We’ve seen a lot of foreign players thrive in the NBA, either spending the first years of their career overseas or coming to the U.S to play in high school or at NCAA Level, quickly adapting to American basketball and lifestyle.
Most of these foreign stars have been European players, but we can’t forget the fact that African players have also come to the States to dominate the Association, especially with their developed physique and strength.
In fact, we’ve seen great stories such as Joel Embiid’s, as “The Process” wasn’t even a basketball player until not so long ago, but after some training and a lot of hard work, he’s become one of the most intriguing and promising prospects in the league. So, today we’ll talk about the 10 best players that came from Africa to the NBA over the course of the years.
10. Bismack Biyombo
Biyombo was such an interesting prospect when he first came to the U.S, and people actually doubted the African youngster's age due to his prominent body and dominant performance overall, especially on the defensive end.
Sadly, he never became the force in the paint everybody expected he’d be, but he’s still a very solid defensive center and he made a name for himself during his last year as a Toronto Raptor due to his surge in the postseason.
9. Al-Farouq Aminu
Aminu has never shined for his offense, although he’s still developing his midrange shot as well as his three-pointer. Still, the Nigerian is extremely athletic and is a top-notch defensive player with his great wingspan and awareness, blocking shots at will and being one of the most disturbing players to play against.
His presence was a huge factor for the Portland Trail Blazers, and even if he never manages to be a consistent scorer, he still has a long time in the NBA due to his amazing defense.
8. Emeka Okafor
Before Jahlil, there was Emeka, the 2004 Rookie of the Year and son of Nigerian immigrants. The Center spent 9 years in the NBA as a member of the Bobcats, Hornets and Wizards, and he was even a part of the USA Olympic team that won the bronze medal in Athens.
Injuries really made him stall and his numbers went down on a yearly basis, but he still left career averages of 12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
7. Manute Bol
Bol was never actually a great player and his fragile physique made him a very odd guy to watch. Still, he was probably one of the sickest shot blockers in NBA history, averaging 3.3 blocks per game despite being on the court for less than 20 minutes per night (that’s 6.4 blocks per 36 minutes).
Besides, Bol was a great ambassador of American basketball and sports, so his legacy will last both on and off the court.
6. Serge Ibaka
Coming out of Congo to play in Spain, Ibaka came into the league as a defensive specialist and a complete nonfactor on offense. Nowadays, the former defensive player of the year has become a very productive two-way player, as “Iblocka” really improved his free throw shooting and even worked his way onto becoming a stretch four.
He’s poised to enter free agency and get a lot of cash this offseason.
5. Andre Iguodala
Iguodala’s also a son of Nigerian immigrants, and if you’re one of the younger fans, you probably don’t remember how much of a dominant scorer Andre was for the 76ers and the Denver Nuggets before embracing a substitute role to play more as a defensive specialist for the Golden State Warriors.
Andre’s an example of professionalism and he showed it a couple of years ago during the NBA Finals, where he deserved and won the Finals MVP honors due to his lockdown defense and clutch shooting.
4. Luol Deng
Deng was a tremendous scorer during his prime, as well as being a very capable defender for the Chicago Bulls during the Tom Thibodeau era. Sadly, those years are far behind him, but he still contributes to African basketball with schools and programs, as he came out of a Manute Bol initiative way back in the day.
Through 12 years, he’s averaged 15 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 45.5% from the floor and 33.2% from three-point territory.
3. Steve Nash
Perhaps you thought Nash was a born and raised Canadian, but actually, he was born in South Africa. Needless to say, Nash will go down as one of the greatest point guards in the history of the game due to his consistency, his great shooting stroke and of course, his passing ability.
Winner of back to back MVP’s, the former Sun glory is also a member of the 50-40-90 club after averaging 50+ percent from the floor, 40+ percent from downtown and 90+ percent from the charity stripe in multiple seasons.
2. Dikembe Mutombo
The Georgetown product is actually the highest-paid African player in NBA history due to his more than 143 million dollars earned in over 18 seasons in the Association. He was a defensive specialist and one of the greatest shot blockers in the history of the game, swatting over 3000 shots to become 2nd on the all-time list and being one of the most dominant presences in the paint this league has ever seen, although he was never able to win an NBA ring, playing in arguably the greatest and most competitive era of the league.
1. Hakeem Olajuwon
And the top spot on the podium definitely has to go to Hakeem The Dream, probably the most talented center in NBA history. Being as smooth and mobile as a ballerina on offense and as strong and powerful as a bulldozer on defense, Olajuwon averaged 21.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.1 blocks per game, leading the all-time block list while also making 9 All-Defensive teams, 12 All-Star Game appearances and winning 2 Defensive Player of the Year awards, 2 Finals MVPs and of course 2 NBA Championships, becoming one of the greatest players this game has ever seen.