Over the past few years, more international players have taken the upper echelon of the NBA by storm. The league is currently in its first ever four year span where an American player has not won the regular season MVP award following two years of back-to-back wins from Greek-Nigerian forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019/2020) and Serbian center Nikola Jokic (2021/2022) and their reign of dominance looks certain to continue pending favorable health.
As international players have stormed the top, the NBA has also simultaneously set its eyes on expanding the game across the world and as such has employed tactics like playing games in Asia and Europe as well as launching the Basketball Africa League on the African continent. The latest nod has come with the NBA putting together an Afrobeat themed halftime show at their all-star weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah with Rema, Tems and Burna Boy billed to perform.
Ahead of the All-Star game, we rank the greatest players of African descent to be named NBA all-stars.
Honorable mentions: Victor Oladipo, Bam Adebayo, Luol Deng
Golden State Warriors legend Andre Iguodala who was born to American and Nigerian parents is a one-time Finals MVP, one time all-star and four time NBA champion.
Cameroonian forward, Pascal Siakam is a two-time NBA all-star and one-time NBA champion who currently plays for the Toronto Raptors.
Nicknamed Spicy P, Siakam played an integral role as the second most important player on the team in delivering the Toronto Raptors their first NBA championship ever.
Siakam who was discovered at a camp led by former Cameroonian NBA player Luc Mbah A Moute when he was 16 is the perfect inspiration for young players.
Cameroonian born center, Joel Embiid is one of the best players in the game right now and has earned 6 all-star appearances in the seven years he has played games during his career.
Nicknamed The Process, Embiid is an enigma that has earned the love of Philadelphia as one of the city’s best players since Allen Iverson. Embiid was also the first international player to lead the NBA in scoring when he won a scoring title in 2022.
If Embiid continues on the trajectory he is on and is able to win a championship or more individual honors, he will continue to move up on the list.
Congolese-American, Dikembe Mutombo is one of the best defensive players who has ever played basketball sitting behind only Hakeem Olajuwon on the all-time blocks list.
Known for popularizing the finger wag during his playing days, Dikembe has become renowned for the humanitarian work he has done in the Democratic Republic of Congo since he retired in 2009.
During his playing career, Mutombo was named an all-star eight times and won four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards on his journey to the top.
South African born guard, Steve Nash is widely regarded as one of the best guards to ever play the game. The two-time NBA MVP was named an eight-time all-star and a seven-time All-NBA selection during his illustrious career.
The Phoenix suns teams Steve Nash led is regarded by many as one of the blueprints for how the game is played today with more of an emphasis on speeding up the game and shooting and he’s regarded as one of the most efficient shooters in the game indicated by being the only player with more than two 50-40-90 seasons.
Greek-Nigerian forward Giannis Antetokounmpo’s career is far from over but he’s already without a doubt one of the best basketball players to ever play the game despite beginning to play the game at 13.
Nicknamed The Greak Freek, Giannis is one of three players to win multiple MVP awards before 26. The other inclusions on the list, Lebron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sit at number one and two on the all-time scoring list.
With seven all-star appearances, one championship and two MVPs to his name in the first nine years of his NBA career, watching what Giannis does over the next 5 years is going to be fun for all lovers of the sport.
Hakeem Olajuwon is a former Nigerian-American professional basketball player and probably of the greatest African basketball player of all time. Nicknamed The Dream, Olajuwon was the backbone of the Houston Rockets teams that won back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995 becoming the first player (and still the only player to date) to win the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP awards in the same season.
Probably the most interesting fact that encapsulates just how brilliant Hakeem was as a player is the fact that he was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan but nobody has ever been able to look back on the Houston Rockets’ decision with a critical lens.
Over the course of his career, Olajuwon went on to become a 12-time all star and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, and the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2016.