legendary Jugosplastika Split. One of the few bright spots for the lowly 90’s Celtics, Radja averaged nearly 20 points nightly in his third NBA season, before returning to Europe a couple of seasons later to finish out his career.
Danilo Gallinari (Italy) 🇮🇹
Top accolades: One Euroleague Rising Star award, one Italian League MVP
A sharpshooting wing with great size, Danilo Gallinari can do more than just shoot from beyond the arc with his feet set, as he’s got an underrated face-up and post-up game… though his defense leaves a bit to be desired.
Sarunas Marciulionis (Lithuania) 🇱🇹
Top accolades: Three Olympic medals, three Eurobasket medals, one Eurobasket MVP
There’s an ongoing narrative that Euro pioneers didn’t get any confidence from coaches in the NBA, but Sarunas Marciulionis proved that’s wrong by receiving playing time early on in his NBA career. For a guard, he was super strong which allowed him to score around the paint regularly.
Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia) 🇱🇻
Top accolades: One All-Star
NBA rank: 217th in blocks
A shot-blocking, three-point shooting big man in a freakish 7-foot-3 package, Kristaps Porzingis appeared headed to a perennial All-Star career until injuries began to affect him. Still young, there’s a chance Porzingis can regain that form down the road but at worst, he’s still an effective, above-average starter.
Hidayet Turkoglu (Turkey) 🇹🇷
Top accolades: One Most Improved Player award, one World Cup silver medal, one Eurobasket silver medal
NBA rank: 250th in assists
A supersized swingman who could do a bit of everything, including score, rebound and pass, Hidayet Turkoglu would have been even more effective in the modern era shooting more three-pointers, but even for his time, he was an underrated small forward.
Nicolas Batum (France) 🇫🇷
Top accolades: One Olympic silver medal, two World Cup bronze medals, one Eurobasket gold medal
NBA rank: 200th in assists, 237th in blocks
A beyond serviceable role player throughout his entire career, Nicolas Batum was one of the original 3-and-D swingmen that became so popular in the 2010s, capable of locking down multiple positions on one end and knocking down open threes on the other. Underrated playmaker, too.
Mehmet Okur (Turkey) 🇹🇷
Top accolades: One NBA title, one All-Star, one Eurobasket silver medal
One of the original stretch Euro big men in the NBA, at least one that would willingly bomb away from three, Mehmet Okur was a player ahead of his time. In today’s NBA, he’d fire even more threes up and have a more impressive scoring average. Regardless, Okur enjoyed a solid 10-year NBA career.
Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania) 🇱🇹
Top accolades: All-Rookie 2nd Team, two Eurobasket silver medals
NBA rank: 166th in rebounds, 183rd in blocks
The further along he gets in his career, the more Jonas Valanciunas’ play improves, as he’s gone from a role player early on into a solid, above-average starter now. The big Lithuanian is a double-double machine with a strong post game thanks to having boulders for shoulders. He’s even hitting threes now.
Dejan Bodiroga (Serbia) 🇷🇸
Top accolades: One Olympic silver medal, two World Championship gold medals, three Eurobasket gold medals, three Euroleague titles, one Euroleague MVP, two Euroleague Final Four MVP awards
Perhaps the most accomplished FIBA player never to give the NBA a try, Dejan Bodiroga was a dominant offensive player in Europe in his heyday. There are always questions about how well his pretty peculiar game would have adjusted to the NBA, considering his limited athleticism, slow movement skills and high-usage rate. Even so, Bodiroga boasts a spectacular FIBA resume.
Clint Capela (Switzerland) 🇨🇭
Top accolades: One-time rebounding champion
NBA rank: 186th in blocks
Clint Capela went from skinny big man with little endurance early in his career into an above-average starter in the league, one who makes a high-level impact as a shot-blocker and rebounder. Capela has led the NBA in rebounding already once in his career.
Jose Manuel Calderon (Spain) 🇪🇸
Top accolades: Two Olympic silver medals, one World Championship gold medal, one Eurobasket gold medal
NBA rank: 65th in assists
A floor general in every sense of the term, Jose Manuel Calderon could always be counted upon to run an offense at a solid level. He was usually thinking more about creating for teammates than trying to score himself, which is a bit of a shame since the Spaniard could really shoot the basketball. Calderon hit nearly 41 percent of his threes for his career.
Boris Diaw (France) 🇫🇷
Top accolades: One NBA title, one Most Improved Player award, one World Cup bronze medal, one Eurobasket gold medal
NBA rank: 147th in assists
French forward Boris Diaw was a do-everything forward who could score a bit but also rebound. His most impressive skill, however, was as a playmaker, where he had elite vision as a creator, especially for a man of his size. Had he stayed in better shape, there’s a chance he could have been something more in the Association.
Juan Carlos Navarro (Spain) 🇪🇸
Top accolades: All-Rookie 2nd Team, three Olympic medals, one World Cup gold medal, two Eurobasket gold medals, one Eurobasket MVP award, two Euroleague titles, one Euroleague MVP award, one Euroleague Final Four MVP award
A pure scorer with his own patented floater (“La Bomba”), Juan Carlos Navarro had a terrific career with FC Barcelona and the Spanish National Team but only had a cup of coffee with the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA. Could probably have been a solid role player in the league for many years, but preferred to be the man for his hometown club.
Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia) 🇭🇷
Top accolades: All-Rookie 2nd Team
A swingman with great size and a quick shooting touch, Bojan Bogdanovic has made a solid career in the NBA out of providing instant scoring, first as a reserve but mostly as a starter. Can get hot and take over games with his shooting quickly.
Evan Fournier (France) 🇫🇷
Top accolades: One Olympic silver medal, two World Cup bronze medals, one Eurobasket bronze medal
Evan Fournier may not thrive in any one area on offense, but he’s a reliable three-level scorer who can get hot at a moment’s notice and doubles as a solid playmaker. His defense may not be much to write home about, but he can do some scoring off the dribble with his soft shooting touch.
Marcin Gortat (Poland) 🇵🇱
Top accolades: One German League title, three German Cup titles
NBA rank: 128th in blocks, 153rd in rebounds
Affectionately called the Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat was a deadly scorer out of the pick-and-roll, particularly later on in his career once he got out from under Dwight Howard’s shadow. Gortat had excellent hands and used his strength well when setting screens and attacking the glass.
Dennis Schroeder (Germany) 🇩🇪
Top accolades: One German League Best Young Player award
His accolades won’t jump off the page, but either way Dennis Schroeder is already one of the best international point guards ever thanks to his confident scoring prowess out of the backcourt. He may be a bit inconsistent, but overall, he’s a positive-impact player on the floor.
Nikos Galis (Greece) 🇬🇷
Top accolades: One Eurobasket gold medal, one Eurobasket MVP
Nikos Galis became one of the best scorers in FIBA basketball history and put Greece in the basketball map after four years of college basketball at Seton Hall. A solid playmaker and a ferocious competitor, he was also a strong player for Euro standards back in the day, often playing bigger than his actual size.
Image: Coley Cleary / USA TODAY Sports Media Group illustration