Best African-Born Players in NBA History

23 May 2024
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The National Basketball Association ranks as one of the biggest and best-followed sports competitions in the United States. The NBA boasts famous teams from across the US and the sport's most talented players. Check the line-up for Team USA at any major international basketball meeting, and you'll see a squad packed with NBA All-Stars. But the NBA's reach extends far beyond the borders of America. It's a global phenomenon with millions of fans across North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

African sports fans follow games live on television or through the best legal live streams available at sportsbooks. Supporters can watch the play, cheer on their favorites, and see the top players put on a show. Many sports fans also like to get closer to the action by predicting results on the apps that offer  NBA betting playoffs odds , specials, promotions, and markets. Study the form, call the winner, and target a profit from your love of professional sports.

The NBA has more to thank Africa for than providing millions of fans and generating income through merchandise. Some of the most talented and successful NBA players were born in Africa, honing their skills at local teams before making the jump to the pinnacle of pro basketball. The NBA would be less of an attraction without its African influence, and few would dispute that point.

Nigeria leads the way

When the 2023/24 season began last year, the squad stats showed no fewer than 15 African-born players in the NBA. Nigeria led the way with five players, Cameroon sent three, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo provided two. Other African nations influencing the NBA this season are Angola, Mali, Senegal, South Sudan, and Sudan.

Africa's influence on the NBA is nothing new, and to prove it, we will take a break from following results and previewing games. Our content team takes readers down memory lane, recalling some of the best Africans ever to grace the NBA courts. These men left a mark on the competition and helped pave the way for future generations to pursue a career in basketball. Their talents and success also encouraged NBA scouts to spend more time touring the African nations in search of the next big thing.

Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon, born in Lagos, Nigeria, is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Nicknamed "The Dream," Olajuwon enjoyed a legendary career spanning 18 seasons in the NBA. He was selected as the first overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets and went on to become an iconic figure in the franchise's history.

Olajuwon's unparalleled footwork, shot-blocking ability, and post moves made him a dominant force on both ends of the court. He led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995, earning NBA Finals MVP honors both times. Olajuwon was a 12-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and a member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. He retired as the league's all-time leader in blocks and remains one of the most revered players in NBA history.

Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo, born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is renowned for his shot-blocking and defensive prowess. At 7 feet 2 inches tall, Mutombo was a dominant presence in the paint throughout his 18-year NBA career.

He was selected fourth overall in the 1991 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets and went on to play for several teams, including the Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, and Houston Rockets. Mutombo was an eight-time NBA All-Star and a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, leading the league in blocks three times. He ranks second on the NBA's all-time blocks list and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015 in recognition of his contributions to the game.

Manute Bol

Manute Bol, born in Turalei, Sudan, was one of the tallest players in NBA history, standing at 7 feet 7 inches tall. Despite his slender frame, Bol was known for his shot-blocking ability and defensive presence. He was selected in the second round of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets. He went on to play for several teams, including the Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, and Miami Heat.

Bol led the NBA in blocks during his rookie season and ranks among the league's all-time leaders in blocks per game. Beyond his contributions on the court, Bol was also known for his humanitarian efforts, advocating for peace and development in his native Sudan. His impact on and off the court earned him a lasting legacy in the basketball world.

Luol Deng

Luol Deng, born in Wau, South Sudan (now part of South Sudan), enjoyed a successful NBA career spanning 15 seasons. The Phoenix Suns selected him seventh overall in the 2004 NBA Draft, and he was immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls, where he spent the majority of his career.

Deng established himself as a versatile forward known for his scoring, rebounding, and defensive abilities. He was a two-time NBA All-Star and earned NBA All-Defensive Team honors in 2012. Deng also played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, and Minnesota Timberwolves before retiring in 2019. Beyond his NBA career, Deng represented Great Britain in international competitions and remains a respected figure in the basketball community.

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, is one of the most dominant big men in the NBA today. Standing at 7 feet tall, Embiid possesses a rare combination of size, skill, and athleticism that makes him a formidable presence on both ends of the court. He was selected third overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers and has since emerged as one of the league's premier players.

Embiid is a multiple-time NBA All-Star and has earned All-NBA and All-Defensive Team honors for his stellar play. He is known for his scoring ability, rebounding prowess, and shot-blocking skills, making him a perennial contender for MVP honors. Despite facing injuries early in his career, Embiid has established himself as one of the most dominant forces in the NBA and continues to elevate his game year after year.


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