British basketball players to play in the NBA (2024) -

British basketball players to play in the NBA (2024)

British basketball players NBA
There are just nine players from the UK to have played in the NBA, who have come through the British system.

Despite Great Britain hardly being a hotbed for hoops, it is possible to be British and make the league, and below we will show you the select few who have made the big league (find the Brits who made the WNBA here).

British-Developed Players to Make the NBA

We start with British players who originally came through the UK system – playing in it and being coached by British teams – before making the NBA – this does not include those where born in the UK but moved to the US at a very young age.

John Amaechi

John Amaechi NBAThough he was actually born in the US, Amaechi was raised in Stockport, England. He first started playing at the age of 17 years old, under the legendary Joe Forber, who now heads up the Manchester Magic programme.

The 6’10” center was undrafted and then signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1995. He became the first undrafted player to start in his first NBA game as the Cavaliers’ starting center.

Amaechi played 28 games for the Cavaliers during the 1995–96 season before heading to Europe.

He returned to the NBA ahead of the 1999-2000 season, signing with the Orlando Magic, having his best season in the league as he averaged 10.5 points in 21.1 minutes per game.

Amaechi is famously known for turning down a $17 million contract offer from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000, opting to remain in Orlando for $600,000 per year. Amaechi went on to play for the Utah Jazz from 2001 to 2003.

He was traded to the Houston Rockets before the 2003–04 season in exchange for Glen Rice, and, though he was an active player, he did not participate in any games for them. The Rockets later traded him to the New York Knicks before the Knicks bought him out of his contract and he eventually retired from playing the sport altogether.

Robert Archibald

Robert Archibald, NBARobert Archibald has his own slice of history as the only Scottish player to make the NBA.

He was drafted with the 32nd pick in the second round of the 2002 NBA draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, who he signed a 2-year contract with.

After one season with the team, in which he played only 12 games, Archibald was traded to the Phoenix Suns, before again being traded in December 2003 to the Orlando Magic. A week later he was traded, for the third time that season, to the Toronto Raptors.

He played 30 games with the Raptors and holds NBA career averages of 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.

The 6’11” big man represented GB for six straight years from 2006-2012, collecting 46 caps which culminated in suiting up at the London 2012 Olympics.

Archibald sadly took his own life at the age of 39.

Steve Bucknall

Steve Bucknall, LA LakersThe first British-developed player to make the NBA, Steve Bucknall suited up for the Lakers during the 1989-90 season.

Originally coming through the Crystal Palace programme, Bucknall went to the US for High School at Governer’s Academy before heading to college to play under the legendary Dean Smith.

Following a successful college career at the University of North Carolina, the 6’6″ 215 lbs shooting guard went undrafted in 1989, but hooked on with the Lakers during training camp.

He made 18 appearances during the season, averaging 1.3 points in 4.2 minutes per game.

He returned to the UK to play for Sunderland the following season before a successful career both domestically and in Europe before retiring in 2007, as his rookie season was his only year with the league.

Luol Deng

Luol Deng Chicago Bulls
The UK’s greatest ever player, Luol Deng was a two-time NBA All-Star and by far the most successful Brit in the NBA.

After playing college basketball for the Duke for a single season, Deng was selected by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2004 NBA draft with the seventh overall pick, where he was swiftly traded to the Chicago Bulls.

He was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team as a 19-year-old in 2005, was an All-Star with the Bulls in 2012 and 2013 before splitting the 2013–14 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. After just half a season with Cleveland, Deng joined the Miami Heat for 2014–15. He played two seasons for the Heat before signing with the Lakers in 2016. He spent his last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He made 902 appearances over his career, with career averages of 14.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1 steal per game.

On 17 October 2019 Deng signed a one-day contract to retire with the Chicago Bulls.

Tosan Evbuomwan

Tosan Evbuomwan is the most recent British player to make the NBA.

Hailing from Newcastle, the former Newcastle Eagle went undrafted in the 2023 NBA Draft following his collegiate career at Princeton, where he was named the 2021-22 Ivy League Player of the Year as a junior and went on a fairy tale March Madness run in his Senior year.

However, after impressing with NBA G League’s Motor City Cruise, appearing in 29 Showcase Cup and regular season games (27 starts) averaging 15.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists on 57% shooting, he got a 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Evbuomwan played 18.5 minutes over four game with the Grizzlies on a hardship 10-day contract. He averaged 2.5 points and 3.5 rebounds, including a 12-rebound outing against Boston, and then got a 10-day contract with Detroit.

He did enough on his 10-day with the Pistons to then get signed to a two-way contract.

Joel Freeland

Joel Freeland NBA
The only other Brit to play in the NBA in the 2010s outside of Luol Deng, Joel Freeland held a three-year deal with the Portland Trailblazers from 2012-2015.

On 28 June 2006, he was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft as the 30th overall draft pick, however, he opted to stay in Europe to improve his game, becoming one of the premier big men on the continent with Unicaja Malaga in the ACB and Euroleague.

Despite a rocky road to his NBA career, being assigned to the Idaho Stampede of the NBA D-League in December of his rookie season, he soon found a rhythm, working his way into the rotation.

He had a career-high of 17 rebounds in December of 2014, and a career-high 16 points against Oklahoma City Thunder in April of 2015.

In 151 appearances in the NBA, Freeland averaged 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game.

On 13 July 2015, Freeland signed a two-year contract with the Russian club CSKA Moscow, where he won a Euroleague title in 2016, was a two time VTB United League champion and rounded out his playing career in 2017.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu

Pops Mensah-Bonsu NBAAfter going undrafted in the 2006 NBA draft, he joined the Dallas Mavericks for the 2006 NBA Summer League before signing with them for his rookie year.

During his rookie season, he had multiple assignments with the Fort Worth Flyers of the NBA Development League. In the 2006–07 season, he managed just 12 games for the Mavericks, averaging 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds in 5.9 minutes per game, and was waived in July of 2007.

After a stint in Europe, he managed a return to the league with San Antonio in 2009 on a 10-day contract after impressing with their D-League squad Austin Toros. Two days after his 10-day contract with the Spurs was up, he signed with the Toronto Raptors for the rest of the 2008–09 season where he had his most productive stint in the league, averaging over 5 points and 5 rebounds in just 13.8 minutes per game in 19 appearances.

In August 2009, Mensah-Bonsu signed with the Houston Rockets but was waived in November after playing just four games.Four days later, he was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Raptors, where he remained until January 2010 when he was released and signed in Europe.

His final stint in the NBA was the 2010-11 season with the New Orleans Hornets where he played until being waived in early January of 2011.

Pops made 61 total appearances in the NBA, with career averages of 3 points, and 3 rebounds per game.

Mensah-Bonsu earned 40 international caps for the Great Britain Men’s National Team between 2008 and 2012. He averaged 15.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game during his international career and recorded 14 double-doubles including a career best 32 points and 21 rebounds against Bosnia and Herzegovina on 26 August 2010.

Michael Olowakandi

Michael Olowakandi NBA
Despite being born in Nigeria, Olowakandi moved to England when he was 4 years old and was raised here; he didn’t start playing basketball properly until he was 18 years old (despite being a 6′8″ sixteen year old!).

Aged 20 and at Brunel University in West London, he decided this was his last opportunity to chase dreams of professional basketball. He went to the library, pulled out a directory called Peterson’s a guide to four year American colleges and opened it up – it opened to Pacific.

He called them, explained he was 7′1″ and wanted to play basketball and the rest, as they say, is history. He became a star for the team, leading them to the 1997 NCAA Tournament in his junior year, and as a senior averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks to be named the Big West Conference Player of the Year. He was drafted with the first overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft, having a nine-year NBA career, earning a cool $38million.

Olowakandi’s most productive years were the last two years with the Clippers, averaging almost a double-double in 2002-03 with 12.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

He made 500 appearances in the league, with career averages of 8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

Jeremy Sochan

Jeremy Sochan Career High SpursJeremy Sochan is a self-proclaimed ‘citizen of the world’.

Born in the USA to a Polish mother and an American father, but spending the majority of his childhood in the UK, he came up through Milton Keynes Trojans before joining Itchen College and the Solent Kestrels programme.

From there he spent a year in High School in the US at La Lumiere, before returning to Europe during COVID and signing in Germany where he then committed to Baylor.

Drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the ninth pick in the 2022 NBA draft, he has had an impressive first two seasons in the league, being named to the All-Star Weekend Rising Stars game both years.

Representing England as an Under-15, he was unable to obtain a British passport and ultimately ended up representing Poland, winning MVP at the Division B U16 European Championships in 2019 and becoming the youngest player to suit up for their Senior National Team in the EuroBasket 2022 qualifiers.

The British Basketball Federation will be forever kicking themselves over that one.

British Born or Heritage Players to Make the NBA

The following players have ties to the UK – either through being born here or having British citizenship through their passports – though haven’t necessarily ever actually played basketball in the UK before making the NBA.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris NBA
Chris Harris was actually the first British player to player in the NBA – born in Southampton, but moving to New York shortly after due to cross-Atlantic shipping being the family trade.

In the 1955-56 season, he played 15 games for the St. Louis Hawks, before being traded to the Rochester Royals, where, in 26 appearances, he would average 2.6 points in 10 minutes per game.

Ben Gordon

Ben Gordon NBABen Gordon was born in London but moved to New York shortly after his birth.

After a standout career at UConn where he won a national championship in 2004, he went on to an 11-season career in the NBA, and is the only player to have ever won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award as a rookie.

A teammate of Luol Deng, GB had recruited him for years in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics, but it wasn’t until 2016 at the tail end of his career he made his long awaited debut with the GB Senior Men, against Germany where he dropped 17 points.

OG Anunoby

OG Anunoby NBA
OG Anunoby was born in London before moving to the US with his family when he was four years old. He was selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors.

Three years deep into his NBA career, he is one of Toronto’s most promising players for the future, being named a member of the World Team for the 2019 Rising Stars Challenge and having a career-high of 32 points in March of 2020 against Denver.

He hit a game-winning buzzer-beating three-pointer in the NBA ‘bubble’, in a 104–103 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics to prevent the Raptors from going down to an 0–3 deficit to the Celtics.

He is officially listed as British on NBA communications and has an expressed a desire to represent the Great Britain national team.

Ndudi Ebi

Ndudi Ebi NBA
Ndudi Ebi was born in London but was raised in Nigeria before moving to Houston, where he was selected out of Westbury Christian High School by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 26th pick of the 2003 NBA draft.

After Ebi appeared in just 19 games over the course of two seasons, Minnesota attempted to get an exception from the NBA so they could send him to the NBA Development League. Ebi was technically ineligible as the 2005–06 NBA season was his third year, and the D-League only accepted players who had been in the NBA for less than two years.

Minnesota wanted to guide Ebi in, and they tacitly argued that Ebi was hardly a two-year veteran in the figurative sense, given his limited playing time. The league rejected Minnesota’s request regarding Ebi, and they released himon 1 November 2005.

Ebi signed a free agent contract over the summer of 2006 with the Dallas Mavericks, but after playing five pre-season games, averaging 5.2 points per game, Ebi was waived in October 2006 and would go on to a decade long career all over the world.

Byron Mullens

Byron Mullens NBA
Born in Ohio but holding British citizenship due to his English mother, Byron Mullens, was drafted 24th overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2009 NBA draft, where his draft rights were traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

He appeared in just 26 games across his first two seasons with Oklahoma, before being traded to Charlotte Bobcats where he had his most productive two seasons in the league, averaging over 22 minutes per game and just short of 10 points per outing.

Mullens rounded out his time in the NBA with the LA Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers before departing for China in the 2014-15 season and has played in multiple countries since.

For the 2020-21 season, Mullens signed with London Lions of the British Basketball League, in part due to wanting to play for Great Britain – reaffirming his intent to suit up in the upcoming FIBA qualifying windows.

Kelenna Azubuike

Kelenna Azubuike NBABorn in London, England and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Kelenna Azubuike went undrafted in 2005, playing in the D-League for two seasons for Fort Worth Flyers before signing with the Golden State Warriors in 2007.

During his second season with Golden State, Azubuike expressed an interest in playing for the Great Britain team during the build-up to the 2012 London Olympic Games, but was denied British citizenship under the 1981 British Nationality Act due to the legal status of his parents in the UK at the time of his birth.

In 2008, Azubuike signed an offer sheet with the Los Angeles Clippers for a three-year deal worth $9 million, that Golden State matched at the final hour. Missing the 2009-10 season due to a patellar tendon tear, Azubuike was traded to the New York Knicks but never played a game for them.

In 2012, Azubuike was signed by the Dallas Mavericks, where he was assigned to the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends, as part of his comeback. On 20 April 2012, Azubuike played in his first NBA game since 14 November 2009, against the Golden State Warriors. On 28 June 2012, during the 2012 NBA Draft, Azubuike was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers where he was waived ahead of the season.

James Donaldson

James Donaldson NBABorn in Heacham, England, 7’2″ James Donaldson had a 14 year career in the NBA, where he had his best years with the Dallas Mavericks.

Raised in California, he was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics with the 73rd pick in the 1979 NBA draft, and made the 1988 All-Star game. Donaldson also played for San Diego/LA Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, and the Utah Jazz.

Statistically, his best season was in 1986-87 when he averaged 10.8 points and 11.9 rebounds in 82 starts for Dallas.

In 957 appearances in the league, Donaldson averaged 8.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks on 57.1% shooting.

Steve Nash

Steve Nash NBANot known by many, Steve Nash holds British (and Canadian) citizenship through a Welsh mother and English father.

Born in South Africa, he was raised in Victoria, British Columbia from 18 months old.

He played 18 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA), where he was an eight-time All-Star and a seven-time All-NBA selection. Nash was a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player while playing for the Phoenix Suns and internationally chose to represent Canada where he helped them medal at the 1999 and 2001 AmeriCup.

All images courtesy: NBAE/Getty Images