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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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