NBA Players

Greatest Asian Basketball Players Of All Time Ranked 1-15

By Abhay Acharya / 24 December 2023 10:32 AM

Source : instagram

Basketball is not just an American game anymore. Across the vast continent of Asia, the slam dunks are echoing, the three-pointers swishing, and new stars are rising to challenge the global order.

These Asian ballers are defying expectations, blending athleticism with agility, power with precision.

Forget just Yao Ming, we are about to unveil a treasure trove of talent, from soaring skywalkers to sharpshooting point guards.

We are talking about pioneers who paved the way, game-changers who defied expectations, and rising stars who ignite hope for the future.

1. Yao Ming

Source : twitter

  • Years Active: 1997-2011
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • NBA Record: 486 Games, 19.0 PPG, 1.6 APG, 9.2 RPG

The iconic 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming revolutionized the game for Asian players. His scoring prowess, rebounding dominance, and leadership presence established him as a true superstar.

Eight All-Star appearances and his pivotal role in bringing international attention to the NBA solidify his legacy.

Yao led the Houston Rockets to unprecedented heights, transforming them into championship contenders.

He snagged five All-NBA selections and retired a legend, inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

2. Jordan Clarkson

Source : facebook

  • Years Active: 2014-Present
  • Nationality: Filipino-American
  • NBA Record: 680 Games, 15.9 PPG, 2.8 APG, 3.4 RPG

Jalen Green might be the shiny new toy, but Jordan Clarkson has been rocking the NBA since 2014, igniting offenses with his fiery scoring and Filipino flair.

This 2021 Sixth Man of the Year with the Utah Jazz isn't just about highlight-reel dunks - Clarkson's journey and achievements make him a legend in the making. He's the 2015 All-Rookie First team selection, averaging over 15 points per game for nearly his entire career.

3. Jeremy Lin

Source : facebook

  • Years Active: 2010-Present
  • Nationality: Taiwanese-American
  • NBA Record: 480 Games, 11.6 PPG, 4.3 APG, 2.8 RPG

Jeremy Lin's story isn't just about basketball; it's a saga of perseverance, defying expectations, and igniting cultural pride.

"Linsanity" swept the basketball world in 2012 as Lin, an undrafted guard, led the New York Knicks on a remarkable winning streak. Lin, a Taiwanese American, became a symbol of hope and representation for Asian communities worldwide.

He was a significant character in the Toronto Raptors' 2019 NBA championship win, demonstrating his versatility and resilience.

4. Rui Hachimura

Source : facebook

  • Years Active: 2019-Present
  • Nationality: Japanese
  • NBA Record: 230 Games, 12.4 PPG, 1.3 APG, 4.9 RPG

Rising from the vibrant courts of Japan to the bright lights of the NBA, Rui Hachimura isn't just a player – he's a symbol of a new era in Asian basketball.

His time at Gonzaga University, where he became the first Japanese-born player to reach the NCAA national championship game, is etched in college basketball history.

Drafted ninth overall by the Washington Wizards in 2019, he became the first Japanese player drafted in the first round, opening doors for future generations.

5. Cedi Osman

Source : facebook

  • Years Active: 2011-Present
  • Nationality: Turkish
  • NBA Record: 431 Games, 9.7 PPG, 2.0 APG, 3.0 RPG

One of the key contributors to the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2018 championship finals run, Cedi Osman provides sharpshooting, energy, and defensive versatility.

From starting in his native Turkey to carving a role in the league's championship battles, he's faced challenges head-on, constantly honing his skills and proving doubters wrong.

His Turkish Cup championship with Anadolu Efes Istanbul added another feather to his cap, showcasing his talent on the international stage.

6. Yi Jianlian

Source : facebook

  • Years Active: 2002-2023
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • NBA Record: 272 Games, 7.9 PPG, 0.7 APG, 4.9 RPG

The Milwaukee Bucks' sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft, Yi Jianlian's career was marked by flashes of brilliance but inconsistency.

Towering at 7'0", the Chinese power forward carried the dreams of a nation on his shoulders, representing an entire continent as he stepped onto the NBA hardwood.

Yi's CBA accolades speak volumes with six championship titles, three Finals MVP awards, 12 All-Star appearances and two Best Defender awards.

7. Raymond Townsend

Source : sjsa

  • Years Active: 1974-1985
  • Nationality: Filipino-American
  • NBA Record: 154 Games, 4.8 PPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 RPG

While Raymond Townsend may not be a household name amongst casual NBA fans, his story deserves a place in the chronicles of Asian basketball pioneers.

He dominated collegiate basketball, leading the UCLA to the 1975 championship and earning the adoration of Filipino fans.

In 1978, the Golden State Warriors drafted him 22nd overall, making him the first Filipino-American player in the NBA.

8. Yuta Watanabe

Source : twitter

  • Years Active: 2018-Present
  • Nationality: Japanese
  • NBA Record: 198 Games, 4.4 PPG, 0.7 APG, 2.4 RPG

In the land of giants, Yuta Watanabe stands tall, but not just in stature. He might not be a household name yet, but Watanabe's impact transcends box scores.

With hustle etched across his face and fire in his eyes, Yuta has carved his name as one of the greatest Asian basketball players of all time.

His achievements speak volumes: the first fully Japanese player to crack the NBA roster, an Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year and a constant underdog exceeding expectations.

9. Hamed Haddadi

Source : facebook

  • Years Active: 1999-2023
  • Nationality: Iranian
  • NBA Record: 151 Games, 2.2 PPG, 0.3 APG, 2.5 RPG

Standing tall at 7'2," Hamed Haddadi is a pioneer who paved the way for Asian players on the global court.

His achievements speak volumes: four FIBA Asia Cup MVP titles and leading Iran to gold medals at various Asian championships.

Likewise, he became the first Iranian player to grace the NBA hardwood, debuting with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008.

In addition to the Grizzlies, Haddadi played for the Phoenix Suns in 2013, scoring six points and a career-high 11 rebounds off the bench against the Rockets.

10. Mengke Bateer

Source : reddit

  • Years Active: 1997-2014
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • NBA Record: 46 Games, 3.4 PPG, 0.6 APG, 2.5 RPG

Standing tall at 6'11", this Chinese center Mengke Bateer embodied grit and power, carving his name as one of Asia's greatest basketball players ever.

Bateer was the first Chinese player in the NBA without being drafted, picked by the Denver Nuggets in 2002.

He became the first Chinese player to be part of an NBA championship team, a member of the San Antonio Spurs' 2003 title run.

11. Ha Seung-jin

Source : facebook

  • Years Active: 2004-2019
  • Nationality: Korean
  • NBA Record: 46 Games, 1.5 PPG, 0.1 APG, 1.5 RPG

Ha Seung-jin is a pioneer for Korean basketball, paving the way for future generations he first South Korean to grace the NBA hardwood.

His versatility, passing skills, and clutch shooting made him a valuable contributor to the Portland Trail Blazers in the 90s.

He carried the weight of a nation's aspirations on his broad shoulders, inspiring countless young Koreans to pick up a basketball.

He led the Jeonju KCC Egis to multiple KBL championships, wielding his leadership and experience like a seasoned general.

12. Zhou Qi

Source : facebook

  • Years Active: 2014-Present
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • NBA Record: 19 Games, 1.3 PPG, 0.1 APG, 1.2 RPG

Zhou Qi isn't just one of the tallest Asian players in NBA history – he's a rising giant on the global basketball scene.

While his NBA journey is still young, Zhou's achievements and potential paint a picture of a player destined for greatness.

He led China to an under-16 Asian Championship gold medal in 2015, showcasing his dominant size and defensive instincts. Drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2016, he became the first Chinese player since Yao Ming to make an NBA roster.

13. Wang Zhizhi

Source : complex

  • Years Active: 1995-2015
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • NBA Record: 137 Games, 4.4 PPG, 0.3 APG, 1.7 RPG

A trailblazer for Chinese players in the late 90s, Wang Zhizhi enjoyed solid seasons with the Mavericks, showcasing his footwork, scoring touch, and ability to adapt to the NBA game.

A pioneer for Chinese basketball, Wang carved his name in history as the first Chinese player drafted and to play consistently in the NBA.

Drafted in 1999, he showcased his shooting touch with a career-high 38.5% from three-point range, highlighting his adaptability and offensive skillset.

14. Wataru Misaka

Source : facebook

  • Years Active: 1947
  • Nationality: Japanese
  • NBA Record: 3 Games, 2.3 PPG, 23.1 FG%, 33.3 FT%

One of the shortest NBA player ever, Wataru Misaka wouldn't be your typical "greatest" player list. His stats won't dazzle you, his highlight reels won't break the internet.

Yet, Misaka deserves a prominent place in basketball history, not for his individual feats, but for the monumental barrier he shattered.

In 1947, Misaka became the first non-Caucasian player in the Basketball Association of America (BAA), the precursor to the NBA.

15. Sun Yue

Source : twitter

  • Years Active: 2002-2021
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • NBA Record: 10 Games, 0.6 PPG, 0.2 APG, 0.0 RPG

From humble beginnings in Beijing to playing in the Chinese Basketball Association at a mere 17, Sun Yue's talent couldn't be contained.

Drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007, he became the second Chinese player to reach the NBA, joining the legendary Kobe Bryant's team.

He even landed a championship ring in 2009, becoming the second only Chinese player to wear an NBA title after Spurs' Menke Bateer.