The NBA may be the top league for basketball players to ply their craft, but it surely isn’t the only place to do so. There are leagues across the globe that attract really good players, but many just aren’t good enough to play with the world’s best like LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Some of those guys were good enough to play in the NBA, but aren’t at that level anymore. Others just can’t let it go and think they’re going to play until they're 100 years old. For some, it’s about the money. But seriously, who wouldn’t want to be the man playing in Belarus?!
You’ve got a guy who’s dominated as a basketball player since he was 10 years old and here he is at 24, having left college without finishing after two years to pursue his dreams, only to be out of the league without much to show for it. Do you think that guy is going to move furniture for minimum wage when he could go to China and make some good money playing ball?
Here’s a look at 15 such players who have continued their careers after stints in the NBA wrapped up.
15 Jimmer Fredette
It’s hard to even say that Jimmer Fredette even had an NBA career, but there aren’t many basketball fans that don’t know is name. He was a boatload of hype coming out of Brigham Young where he was the 2010 college basketball player of the year, but five seasons and four teams later, Jimmer couldn’t seem to catch on anywhere in the NBA. Now he’s headed to, where else, China of course! They love scoring over there and Jimmer should be able to give them that. Last season with the D-League’s Westchester Knicks (that doesn’t really count as the NBA, right?) Fredette averaged 21 points, five assists and 4.4 rebounds in 40 games. That translates to like 34 ppg in China right? Who cares if he doesn’t play any defense, he’s gonna throw up 30 shots a game and sell a million jerseys. And if that doesn’t work, there are plenty of other places to play.
14 Ricky Davis
Talk about a journeyman who went to every place he could play. Ricky Davis was on six different NBA rosters from 1998-2010, but wasn’t ready to give up his hoop dreams and left the U.S. to play in Turkey, China and France. But that isn’t the NBA and Davis wanted to get back to the game’s highest level. So he did what sounds like the most direct path back and played in the D-League. Honestly, who in that sense could blame him? I’d rather play in Iowa than a gym in Russia somewhere. Davis wasn’t one of those down on his luck stories; he was doing it because that desire to compete never went away.
In his final season (2013-14) Davis averaged 13 points and shot a ridiculous 40% from three-point range. He never made it back to the NBA and was released from the D-League’s Erie BayHawks in 2014. I assume he’s playing at a YMCA somewhere right now.
13 Chris Morris
Nobody else on this list can claim to have been a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, but Chris Morris joined the legendary group in 2001 after 11 seasons in the NBA. Morris was the fourth overall selection in the 1988 NBA draft and had a relatively pedestrian NBA career with a number of teams. Morris is basically Benoit Benjamin or J.R. Reid; High draft picks that filled roster spots with average numbers. Ironically, all three played overseas at some point. Getting back to Morris, he joined the Globetrotters during a strange point in their history in which the team wasn’t doing their usual in-game antics and other NBA has-beens like Oliver Miller made up the roster. After that, Morris played in the ABA, Venezuela and with the Philippine Basketball Association’s Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdogs. Yes, that was an actual team. Hopefully he got paid in cash and not merch or food.
12 Marcus Fizer
If someone was to tell you that Marcus Fizer is still a professional basketball player, would you believe it? Well he is and what a journey it’s been since he last played in the NBA in 2006. Fizer’s passport is chock full of stamps having played in Israel, Spain, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela, Uruguay and Mexico. He has also made attempts to come back to the NBA, most recently 2013. That year for Argentina’s Estudiantes de Bahía Blanca, Fizer averaged 16.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Last season in the Liga Uruguaya de Básquetbol playoffs, Fizer averaged 20 ppg, but his team fell in the quarterfinals. With more than 15 years playing professionally, Fizer doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’s ready to call it quits just yet, especially since he is still putting up quality numbers. There’s always the Latvian Basketball League or the Finnish Korisliiga if Uruguay gets too tough.
11 Hamed Haddadi
You may remember Hamed Haddadi as the first Iranian to play in the NBA and that’s about it. He makes the list not because he’s played in a million foreign leagues, but shockingly, for having been named the Chinese Basketball Association’s Finals MVP last season. I imagine the odds of that happening are about as likely as another Iranian making the NBA any time soon. In the Sichuan Blue Whales four finals wins, Haddadi averaged an astounding 22 ppg and just under 22 rebounds. Not what you might expect from a guy who averaged 2.2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in six NBA seasons from 2008-13. For the CBA regular season, Haddadi scored 19 ppg and added 15 boards after averaging 21 and 14 the year before for Qindgdao Double Star, who bowed out in the CBA semis. Is it just me or does a seven-foot Iranian in China sounds like the foundation of a James Bond movie?
10 Adam Morrison
Hey, remember Adam Morrison, the guy out of Gonzaga who rocked a weird mustache while leading the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 during the 2006 NCAA tournament? Maybe you remember him weeping on the court after the Bulldogs bowed out of said tournament? That season, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association named Morrison its college player of the year and he parlayed it into the third overall selection of the impending NBA Draft. That’s where the story basically ends for Morrison unless you follow Euro basketball. Morrison played in the NBA from 2006-10, averaging 7.5 points and two rebounds for the Bobcats and Lakers.
He ended up in Serbia and Turkey where he averaged about 13 points and about three rebounds, which aren’t even good numbers for the Euro leagues. Morrison finally ended up back at Gonzaga as an assistant in 2013. Another notch in Michael Jordan’s terrible draft pick belt.
9 Anthony Randolph
Selected 14th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft, Anthony Randolph came into the league full of hype after a single season at LSU where he averaged nearly 19 points and 9 rebounds to go along with two blocks. Not bad for a freshman in the SEC. But the potential never panned out once he entered the big leagues and he played for four different teams from 2008-14. His most notable NBA moment may be that he was part of the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. After being traded to and then being released by the Magic in 2014, Randolph moved over to the Euroleague, playing last season for Russia’s Lokomotiv Kuban and averaged 14.5 ppg and six rebounds. It looks as though Randolph may have found new life as he recently signed a deal to join Real Madrid after a solid performance in last season’s Euroleague playoffs.
8 Andray Blatche
It wasn’t but a few years ago that Andray Blatche was actually a pretty good NBA player. With the Washington Wizards during the 2010-11 season, Blatche started 63 of 64 games averaging nearly 17 points and more than eight boards. But just three years later, he was out of the NBA and playing in China. In 2015, his first in the CBA, Blatche was a beast, averaging more than 31 ppg and nearly 15 rebounds. His Xinjiang Flying Tigers finished with a 30-8 record, one game behind the Liaoning Hunters who topped the league standings, but the team fell in the league semi-finals to eventual champions, the Sichuan Blue Whales. Blatche averaged 22.3 ppg, 10.6 rebounds and nearly four assists in the playoffs, which are solid numbers no matter where you’re playing. If he can continue that kind of production, he may end up back in the NBA, but don’t count on it.
7 Rudy Fernandez
Fernandez was a European star on the rise with six seasons of professional experience when he decided to give it a go in the states, joining Portland in 2008. He played the next four years in the NBA, but was never a full-time starter in any season. Not satisfied with his NBA run, Fernandez headed back to Spain where he’s been one of the country’s best players. In 2015, Real Madrid won a Euroleague title and the team has won three Liga ACB titles during his tenure. Fernandez was MVP of the ACB playoffs in 2015, the same year Real Madrid won the Triple Crown, European basketball’s highest accomplishment.
The Sixers were recently rumored to have been courting Fernandez for an NBA return, but why bother when you can be a star in your home country and make bank at the same time! Or would you rather be a nobody in some foreign land?
6 Greg Oden
There isn’t a bigger bust in recent memory than Greg Oden, who was selected first overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2007 after a monster year at Ohio State. He went on to miss his entire rookie season after having micro fracture surgery and things didn’t get better for the big man when he returned as Oden played a total of just 82 games for the Blazers from 2007 through 2010. In 2013-14, he appeared in 23 regular season and three playoff games for the Heat, but he contributed little. They were the NBA runners-up, losing the title to the Spurs. Fitting as Oden was a runner-up for the NCAA title with the Buckeyes in 2007. So like other ballers trying to make a buck and prove that they can still play, Oden went to China and appeared for the Jiangsu Nangang Dragons last season averaging nearly 18 points and 13 rebounds in 25 games.
5 Allen Iverson
Iverson was a superstar and inspired an entire generation of basketball players to play bigger than their size, but the end of AI’s career was quite the disaster. Would you expect anything less from a guy who reportedly spent a pile of cash on new clothes in every city he played in? Who needs to carry around all that luggage? Iverson basically left the Pistons in 2009 because he wasn’t happy coming off the bench. Same thing happened the following season in Memphis where AI played three games. But the story doesn’t end there as Allen felt he still had something left in the tank and decided to take his game overseas to Turkey. His stint there lasted just a few games before injuries finally caught up with the Hall of Famer and he called it a career, although he declined the chance to play in the D-League and nearly signed in Puerto Rico.
4 Antoine Walker
Walker has had the highest of highs and lowest of lows over his career. He won an NCAA title, an NBA title, was the 6th overall pick of the 1996 Draft and went on to make more than $108 million over his career. And who could forget the chicken dance shimmy thing he used to do? Walker though blew through all of his money and ended up playing wherever he could get paid, no matter how little it may have been. Unfortunately for him, this was before the big money was getting thrown around in China, so Walker took his game to Puerto Rico for a few grand. If that wasn’t bad enough, he followed it up with a two-year stint in the D-League. It was like Willie Mays playing for the Mets or OJ Simpson on the 49ers. If that wasn’t enough, Walker’s also been robbed twice, kicked out of multiple casinos and filed for bankruptcy. Jeesh.
3 Jordan Crawford
Do you remember a few years back (2009 to be exact) when a college sophomore dunked on LeBron James at a skills camp and the Internet lost its mind? Well, that player was Jordan Crawford, and the dunk has basically been the highlight of his career. On the flipside, James has won multiple championships and become one of the greatest players of all-time while everyone pretty much forgot the dunk. Crawford was a first-round draft pick of the Nets in 2010, but struggled and was out of the league after just four seasons. He went on to play for Tianjin Steel of the Chinese Basketball Association and last season led his team, and the league, averaging just over 43 points per game. In his final 12 regular season games, Crawford scored under 40 points just once, scored at least 50 points six times and in one game poured in 72. Those are video game numbers, even for China!
2 Yi Jianlian
There’s a reason that Yi Jianlian was selected 6th overall in 2007 by the Milwaukee Bucks after playing professionally in China for five seasons. The following season he was traded to the Nets and over the next two years would average more than 10 ppg and six rebounds. Not All-Star numbers for an NBA starting PF, and when they began to decline, it wasn’t long before Yi was out of the NBA. Not so shockingly, Yi is a boss in his native China. For the past four seasons in a row, Jianlian has been named the CBA’s Domestic MVP and in that span he’s averaged 25.6 points and more than 10 rebounds per game. The only downside to his return home might be that after winning the CBA Championship in 2012-13, Yi’s team has failed to make it to the finals again, but I’m sure he isn’t losing any sleep over it.
1 Stephon Marbury
Is there anyone else who would top this list? Stephon Marbury is the original former NBA star, now killing it in another league. After a solid 13-year NBA career that saw him average more than 19 ppg, and seven assists, Starbury became a sensation in China when he joined the CBA in 2010. He’s been one of the league’s most popular stars ever since even if most American fans have forgotten about him. Last season Marbury averaged more than 18 points and four rebounds to go along with nearly six assists in 36 games for the Beijing Ducks at 39 years of age, but the team lost in the first round of the CBA playoffs. The year before he was the CBA Finals MVP, so it’s not like he’s slowed down at all. He’s won three titles over his CBA career and recently became a permanent resident of China. That’s a long way from Coney Island, NY.