Top 5 Spanish players to play in the NBA

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns, Game 3
Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns, Game 3

NBA has been home to some of the world's best basketball talent. Despite being an American sport, basketball is loved and played by millions around the globe. The impact of several players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol is beyond measure.

They were some of the best to ever step foot on the court and made fans realize that any player with talent can boss the game. One such country that has always been successful in producing world-class talent is Spain. In today's article, we discuss the top five Spanish players to ever play in the league.

Top 5 best Spanish players to play in the NBA

#5 Jose Manuel Calderon

Detroit Pistons Media Day
Detroit Pistons Media Day

Jose Manuel Calderon started his NBA career with the Toronto Raptors. He managed to play 64 games for them in his rookie season and averaged 23.2 minutes. He had a pretty ordinary rookie season, but as time went by he became a starting PG for the Raptors in the NBA.

His best season in Toronto came during the 2008-09 season. Jose Calderon started 68 games that year and averaged 12.8 PPG and 8.9 APG shooting at a phenomenal 40.6% from the 3 point range.

He then moved to Detroit in 2013, where he instantly became the starting PG. Later that year, the Spaniard moved to Dallas on a 4 year $28 million deal. In the 81 games he played for the Mavericks, Calderon averaged 11.4 PPG, he was a starter on the team but was once again traded at the end of the season to the New York Knicks.

He nailed some vital clutch shots in his 2-year stay at the Garden. Calderon then moved to the Lakers for the 2016-17 season, before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks. He was waived off by the Hawks and eventually ended up with the Cavaliers, where he made a trip to the NBA finals.

Calderon's career in the NBA has been full of ups and downs, but the Spaniard made the point guard position his own by displaying terrific on-court vision. He was also a vital part of the Spanish national team in 3 Olympic campaigns, where they won two silver and one bronze medal.

#4 Ricky Rubio

Spain v United States Men's Basketball - Olympics: Day 11
Spain v United States Men's Basketball - Olympics: Day 11

Ricky Rubio arrived in the NBA after a lot of controversies. He was drafted 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009, but due to certain problems stayed abroad until 2011. His entry into the league was celebrated by the Timberwolves fans, as he had made a lot of noise in Spain with his terrific performances.

In his rookie season in the NBA, Rubio averaged 10.6 PPG and 8.2 APG in the 41 games he played that year. He was named in the NBA All-Rookie first team courtesy of his terrific on-court performances. Rubio was a stalwart in Minnesota and became a crowd favorite because of his brilliance there.

He played six seasons for Minnesota before moving to a young and exciting Utah Jazz team. Rubio was an instant starter there and he also helped players like Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert get to their best. After two seasons in Utah, Ricky moved to Phoenix for the 2019-20 season. He was phenomenal there as he started 65 games and averaged 13.0 PPG and 8.8 APG.

The Spaniard moved to Minnesota again for the 2020-21 season. He was a vital part of the dressing room and was often seen giving important instructions to youngsters. In his 10 year long NBA career, Rubio has won the respect of many players with his terrific abilities on the court. Other than being a great player, he also motivates his teammates and tries to bring out the best in them every time they step on the court.

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#3 Serge Ibaka

Serge Ibaka during the 2019 NBA Finals - Game Six
Serge Ibaka during the 2019 NBA Finals - Game Six

Serge Ibaka is the first player from the Republic of Congo to play in the NBA. After moving to Spain, he learned Spanish and played for a second division club. His athleticism and brilliance in the paint caught the eye of several NBA scouts.

He was drafted 28th by the Seattle Supersonics[which later came to be known as Oklahoma City Thunder] in 2008. Ibaka was an integral part of the young OKC team that had the likes of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden. In his very first year, Ibaka grabbed eyeballs with a few powerful performances. He was brilliant in the paint and his raw physicality made things very difficult for his opponents.

He played an integral part in OKC's trip to the NBA Finals in 2012. Ibaka was part of three NBA All-Defense first teams. He led the league in blocks in 2012 and 2013. After playing seven seasons for OKC, he was traded to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasov and draft rights for Domantas Sabonis.

He moved to the Toronto Raptors in 2017 and instantly became a favorite there. Ibaka played a big part in Toronto's championship-winning season. During the finals, the center averaged 11.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 1.7 BPG in the 6 games. After a successful spell for the Raptors, he moved to the Los Angeles Clippers last season. He suffered several injuries and did not actively feature in their playoff run to the conference finals.

Ibaka initially played for his home country Congo, but after moving to Spain he decided to play for them. He was part of the Spanish team that won gold and a silver medal at the Olympics and the FIBA European Championship.

#2 Marc Gasol

Spain v Argentina Men's Basketball - Olympics: Day 6
Spain v Argentina Men's Basketball - Olympics: Day 6

Marc Gasol started his career with Spanish giants FC Barcelona. He then moved to Girona in 2008 and won the ACB Most Valuable Player there. Gasol then decided to enrol himself in the NBA draft. He was picked 48th overall by the Lakers and was later traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for his older brother Paul Gasol.

Marc made an instant impact with the Grizzlies. His defensive prowess and creative abilities from the center position helped the team make the trip to the conference finals in 2013. The same year, Gasol was also named as the defensive player of the year.

After 10 years in Memphis, Gasol decided to move to Toronto in 2019. He was a vital part of the championship-winning team as he came up big in the finals averaging 12.0 PPG and 7.3 RPG against the Golden State Warriors.

After a glorious stay in Toronto, the center made its way back to the team that drafted him - the LA Lakers. He struggled to get minutes in LA and eventually moved away from the team at the end of the season.

He was one of the leaders in the Spanish national team. After winning two Olympic medals, two World Cup's and five Eurobasket medals he decided to retire from the national team post the Tokyo Olympics.

#1 Pau Gasol

San Antonio Spurs v Washington Wizards
San Antonio Spurs v Washington Wizards

Pau Gasol is easily one of the best European players to ever play in the NBA. He came into the league after getting drafted third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2001. Gasol had an instant impact on the team as he averaged 17.6 PPG and 8.9 RPG in his first year to bag the Rookie of the year title.

Gasol started in all games in his first two seasons and played 240 games before missing out on games due to an injury in his third year. He ended his seven-year career with the Grizzlies in 2008, as he was traded to the Lakers that year. Gasol was part of the incredible team that won two championships in a row.

He formed a lifelong friendship with the great Kobe Bryant and played an excellent second fiddle to him in their championship-winning team. Pau then moved to Chicago in 2014, where he was exceptional. His last big move came in 2016 when he moved to San Antonio, where the center made his sixth all-star appearance. He then moved to Milwaukee, but an injury ended his season after he had only played three games for them.

Pau Gasol was easily one of the best players in Spain's national team. He scored the most points during the 2004 Athens Olympics. Gasol was also the leader of the team, which won three consecutive Olympic medals. The center also has one world cup and a seven Euro Basket medal to add to his stacked resume.

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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