Foreign players from dozens of countries have found their way to the US after playing overseas to have a shot at the NBA, with some of them obviously being more suited for the kind of basketball played in the best league in the world.
The NBA is always looking to expand its horizons and reach every single corner in the world, and the Asian market has become one of the most important all across the globe since the start of the century.
Over the course of NBA history, several Asian players have contributed to this expansion by reaching the league, working as ambassadors of the game in that continent. Today, we’re going to let you know about the NBA players born in Asia.
Note: We’re not going to mention Jeremy Lin because he was born in the U.S.
10. Ha Seung-Jin
Ha Seung-Jin is the first South Korean born player ever to set foot on an NBA hardwood, playing for the Portland Trail Blazers for three seasons but spending most of the time with their D-League affiliate, until the 7’3 center decided that the best move for him was to head back to his homeland.
9. Hamed Haddadi
Hamed Haddadi is the first Iranian player ever to be part of an NBA roster, spending the 2013 season as a part of the Phoenix Suns. Nonetheless, the center didn’t find much success in the Association, so he decided to go back to his native Iran and has also played in China ever since leaving the US.
8. Yuta Tabuse
Yuta Tabuse played as a point guard for the Phoenix Suns in during the 2003-04 campaign, but he didn’t find much success and spent several years just wandering around summer camps and the Development league. Still, he’s the first Japanese player to ever play in the NBA.
7. Zhou Qi
Zhou Qi is the first Chinese player drafted after 9 years of absence, and most people believe he’s set to be the next Asian superstar. Still, he needs to get out of the Houston Rockets, as the 7’2 center isn’t going to get any playing time behind Clint Capela and Nene.
6. Sun Yue
After being drafted 40th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, Yue spent a couple of seasons dressed in purple and gold, even managing to be a part of the 2009 NBA Champions squad, becoming just the 2nd Chinese player ever to win a ring. Afterwards, the small forward spent most of his time in the D-League before heading back home.
5. Mengke Bateer
Mengke Bateer is one of the most successful Asian NBA players in history, spending 3 years in the Association and playing for the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors, and becoming the first Asian player to ever win an NBA Championship, although the center wasn’t a factor in that title run.
4. Wang Zhizhi
Wang Zhizhi was the 1st Chinese player ever to be drafted by an NBA team (1999 NBA Draft), spending 5 seasons in the league and playing at center for the Mavericks, Clippers and Heat, posting career averages of 4.4 points and 1.7 boards before heading back to China.
3. Yi Jianlian
This power forward is one of the most gifted Asian players that the league has seen, playing for the Bucks, Nets, Wizards and Mavericks from 2007 to 2012, mostly because of his ability to stretch the floor. After leaving the league, he attempted a comeback in 2016 with the Los Angeles Lakers, but after a handful of preseason matches, he requested to be waived by the team.
2. Omri Casspi
Casspi is an Israel basketball player and he currently plays for the Golden State Warriors. He spent 9 years in the NBA and most successful part of his career was with the Sacramento Kings, where he averaged 11.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He is a solid small forward and maybe he will an NBA Championship with the Warriors this season.
1. Yao Ming
And obviously, the best Asian player ever has to be the 7’6 monster Yao Ming, who spend 9 full seasons with the Houston Rockets, leading them alongside Tracy McGrady but constantly falling short of their Championship goals. The Hall of Famer is the game’s biggest ambassador in Asia and one of the most beloved athletes of the past decade, even if injuries stopped him from reaching his ceiling.