Once a basketball player enters the NBA, eventually giving it up can be tough. And when the league stops calling before an athlete is ready to say goodbye, they reach a troubling impasse. Their whole life has likely been about basketball up until that point, and regardless of when the end comes, some players will choose to move to other countries in order to improve or extend their careers.
A college star might get drafted by an NBA team, but turn out to be a bust. An international star might take his talents to America for only for a brief time. Another might play well in the pros, but go abroad to attain superstardom. And still others could end up having long and successful careers, but when they can’t hack it in the NBA anymore, they pack up and take the show somewhere else.
Regardless of the reason, the moves happen. But with the abundance of NBA coverage in America, news of former players continuing success elsewhere can fall through the cracks. Although some recent departures might grab a few headlines (including Jordan Farmar, Joey Dorsey, Michael Beasley, Jason Maxiell, Dorell Wright, Will Bynum, and Lester Hudson in the last year alone), unless they do something historic, or return to the big show again, it’s possible they might never be heard from again.
But with the magic of the Internet, stats of players from China to Spain to Australia can be instantly obtained, and the fact that some of them are still dominating can be shocking. In some cases, the mere fact that certain guys are still playing at all can be a surprise.
16 Hilton Armstrong - Tüyap Büyükçekmece (Turkey)
In the eight years between being drafted 12th in 2006 and his departure from the NBA in 2014, Hilton Armstrong bounced around to eight different teams, including a year in both France and Greece. Now 31 and a member of Tüyap Büyükçekmece in Turkey (after spending a year with Turkey’s Beşiktaş last year), Armstrong is having a strong season, posting an average of 10.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists over a dozen games. Not only do these numbers top his best in the NBA, but they’re also better than his four years at UConn.
15 David Andersen - ASVEL Basket (France)
In the time between Aussie David Andersen’s drafting (37th overall in 2002) and his NBA debut (2009), he played for four teams: Italy’s Kinder Bologna and Montepaschi Siena, Russia’s CSKA Moscow, and Spain’s FC Barcelona. In his two seasons in the NBA, he played for three teams: the Rockets, Raptors, and Hornets.
Andersen only managed 4.9 PPG over his limited time in 103 games, and in 2011 he returned to Siena. After the 2011-12 season, Andersen joined Turkey’s Fenerbahçe Ülker, followed by stints with France’s Strasbourg IG and ASVEL Basket, where at age 35 he continues to be an international all-star.
14 Josh Boone - BC Kalev/Cramo (Estonia)
Former UConn star Josh Boone had his best year with the New Jersey Nets in 2007-08, when he put up a double-double almost every game and lived up to his status as the 23rd overall pick of the 2006 draft. However, his poor free throws and general decline led to the Nets deciding not to re-sign him for 2010-11, and he joined the Zhejiang Golden Bulls of China. Over five years later, a 31-year-old Boone is still playing overseas, currently with BC Kalev/Cramo of Estonia, where he’s putting up 13 PPG. Boone also had stops in the Philippines and Bahrain along the way.
13 Mike Harris - Sichuan Blue Whales (China)
If you're not a die-hard Rockets, Wizards or Jazz fan, you might be having a tough time remembering Mike Harris, who went undrafted in the 2005 NBA Draft. Only appearing in 54 total NBA games, Mike Harris averaged a paltry 3.5 PPG and 3.1 RPG. However, if you didn't take a look at his NBA career and only looked at his career outside of the NBA, you'd be wondering how he didn't become a solid player in the States. Harris is a two-time BSN Champion and BSN Finals MVP, which is the basketball league in Puerto Rico. Apart from his time in Puerto Rico, Harris is currently playing in China for Sichuan Blue Whales and it's being said that he's having the best season of his career.
12 Hakim Warrick - Melbourne United (Australia)
After nine years and 526 games in the NBA for the Grizzlies, Bucks, Bulls, Suns, Hornets, and Bobcats, former highly-acclaimed Syracuse hero Hakim Warrick left the league at 31 years of age. However, this wasn’t a retirement for the 9.4 PPG career shooter, but instead a new beginning. Warrick joined China’s Liaoning Hunters for a strong 2013-14 season in which he averaged 21.6 PPG, followed by a stint with Turkey’s Torku Konyaspor for 2014-15, and Melbourne United this season, where he’s currently averaging 14.1 PPG.
11 Bobby Brown - Dongguan Leopards (China)
It’s understandable if some people have forgotten about 31-year-old Bobby Brown’s two seasons in the NBA. He played for four teams (Sacramento, Minnesota, New Orleans, and the Los Angeles Clippers) in 113 games, but only averaged a modest 5.1 PPG. He left the NBA in 2010 and signed in Poland and Greece, before finding success with a 18.8 PPG season shooting .411 from the field with Montepaschi Siena.
However, he topped all of that after moving to China’s Dongguan Leopards in 2013, where he’s been ever since. Brown’s Chinese accomplishments include an insane 74-point game and a recent 64-point, 10 assist effort.
10 Eugene “Pooh” Jeter - Shandong Lions (China)
In light of the fact that former Sacramento Kings point guard Eugene “Pooh” Jeter only played one season in the NBA back in 2010-11, it’s odd how many times over the years that his name has come up as a potential addition to a struggling team. Yet he has stayed abroad, adding to his earlier Spanish and Israeli teams with another stint in Spain, ones in China and the Ukraine, a brief stop in France, and a return to the Shandong Lions. Now 32 years old and teammates with recent expat Michael Beasley in China, the duo recently combined for 68 points in a game.
9 Andray Blatche - Xinjiang Flying Tigers (China)
Although Andray Blatche has nine years and 564 games of NBA experience under his belt, he’s still just 29, after getting drafted as number 49 overall by the Washington Wizards when he was only 18. Despite playing great off the bench over two seasons with the Brooklyn Nets, Blatche opted out of his contract on June 20, 2014, desiring more playing time. He signed with China’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers that September, and put up an unbelievable average of 31.1 points, 14.6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. Blatche is currently in his second year as the team’s leading scorer.
8 Sergio Rodriguez - Real Madrid (Spain)
When Sergio Rodriguez was drafted 27th overall in the 2006 NBA draft, the Portland Trailblazers had high hopes for “The Spanish Magician.” However, after three full seasons, Rodriguez was traded to the Kings in 2009, and the Knicks later in the same season, before eventually leaving the NBA due to a lack of playing time.
He signed a three-year deal with Real Madrid in 2010 and has since resurrected his dominant career, winning the league MVP for the 2013-14 season, all four titles (Super Cup, Spanish Cup, Euroleague, and Liga Endesa) in 2015, and signed two extensions through the 2017-18 season. Rodriguez is still only 29 years old.
7 Juan Carlos Navarro - FC Barcelona Lassa (Spain)
After seven years of domination with FC Barcelona of Spain, Juan Carlos Navarro graced us with one full season in the NBA as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007-08. He shot for 10.9 PPG, including a 34-point game against the Lakers, and earning a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team. He returned to Barcelona the following year though, and picked up right where he left off. Now 35 years old, Navarro holds the league record for most appearances for a single team, as well as FC Barcelona records for most career points, 3-pointers, and assists.
6 Carlos Arroyo - FC Barcelona Lassa (Spain)
Following four record-breaking years at FIU, Carlos Arroyo was signed by the Toronto Raptors in 2001, despite going undrafted. In his next nine years as somewhat of a journeyman, Arroyo played for seven NBA teams in addition to a brief stint with Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2008-09. After leaving the league in 2011, Arroyo has continued to be one of the best international point guards as part of Turkey’s Beşiktaş Milangaz and Galatasaray Medical Park, Puerto Rico’s Cangrejeros de Santurce and Spain’s FC Barcelona Lassa, where the 36-year-old is currently averaging a solid 9.3 PPG.
5 Rudy Fernández - Real Madrid (Spain)
After getting drafted 24th overall in the 2007 NBA draft, former DKV Joventut superstar Rudy Fernández made both the All-Rookie Second Team and All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest in 2009 as a fan favorite for the Trailblazers. After three dependable years in Portland, Fernández was traded to the Nuggets in 2011, but his season ended prematurely due to injury.
In July 2012, he signed a three-year deal with Spain’s Real Madrid, and a three-year extension in 2014, picking up multiple first and second All-Euroleague honors along the way, in addition to winning the triple crown.
4 Boštjan Nachbar - Baloncesto Sevilla (Spain)
It’s been almost 14 years since Boštjan Nachbar made his 2002 NBA debut after being drafted in the first round (15th), and since then he has played 317 games for three different teams for a career 7.1 PPG average. However, Nachbar hasn’t played in the U.S. since his 2007-08 stint with the New Jersey Nets, having left on a three-year deal with Russia’s Dynamo Moscow.
Nachbar opted out of the contract after one season though, relocating to play in Turkey, then back to Russia, then Germany, then Spain’s FC Barcelona, and then Baloncesto Sevilla, where he is currently going strong at age 35.
3 Nenad Krstić - Anadolu Efes (Turkey)
After being drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft (24th overall), Nenad Krstić averaged 10 PPG in his rookie year, and was part of the All-Rookie NBA Second Team. He only improved over the next two years, with his PPG increasing to 13.5 in 2005-06 and 16.4 in an injury-shortened 2006-07 season. However, over the next four years, he couldn’t recapture success at his previous level, save for a strong performance in Russia during the 2008 offseason.
After 419 career NBA games, Krstić returned to Russia in 2011 with CSKA Moscow, and his dominance returned as well, as he averaged 16.4 PPG over three seasons. Although currently injured, the 32-year-old Krstić is in the midst of his second year of a two-year contract with Turkey’s Anadolu Efes.
2 Andrés Nocioni - Real Madrid (Spain)
After winning a gold medal with Argentina in 2004, forward Andrés Nocioni was signed by the Chicago Bulls, where he played for five successful seasons, landing Player of the Year accolades for 2005-06. He was traded to the Kings in 2009, but saw a decrease in playing time in his second year in Sacramento, and was moved to the 76ers after the season ended. Nocioni played there in 2010-11, but after only 11 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Philly waived him, and Nocioni signed with Spain’s Saski Baskonia, where he had previously played prior to his NBA debut. Now 36, Nocioni is in his second year with the triple crown champion Real Madrid team, with whom he was named Final Four MVP last season.
1 Stephon Marbury - Beijing Ducks (China)
Remember him? Although superstar Stephon Marbury’s 2009 departure from the NBA and 2010 signing in China was big news, a lot of people are unaware that, at almost 39 years of age, Marbury is still playing there. In fact, he’s still dominating. The point guard is currently averaging 17 points per game (which is actually his lowest in seven seasons, by far) and has led the Beijing Ducks to three championships in four years. Marbury is living the sweet life in China, and there’s no end in sight either: a statue of his likeness has been erected in Beijing, a stage production called I Am Marbury was released last year, and he recently received his Chinese permanent residence permit. Who needs the NBA?