For some on this list, their NBA career came to an end due to age, for others, it was a dream that was squashed before they were given a chance, fair or unfair. But luckily for the following fifteen former NBA players, the opportunity to show their talents overseas and once again become the elite players that they were projected to be may give them a second (or third, or fourth) chance at returning to the National Basketball Association.
For years, NBA players have finished out their careers in leagues found in China, Italy, Russia and Greece, but more and more players are hoping that instead of spending time in the NBA D-League, that a high profile showing will not only result in a couple of extra zeros on their paycheck, but also a chance at showcasing their improved talents and an eventual return to the United States. While the D-League is closer to home and most have an affiliation with one of the NBA teams, playing overseas offers most players a bigger contract and a higher profile lifestyle.
Don't think that only fringe players head across the waters. Hall Of Famer Dominique Wilkins spent two years overseas, six-time NBA Champion Scottie Pippen finished his playing career with a handful of games with a couple of Finnish and Swedish League teams and even Allen Iverson signed a two year contract with Besiktas (Turkey), although he only played ten games.
While some of the names below have made a home with their new team, it has been great to see the success they have achieved and a chance at redemption, or a farewell tour for some would be a great way to end their careers.
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15 Jan Vesely
He was supposed to be a mix between Andrei Kirilenko and Dirk Nowitzki but unfortunately for the 7'0" forward from Czechoslovakia, the only thing that was similar was their height and build. Chosen sixth overall by the Washington Wizards, Jon Vesely was more known during his time in the NBA for kissing his girlfriend on draft day than for anything he did on the court.
With averages of 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, Vesely would play for the Wizards and the Denver Nuggets over the course of his three year NBA career before heading back overseas. With rebuilt confidence as a result of helping his team win the Turkish President's Cup, Turkish Cup, and Turkish League, Vesely found himself named to the All-Euroleague First Team. At just 26 years old and with a NBA escape clause in his contract, it may not be long before we see a reborn Vesely back in the NBA.
14 Robert Sacre
To be honest, there is no real justification for Robert Sacre to be on this list other than the fact that he's a good Canadian kid and one heck of a teammate. After four years of running with Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers, or more so cheering on Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers, Sacre would soon find himself heading from Hollywood to New Orleans. Unfortunately for the former Gonzaga Bulldog, he couldn't manage to knock Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca off the roster and would be waived early in the preseason.
At the beginning of 2017, Sacre headed overseas to the Japanese B League and joined the Hitachi SunRockers Tokyo-Shibuya. Filling the roster spot of a departing fellow Canadian big man, Sacre would post the following numbers in his first five games (25p/16r, 15p/2r, 17p/10r, 14p/13r, 16p/9r). Sure at seven feet tall there aren't many in the Japanese League that are of equal size to Sacre and it may taint his numbers, but it doesn't mean that the big man isn't capable of providing an NBA squad with some minutes off the bench with a couple of screens, rebounds and fouls. The tough part is finding the right one in the run and gun league that isn't necessarily Sacre's forte. But if you need a great locker room guy, practice player and bench support, there may not be a better man for the position.
13 Andrew Goudelock
He may have been given the nickname Mini Mamba by Mr. Bryant himself, but unfortunately for Andrew Goudelock, he's had a sniff of the success that Kobe had during his NBA career. After being drafted by the Lakers in 2011 with a late second round pick, Goudelock made the final roster cut and for the next two years, would bounce between the Los Angeles D-Fenders and the parent club. While his overall stats with the purple and gold weren't anything to write home about, he did post a handful of double digit games, including a 20 point effort during the 2013 playoffs.
For the next three years, the 6'3" shooting guard would travel the globe, making stops in Russia, Turkey and China before returning to the United States and a late season run with the Houston Rockets in 2016. After being waived at the end of last season, Goudelock would find himself stamping his passport once again, this time heading over to Israel. While he may not have had the NBA accomplishments that his mentor had, Goudelock can hold the fact that he's a multi-time MVP, claiming the Eurocup, VTB United League, Russian Basketball Cup and NBA D-League awards.
12 Ekpe Udoh
He was never a prolific scorer, but where Ekpe Udoh provides value to a team is on the other end of the court. At 6'10", with a 7'4" wingspan, Udoh's talents lie in his rebounding and shot altering/blocking abilities. Surely, if someone like Andrew Bogut or JaVale McGee could hack out a long time career in the NBA, so to could Udoh, given the opportunity.
Drafted by the Golden State Warriors with the 6th pick in 2010, expectations of Udoh were probably higher than the reality of his situation. Three cities and five years later, Udoh would find himself signing a new contract and helping Fenerbache with the Turkish Cup and reach the Euroleague Championship Game. Averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds and a shade over 2 blocks per game, Udoh could help a team like the Washington Wizards or the Houston Rockets in the defensive end come playoff time.
11 Shane Larkin
During his two years with the Miami Hurricanes, the point guard from Ohio could do no wrong, placing his name on nearly every college award and All-American team possible. Unfortunately, the same success was not found during his three year run in the NBA. After being drafted and traded by the Atlanta Hawks in 2013, Larkin would start his rookie season in Dallas with a broken ankle. He then went on to play for the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets, two dysfunctional franchises.
After his contract with the Nets expired, Larkin would sign with Saski Baskonia of the Liga ACB and Euroleague, a team that features former NBA'ers Chase Budinger, Andrea Bargnani and Rodrigue Beaubois on their roster. Averaging 13 points and nearly six helpers a night, Larkin at 24 years old continues to show that given the right system and environment, he could provide an NBA club with a valuable back up point guard.
10 Daequan Cook
He entered the league with much more heralded college teammates Greg Oden and Mike Conley, but unfortunately claiming more NBA success than Oden really isn't something to write home about considering the big man's inability to get on the floor. Tabbed as a three point specialist during his six seasons in the league, Cook's NBA claim to fame was knocking off Jason Kapono's attempt at a three-peat in the 2009 All-Star Weekend Three Point Competition.
After finishing his NBA career with the Chicago Bulls, Cook headed overseas with stops in several different countries such as Ukraine, France, Portugal and most recently Iran. Certainly a team like the Memphis Grizzlies could use a player with Cook's shooting range, considering that Marc Gasol is their best long distance shooter.
9 Anthony Bennett
It's hard to see a first ever number one draft pick out of Canada suffer the struggles that Anthony Bennett went through during his short four year NBA career. While he may not have been worthy of that initial draft selection (though nobody other than Giannis Antetokounmpo would have been), Bennett did show during his one year with the UNLV Rebels that he did possess some NBA talent. Sadly four different opportunities with four different teams, including his hometown Toronto Raptors, could not bring out that same success he had in Las Vegas.
This season, Bennett has joined two other failed NBA hopefuls, Ekpe Udoh and Jan Vesely, as part of the Fenerbahce Istanbul roster in the Turkish League. At just 23 years old, Bennett has a chance to rebuild himself into the promising NBA player he once was and bring respect back to holding that distinct Canadian honor.
8 J.J. Hickson
Sometimes being a hustle, energy and blue collar player can secure you a spot in the league, which it did for Hickson who carved out a decent ten year NBA career. However at some point, skill enhancement is needed in order to keep your gig. With five teams on his resume, Hickson's best years came when he was a part of the Portland Trail Blazers for a year and a half, a time in which he posted double digits in points and rebounds.
Unfortunately for an energy player, an injury such as a torn ACL could severely impact your production, which is what happened to Hickson as he saw his career slide downhill while in Denver. After a final stop in Washington, Hickson would see his NBA career come to a halt at the end of the 2016 season.
Like many other American hoopsters with something left in the tank, Hickson headed over to the Chinese Basketball Association, signing with the Fujian Sturgeons. 24 points, 13 rebounds are the numbers that Hickson puts up on average each night for the Sturgeons, numbers that prove he's still capable of providing an NBA team with some energy, even if it is with the second unit. If a team such as the San Antonio Spurs or the LA Clippers need some depth at the forward position, a call to Hickson may be the fix they need.
7 Jason Thompson
6'11", 250lbs, 30 years old. There is still time and probably a need by someone in the NBA for a player with Thompson's build and skill set. After being drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the 12th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Thompson would suit up for all 82 games, starting 56 of them and averaged numbers of 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
Unfortunately for Thompson, the Kings lack of success impacted what should have been a spot on at least the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, considering D.J. Augustin, Mario Chalmers and Brook Lopez all posted similar stats. After being traded by the Kings to the Philadelphia 76ers and then quickly turned over to the Golden State Warriors, Thompson would see his stats hit a downward spiral and quickly. After being waived by the Warriors, Thompson would finish out the 2016 season with the Toronto Raptors in a minimal role. Before the start of the 2016-17 season, Thompson would head over to China joining the Shandong Golden Stars. Over the course of 31 games this season, Thompson has registered nearly 20 points and 14 rebounds. A team looking for assistance on the glass with a second unit could take a flyer on Thompson heading into the playoff run.
6 Jamaal Franklin
Drafted with the 41st overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the 6'5" shooting guard from California played an unforgettable twenty-four games over the course of two seasons for two different teams. After playing his rookie season for the Memphis Grizzlies, Franklin would be waived at the end of his first year. A year later, the Denver Nuggets would take a chance on the former San Diego State Aztec, but the contract was short-lived as he would once again find his name on the waiver wire.
While his NBA career had little success, Franklin has been able to fill the stat sheet in China, a place in which he had visited between NBA stops. Signed with the Shanxi Brave Dragons, Franklin has averaged 34 points and 10 rebounds per game this season and last. If you want more impressive numbers check out his back to back triple double stat line: Game 1 - 60 points, 21 assists, 12 rebounds, Game 2 - 61 points, 11 assists, 12 rebounds. It's like the CBA version of Russell Westbrook morphed with James Harden.
5 Josh Smith
A 6'9" athletic forward, Josh Smith was once a main piece of the Atlanta Hawks core that during his nine years included Al Horford, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams and Jamal Crawford. Unfortunately in his early years, the Hawks underachieved, but grew to become a playoff mainstay in the Eastern Conference for his final six seasons. Hoping to capitalize on his improved stats, Smith hit the free agent market and signed a 4 year, $54 million dollar deal with the Detroit Pistons. Shortly after he started his second season with the Pistons, Smith would be waived as his shooting percentages were killing his value and the team.
A couple of stops in Houston sandwiched a cup of coffee with the Clippers and soon Smith would find himself signing with the Sichuan Blue Whales. Although he comes off the bench for the Blue Whales, Smith has proven to still be capable of contributing with 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. Although his shooting percentages are still questionable, an athletic forward off the bench could still be of value to a veteran squad.
4 Donald Sloan
When given the opportunity, Sloan proved that he could be a serviceable asset to an NBA roster. Over the course of five seasons and five stops, Sloan managed 5.5 points, two rebounds and three assists on average, but when you look at his numbers when he started games for the Indiana Pacers and the Brooklyn Nets, he was posting double digit points and at least five assists on nearly a nightly basis.
Sandwiched between his NBA stints were ventures with a variety of Development League clubs. After finishing out the 2015-16 season with the Nets, Sloan would find himself on a second tour of duty with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the CBA for the 2016-17 season, a team in which Sloan has registered 24.8 PPG, 6.3 APG and 4.9 RPG while getting nearly 38 minutes of floor time a night. To think that Sloan would hit for twenty a night in the NBA is a bit of a stretch, but he showed, when given minutes, getting buckets was achievable. A team like the Charlotte Hornets who are battling for a playoff spot could use Sloan to back up All-Star Kemba Walker.
3 MarShon Brooks
He may have only been in the NBA for three seasons, but the former Providence Friars guard entered the league with high expectations that were unfortunately never met. After being drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 25th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Brooks was quickly moved to the New Jersey Nets, a team with which he surprised many and played well enough to place on the All- Rookie Second Team.
Unfortunately, a coaching change followed by a series of trades led to Brooks failing to repeat his rookie year success. In 2014, Brooks looked for a change of scenery as he headed over to Italy for a season before signing with the Jiangsu Dragons of the CBA. Averaging 40 minutes a night and playing every game for the Dragons, the 28 year old sniper has averaged 35 points a night in each of his two seasons. Still young enough for a second chance in the NBA, a team like the Houston Rockets could use a player of Brooks' talents.
2 Jimmer Fredette
In the era of pace, space and three point bombs, one would figure that a player with Jimmer's talents would be able to find a home with one of the 32 NBA teams. However, the 10th overall pick from the 2011 draft struggled to stick with any of the four NBA teams that picked up his contract over his five seasons in the league.
While JimmerMania would take over the fan base in each city, lack of on court success would soon find the former BYU guard heading overseas to sign with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. After averaging a mere six points, 1.4 assists and one rebound over the course of his 235 game NBA career, Fredette has been reborn with the Sharks posting 37 points, 4.5 dimes and nearly seven boards. What's even better is that his shooting touch has returned, hitting 49% from the field and 41% from downtown, numbers that would certainly help the depth chart on a NBA roster like the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics or OKC Thunder.
1 Stephon Marbury
Although he's 39 years old, Marbury may fit the role of the play maker that Lebron James is looking for. With a championship pedigree that includes three Chinese Basketball Association titles, a par of back to back rings in 2014 and 2015, the New York native could help strengthen the Cavaliers bench.
Following a storybook high school career, Marbury headed to Point Guard U (Georgia Tech) for a one and done season before entering the 1996 NBA Draft. Although he proved capable of putting up impressive personal stats, Marbury could not lead any of his five NBA teams to a championship. A jealous relationship, a failed homecoming, a short stint in the desert, a second failed homecoming and a even shorter and more unsuccessful stint in Beantown, Marbury would interestingly become more of an icon overseas than he ever was in the NBA. With a CBA MVP and a CBA Foreign MVP award to go along with his six CBA All-Star Game appearances, Marbury has made a home with the Beijing Ducks and has become an icon in the Chinese Basketball Association. While at this point in his career he won't mirror that same success back in the NBA, he has proven he can still hold his own.
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