Our team recommends products that we love and feel you will too. If you click through links we provide, we may earn a commission.

How Do We Choose the Best European Basketball Players?

Basketball is a game that is growing on a global level. It is one of the most popular American sports overseas and many large and talented leagues exist outside of the NBA. One area where basketball is popular is Europe. Across the continent, players have emerged into our collective basketball mind and cemented themselves as legends. Our list accounts predominantly for achievements while playing in the NBA, although some exceptions have been made due to circumstances that kept players away from America for a period of their career. Check in with us at Zone Report in the future so you can help us decide who makes the cut for our upcoming lists.

Who are the best European Basketball Players?

The best European basketball players always have a few common traits. They are highly skilled for their positions, usually good scorers and have great court vision. Some players who hail from European countries begin their careers in the NBA, but just as many if not more begin playing professionally long before NBA players do. Players like Pau Gasol and Luka Doncic spent many of their teenage years playing professionally in Europe. Regardless of how they get there, or what skills they use to do so, these players are memorable, and loved by fans who got to or still get to root for them.

#1 Dirk Nowitski

dirk nowitzki tnoo5ygknzwu1tx2xgngrtoj6

Currently in 2023, this should come as no surprise to fans. Despite the fact that some current players are chasing Dirk’s legacy and will eventually rival him for this top spot, there is no way we can put him any lower. During his 21 seasons in Dallas, Nowitski earned 14 All Star selections, 12 All NBA selections, one MVP, and led his team to an impressive NBA Finals win in 2011, where he was the Finals MVP. 

With all of these accolades, it is easy to see why German Jesus is at the top of our list. He is widely recognized as one of, if not the, greatest shooting bigs in the game, and his signature move, the turnaround fadeaway jumper, is widely replicated and beloved. Dirk was a step above the rest during his time and his game continues to stand the test of time.

#2 Giannis Antetokounmpo

giannis antetokounmpo 196rednkilqka175w47fvj13dg

Most basketball fans vividly remember the 2016-17 season. KD had just joined the Warriors, Kawhi was reinstating the Spurs as a basketball powerhouse, and LeBron was on the hunt to win again after one of the most iconic Finals victories in the history of the sport. And in the midst of all of this, a new small forward jumped into the scene and forced everyone to pay attention to the Milwaukee Bucks. That was the Greek Freak.

Since that season when Giannis broke out, and won Most Improved Player, he has been nothing but dominant, collecting two MVP’s, a DPOY, and a Finals win along with the Finals MVP to go with it. His length, speed, and strength make him a one of a kind athlete. When it is all said and done, Giannis will be rivaling all of the greats, not just the European greats.

#3 Nikola Jokic

r1250325 1295x864 3 2

Everyone knows that Nikola Jokic has come a long way since being drafted. We all have seen that Taco Bell commercial that he was drafted during numerous times. It serves as a reminder of all of the expectations that the Joker has exceeded during his time in the league. Despite being drafted to back up Jusef Nurkic, Jokic instantly eclipsed him and made himself the star of Denver.

In his nine short seasons so far, Jokic has earned 5 All Star nods and 5 All NBA selections along with two MVP’s, and a debatable third one that he didn’t win. All of this led to last season, when the Nuggets went over the hump for the first time in franchise history behind the Joker’s Finals MVP performance. Nikola Jokic has been one of the brightest stars in the game and no one expects that to stop any time soon.

#4 Pau Gasol

4127c395 pau gasol lakers getty images

When Pau Gasol entered the league, everyone had the understanding that he would be a quality big from day one in the league, but Pau set a new precedent for international players. He was the first non-American to win rookie of the year, and led the Grizzlies for a few seasons. Then, like when most players go to LA, Pau’s star rose even higher when he was traded to the Lakers. 

Over the course of his 18 year career, he supported the Kobe Bryant Lakers to win two Finals. After his two lengthy tenures with the Grizzlies and Lakers, Pau became a journeyman throughout the league giving a few quality minutes a game to teams along with his wisdom and knowledge. Pau is also known to many American basketball fans for his time with Spain in the Olympics and although he never achieved Gold, he was still a major part Spain is a global powerhouse in Basketball.

#5 Tony Parker

parkertony49gettyus 1fwnxv4jsmdz61imxq98acdfku

Tony Parker is not thought of as the leader of any of those Spurs teams that he played on. Unless you are Tony Parker. As a somewhat divisive figure in basketball, it is hard to rank Tony Parker. He was a part of four championship teams in San Antonio and earned Finals MVP during one of those wins. In 18 seasons he was a six time All Star and had four All NBA selections. 

Parker clearly has the accolades to be here in the conversation of the best European player of all time and he is our greatest French player of all time. He was the general that ran the offense for both the Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard Spurs. Despite not always being the biggest star on his team, Tony Parker is still a deserving and talented player.

#6 Marc Gasol


Marc Gasol was a highly skilled big man with a fascinating career. From being traded as a part of a package for his own brother to then being one of the final pieces that Toronto needed to win a championship, Gasol has moved around a bit in his career, but many fans remember him best as a member of the grit and grind Grizzlies team. While in Memphis, he anchored the defense with Zach Randolph, to the point he won a DPOY in the 2012-13 season. Any seven footer has potential to be a good shot blocker, but the younger Gasol took that to a different level, averaging well over a block a game for his 13 year career.

#7 Luka Doncic


Keep in mind that this ranking is based on the idea that if Luka Doncic were to retire today, this is where we would rank him. That is impressive for a player just starting year six in the NBA. During his time in the league, Luka has won a rookie of the year, made 4 All Star games, and has 4 All NBA selections. 

Only two things are  lacking for Luka at this point in time. It is the inevitable MVP award that we all see looming in his near future, and some playoff success beyond beating the Suns. With those two added to his resume, it is clear that Luka will rise up the list, and rival Dirk and Jokic as the most skilled European players of all time.

#8 Rudy Gobert

rudy gobert iso looks

Rudy Gobert isn’t just a great defender. He is one of the best defenders ever. Minnesota has not seen this kind of rim protection since Kevin Garnett was unleashed upon the world. Gobert’s resume is simple. He has three DPOY awards, making him tied for second all time for number of those won. Despite the fact he hasn’t averaged over 15 a game in a season, he is still incredibly efficient offensively, taking selective shots and has had the highest field goal percentage in the league multiple times. Gobert is a clear hall of famer, and it is not controversial.

#9 Peja Stojakovic


It is somewhat safe to say that Sacramento struck gold with Stojakovic. He was a three time All Star for them in an era where they needed anything to help Chris Webber out. Peja was a sharpshooting wing that had some of the highest three point percentages you’ll see. He was oversized for his position, measuring at 6 ’10”. The combination of size, skill, and shooting was so unique in his era that many would argue he was underutilized at times, especially in the twilight of his career when he was no longer with the Kings. That’s not to say he was not still an impactful player in his later years, he helped the Mavs win a championship in his final year as a role player, rather it indicates how ahead of his time Peja was. Someone shooting over 40% from three in today’s game would be an extremely valuable asset.

#10 Arvydas Sabonis

cdn.vox cdn 1

In a lot of ways, it feels like we were robbed of a lot of Arvydas’ career. Despite originally being drafted in 1986, he was not able to debut in the NBA until 1995. Soviet Union officials had forbidden him from playing in the United States. During the years that he was in Europe, Sabonis tore through the competition. He was 7’3” and still an extremely skilled post player and passer. He moved very fluidly and all of that together made him extremely difficult to stop. He was able to challenge the Dream Team with his Lithuanian unit in the Olympics, which was no easy task. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and a few more years in Europe, Sabonis eventually made his debut for the Trail Blazers, at 31. Despite already being past his prime, Arvydas was still productive for the Blazers, averaging 12 and 7. He also was inducted into the basketball hall of fame for his long career and exceptional overseas play.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best European Basketball Players

Who is the best European Basketball Coach?

Every country across Europe has a multitude of talented coaches. We see impressive performances on the international scale every Olympics. One of the more legendary coaches in Europe is Frank Lubin. He popularized basketball in Lithuania and is a major reason that they were able to win two bronze medals in the Olympics in the 1990’s.

Is European Basketball harder than the NBA?

Luka Doncic inadvertently began a fascinating debate when he claimed it was easier to score in the NBA than it had been playing in European leagues. We believe that European basketball is different from NBA basketball. The rules, team compositions, and even ball are different between leagues, thus they each require a different mindset.

Where are most European basketball players from?

Currently, the European country with the most players in the NBA is France with 45 players. They include names like Rudy Gobert, Victor Wembanyama, and Evan Fournier.

Where is basketball big in Europe?

Many countries in Europe love basketball. It is one of the most popular sports in Greece, Serbia, Spain, Italy, and Turkey. It is even the national sport of Lithuania.

Joe is a former college football player turned entrepreneur. Joe spent nearly a decade helping pro athletes build their brand online before recently getting certified as an NFL agent. He knows his way around the league and is a great source of information for all things football.

Sign Up For Our Sports Fan Newsletter

Get Access to Exclusive Giveaways, Deals, and Events from our favorite brands and stores.