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Best Latin American Basketball Players in NBA History

Manu Ginobili Tim Duncan
Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

NBA players have always set the standard for professional basketball. Given their unrivaled achievements across multiple parameters, it is nearly impossible to constrict their glory to a list of a few players. Some players, however, perform significantly better than others, putting them among the players deserving of consideration for the Hall of Fame.

Several NBA players born in Latin America have proven their worth in the prestigious league throughout history. Their inspiring journey to the best basketball league in the world is nothing short of sheer hard work and dedication.

Below is a list of exceptional players from Latin America who astounded the NBA world:

Manu Ginobili

Averaging 19.3 points, 5.1 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 36.8 percent from beyond the arc is a rare feat in modern-day basketball. Manu Ginobili unquestionably deserved his All-Star status in 2005 and 2011 as well as his four NBA championships.

The Argentine former NBA player exuded greatness and individuality, making the San Antonio Spurs appear otherworldly even in popular basketball markets. The potential Hall of Famer demonstrated his abilities in what appeared to be a race to outmatch everyone. Unlike his teammates, he made excellent use of a variety of wild moves and extreme passes. Furthermore, his exemplary precision portrayed a man so agile that he could seemingly perform beyond possibility. He is more than deserving of mention on this list.

Nenê (Nenê Hilario)

For 13 years, Nenê worked tirelessly to establish himself as one of the most memorable NBA players of all time. The Brazilian is known for playing a lot of minutes and executing his offensive strategies with exceptional skill. Nenê’s size and strength aided his offensive accomplishments while supporting his defensive presence. He averaged 12.3 points per game, 1.2 steals, 54.3 percent from the field, and a DBPM of 2.0.

Leandro Barbosa

Leandro Mateus Barbosa is another outstanding basketball player. “The Brazilian Blur”, as he is colloquially known, has the distinction of being the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2007 and an NBA champion in 2015. During his 2007 season, Leandro averaged 18.1 points and 4 assists. Later in 2014, he averaged 16.4 points and 3.4 assists per 36 minutes.

Barbosa spent his first eight years with the Suns before joining the Golden State Warriors in 2014 to complete his 12-year career. He is remembered for his outstanding play for both teams, which earned him a position as a mentor coach for the Golden State Warriors.

J. J. Barea

J. J. Barea is a current NBA icon who has carved out a niche for himself among the elite. The 37-year-old Puerto Rican has 9 years of NBA experience and has landed a job as a player development coach for the Dallas Mavericks.

Barea established himself as a memorable player in 2011 by averaging 17.3 points and 6 assists. During the Finals, he also started three games. His teammates praised him for being a resilient warrior and a source of inspiration. Barea later played for the Minnesota Timberwolves before returning to the Dallas Mavericks in 2014. He was a tremendously talented player for both clubs.

Andres Nocioni

Andres Nocioni was a determined basketball player who won the EuroLeague championship in 2015. In the NBA, the Argentine player is a symbol of agility. During his first five seasons with the Chicago Bulls, he averaged 11.7 points and five rebounds per game.

Nocioni exemplifies the type of player who enjoys playing rather than merely shooting hoops for a living. Between 2005 and 2009, he averaged 12.8 points and 5.1 rebounds due to his unique approach to the game.

Eduardo Najera

Eduardo Najera is also regarded as one of the greatest Latin American NBA players of all time. The Mexican stands out for his 12-year career and multiple accomplishments over such a long period.

Najera’s work ethic was one of his best qualities. It was evident every time he played. In the Dallas Mavericks and other teams in the past, Najera displayed a rare level of tenacity. He is particularly notable as a defensive player.

Why would a Player Choose to Play Outside their Home Country?

In most cases, it is a matter of looking for opportunities where the grass is greener. Every top athlete wants to push their limits and compete against other elites in order to make their mark in the sporting world. After all, iron sharpens iron. The most ambitious players in South American local basketball leagues train harder and outgrow local competitions. These players inevitably end up attracting international scouts’ attention. When scouts from more competitive leagues come knocking, it’s only natural to seize the opportunity by the scruff of the neck.      

Conclusion

There is no doubt that Latin American players, from Manu Ginobili to Andres Nocioni and Eduardo Najera, are the epitome of basketball excellence, uniqueness, and creativity. Their outstanding performances place them firmly on the list of players worth studying and imitating. Their legacies will continue to be worthy targets and a source of motivation for the next generation of Latin American basketball players.

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