Once upon a time, the international basketball scene was dreadful. There was no money involved, the product was poor, and your name would be all but forgotten. Today, more and more NBA players are making the move to play overseas. Tons of money are being given to former NBA players to join the EuroLeague or the Chinese Basketball Association. Basketball stars such as Stephon Marbury, Amare Stoudemire, Metta World Peace, and Hall of Famer Allen Iverson all made the leap at one point.
These players could have left the league because they’re very young and the NBA was overwhelming so they decided to hone their craft. Another reason could be because they were in the twilight years of their careers and wanted to make one last big paycheck. The most common reason may be because the competition is too stiff in the NBA and they rather not ride a bench or go to the NBA’s Developmental League. Although they're playing overseas, a lot of the players on this list could make a return to the NBA. Some of these players were starters for their teams in the NBA and others would ride the bench but one thing is clear, something about playing overseas has grabbed their attention.
15 Robert Sacre: Japanese B League
Sacre was born into an athletic family household. His father, Greg LaFleur, was a former National Football League player and his mother, Leslie Sacre, played collegiate basketball for the LSU Lady Tigers. With his towering size, seven feet tall, Sacre was a bright prospect coming out of high school. The Gonzaga product would become a two-time First Team All-WCC member in 2011 and 2012 before being drafted into the NBA.
The center would be selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round and was considered a project. His ability to defend was a big plus for Sacre but after four years with Lakers, he would leave the team in 2016 to play overseas. He would sign a deal with the Hitachi SunRockers Tokyo-Shibuya of the Japanese B League.
14 Tony Wroten: Venezuelan League
Considered the number three point guard out of high school in the nation during 2011, Tony Wroten’s hard work paved the way for an opportunity to go on to a great college and eventually becoming a profession basketball player. He would play one year at the University of Washington and would earn a First Team All-PAC-12 award as well as Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Wroten would be selected by the Memphis Grizzles with the 25 overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft.
It would be a rocky road for the point guard as he would be assigned to the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League multiple times. Wroten would also sign with the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks before leaving overseas this year. In May, he would sign a deal with Bucaneros de La Guaira, a team in Venezuela.
13 Donald Sloan: Chinese Basketball Association
The Dallas native would make a name for himself while in high school and be considered the eighth-best point guard in the nation during 2006. Sloan would take his talents to Texas A&M University and would become a force not to be reckoned with for four years. Although he made First Team All-Big 12 honors his senior year in 2010, Sloan would go undrafted after college.
He would sign a one-year, non-guaranteed contract with the Sacramento Kings but would be waived. Sloan would play for several teams in the NBA Developmental League but he did get a chance in the big leagues. He would play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, Indiana Pacers, and most recently the Brooklyn Nets in 2016. The last team he would play for was the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association.
12 Lazar Hayward: Venezuelan League
The New York native would commit to Marquette University in 2006 after being ranked the number 18 small forward in the nation. Known as “Money Man,” Hayward would become one of the top scorers in the history of the school. He could score, rebound, and defend, making him a perfect prospect for the NBA. He would be selected by the Washington Wizards with the 30th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
His draft rights would be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves and would play just one season for the team. He would be traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder before the start of his second year in the league. Nothing notable would come from his time with both teams and Hayward decided to go overseas. This year he would sign with the Guaros de Lara of the Liga Profesional de Baloncesto in Venezuela.
11 Jeff Ayres: Japanese B League
Formally known as Jeff Pendergraph, Ayres would attend Arizona State for four years and become one of the most recognizable big men in collegiate basketball. His hard work would earn him First Team All-Pac ten honors in 2009. His skills would be good enough to make it to the NBA when he was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 31st overall pick in the second round of the NBA Draft.
His draft rights would be traded to the Portland Trail Blazers and he would spend just one season with the team. His impact in the NBA was limited during his career but he was part of the San Antonio Spurs NBA Championship team in 2014. In Feb of 2017, Ayers would sign with Alvark Tokyo of the Japanese B. League.
10 James Anderson: Turkish League
As a high school player, James Anderson would receive high honors such as becoming a McDonald’s All-American and Gatorade Player of the Year for Arkansas in 2007. Maybe the best basketball player to ever come out of the state, Anderson would commit to Oklahoma State University. He would tear it up on a collegiate level and earned the Big 12 Player of the Year award in 2010.
He would be selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 20th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He would only play in 26 games his rookie year due to a stress fracture in his right foot and was assigned to the Developmental League. His best year in the NBA came in the 2013-14 season when he started 62 games for the Philadelphia 76ers. Anderson would sign a two-year deal with the Turkish club Darüşşafaka in 2016.
9 Josh Boone: Australian League
Josh Boone would commit to the University of Connecticut after a stellar high school career in 2003. He would help the team win a NCAA championship in 2004 and earned the Big East Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005. The big fella would be selected by the New Jersey (Brooklyn) Nets with the 23rd overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.
Playing four years with the Nets, Boone’s best season would come his second year with the team. He would average 8.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, the center would decline in the following two years and leave the league by 2010. Boone no longer has his trademark long hair and recently re-signed with Melbourne United of Australia’s National Basketball League.
8 Lou Amundson: Philippine Basketball Association
Lou Amundson may be best known for making an appearance in the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. We’re not saying Amundson is a bad player but he didn’t exactly light up the NBA when he was there. He would attend UNLV and was undrafted when he entered the NBA in 2007.
He would become a journeyman, playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Amundson decided to leave for the international scene this year. He would sign a contract with TNT KaTropa of the Philippine Basketball Association. At the age of 35 years old, we doubt he comes back to the NBA.
7 Juan Carlos Navarro: Spanish League
He played just one season in the NBA but his stats aren’t as bad as you would think. Navarro would play in all 82 games and post 10.9 points per game for the Memphis Grizzles in the 2007-08 season. Before joining the Grizzles, Navarro was a work horse for FC Barcelona. At the age of 17 years old, he would make debut for the team in the Spanish ACB League.
He can shoot the ball as well as be a floor general and it showed throughout his career. He has countless awards over in Europe, including a three-time Spanish League Finals MVP. Statistically, he’s also the all-time leading scorer, games played, three-pointers made, and first to reach 4,000 points in the EuroLeague. Today, Navarro is still playing for FC Barcelona.
6 Shane Larkin: Spanish League
The Cincinnati native and son of Hall of Fame shortstop, Barry Larkin, has some big shoes to fill when it comes to professional sports in the family. Instead of baseball, Larkin would take to basketball as a point guard and be good enough to play collegiate ball for Miami University. He would be voted by coaches as the ACC Player of the Year and earned First Team All-ACC honors in 2013.
Larkin was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. His draft rights would be traded to the Dallas Mavericks but would play just one season for the team. Larkin would also play for the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets before leaving the NBA. Today, Larkin is signed to Baskonia, a team from Spain that plays in Liga ACB and the EuroLeague.
5 Carlos Arroyo: Turkish League
Born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Carlos Arroyo would play in Puerto Rico’s professional basketball association at just the age of 17 years old. He would then attend Florida International University from 1998 to 2001 and represent their basketball team, the Golden Panthers. As an undrafted player, Arroyo had short stints with both the Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets in the 2001-02 season.
He would get a chance to play for the Utah Jazz a season later and became a great role player and starter for the team. Arroyo would have a long and successful run in the NBA, playing for the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, and the Boston Celtics before leaving. Today, Arroyo plays for Cariduros de Fajardo of the Baloncesto Superior Nacional.
4 Pablo Prigioni: Spanish League
Pablo Prigioni is a rare case. He would become the oldest NBA rookie in the history of the league when he made his debut for the New York Knicks at the age of 35 in 2012. Why did it take so long? The native Argentinian would play in his prime over in Europe for most of his life. He was also a main stay on Argentina’s national team and helped them succeed at the FIBA Americas Championship, South American Championship, and 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
When he came to the NBA, he was a decent backup with a great I.Q. but lacked the speed and stamina to defend or play for long stretches. In 2017, Prigioni played professional basketball for Liga ACB and the EuroLeague’s Baskonia club before officially retiring.
3 Jordan Hamilton: Venezuelan League
Jordan Hamilton was listed as the number one small forward high school player in the nation in 2009. He would commit to the University of Texas where he made First Team All-Big 12 honors and was a Second Team All-American in 2011. After college, Hamilton would be selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the 26th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
His draft rights would be traded to the Denver Nuggets where he would spend the next three years of his career. He would also play for the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, and New Orleans Pelicans before going overseas in 2016. Hamilton would play in Turkey for Tofas of the Turkish Basketball Super League and more recently Guaros de Lara of the Venezuelan League.
2 JJ Hickson: Chinese Basketball Association
Considered the second best power forward out of high school in 2007, JJ Hickson would commit to North Carolina State. The McDonald’s All-American would only play one year in college before hightailing it to the NBA. He would be selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round with the 19th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. He would spend the next three seasons with the Cavilers and became an important piece for the team but they decided to trade him to the Sacramento Kings in 2011.
Hickson would bounce around with the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, and Washington Wizards before leaving the NBA. Today, Hickson has signed a deal with Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese Basketball Association. At just 28 years old, Hickson could come back to the NBA sooner than later.
1 Al Thornton: Venezuelan League
One of the best basketball players to ever come out of Florida State University, Al Thornton has been playing overseas since 2012. Before taking his talents to international organizations, Thornton was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 14th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. The forward’s long frame and ability create his own shot made him a top prospect and the Clippers thought they had something special.
He would become a great role player for the team but was traded to the Washington Wizards in 2010 and then signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2011. Thornton would play in Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and China over the years. Recently, Thornton has been lightening it up in Venezuela as a member of the Bucaneros de la Guaira basketball team.