Who Are the Best European Players in NBA History?

American-born legends like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Larry Bird come to mind when discussing NBA history, among other names. European players, though, have also made a huge impact on the league. These athletes have demonstrated that basketball is a global sport by playing crucial roles for their different teams. 

The growth of the sport across the pond can clearly be noticed in the modern game. The sheer influx of Europeans into the NBA has been massive in recent years, and in 2023, some of the sport’s top stars all hail from the continent of Europe. Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship in 40 years back in 2020, as well as leading them to first place in the Eastern Conference regular season standings this season. 

Elsewhere, the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Dončić hails from Slovenia and he too has been one of the league’s biggest stars over the last couple of years. But perhaps no European star has shone brighter than that of Serbia’s Nikola Jokić. The Balkan giant won back-to-back MVP awards in 2021 and 2022, and the current season’s NBA odds make his Denver Nuggets the -200 to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy this season, with the Colorado-based outfit holding a three games to zero lead over LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals. 

In honor of the abundance of European talent within the NBA today, we decide to pay homage to some of the greatest basketball players from across the pond. Without further ado, here they are. 

Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki, the German-born power forward, is an all-time basketball legend. He established himself with the Dallas Mavericks early in his illustrious NBA career, winning numerous awards and winning over a devoted fan following. Critics hail Dirk as one of the greatest European players of all time, thanks to his towering presence, sweet shooting touch, and silky-smooth moves. 

Nowitzki’s well-rounded game encompassed everything from amazing post moves to skillful drives and long-range marksmanship, setting him apart from the rest of the pack. But what truly set Dirk apart was his work ethic, professionalism, and a strong commitment to honing his craft.

Pau Gasol

Unquestionably, Pau Gasol is one of the NBA’s all-time greats, particularly among players from overseas. The Spaniard’s tremendous stats, accrued over nearly two decades of play, speak for themselves. He is among the best power forwards in NBA history thanks to his 18.3 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game. 

But more than simply his stellar performance numbers set him apart. Gasol’s endurance and adaptability have given him the opportunity to have an influence on both sides of the court, leading to six All-Star berths and two NBA titles. Numerous young basketball players all across the world, especially in his native Spain, where basketball has had a recent explosion in popularity, have been inspired by his talent and hard ethic. 

Tony Parker

Although Tony Parker has established himself as one of the European players to dominate the sport and have a huge impact in the NBA, basketball has long been identified with America. The French point guard became a dominant force and a league icon because of his exceptional court finesse. He developed into a vital member of the San Antonio Spurs, and along with Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, they formed an unstoppable trio. 

Parker’s four NBA championships and six All-Star selections are powerful testaments to his influence on the game. Many young European ballers have found inspiration in the former France international, and his influence and legacy are sure to last for years to come. 

Drazen Petrovic

There aren’t many names as revered as Drazen Petrovic when it comes to European players who have had a significant effect in the NBA. The player, who was of Croatian descent, was well-known for his fantastic shooting prowess, fast reflexes, and passionate devotion to the game, which helped him throughout his relatively brief career reach to the top of the league. Even though Petrovic was only 29 years old when he sadly died in a vehicle accident, he solidified his reputation as one of the best European players to ever grace the court.

There is no disputing that Petrovic was a true pioneer in many respects, from his mind-blowing three-point % to his incredible capacity to score from just about anywhere on the field. 


The NBA has been significantly impacted by European players, demonstrating that basketball is a global sport. All three stars have proven to be just as good, if not better than their American contemporaries and their legacy can still be recognized in 2023 with the likes of Giannis, Jokić, and Dončić all coming to the fore. 

Those three may not have developed into the players they are today had it not been for the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, and Drazen Petrovic. They have demonstrated their ability to compete with the best of them, and their legacy will surely endure for many years to come.

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