NBA Players

10 Asian NBA Players of all time

By / 3 February 2023 07:46 AM

Asian players have made a mark for themselves in the National Basketball Association
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Asian NBA players all time include Wataru Misaka, Yao Ming, Yuta Watanabe, and many more. NBA has been operating for over 70 years and has players worldwide.

The NBA has welcomed several exceptional players from Asia who have contributed distinctive skills and a different playing style to the game. 

However, the number of Asian athletes in the league has not changed significantly. The NBA is North America's top-tier professional basketball league, with the world's best athletes playing.

The league's competitiveness is one reason the number of Asian background athletes has been struggling. Even though a few players from Asian counties are selected, most are not preferred for an NBA squad. However, several athletes from the continents have made their mark in the league.

The athletes that made it to the big league have left their mark on the floor and continue to motivate present and upcoming Asian basketball players.

The best ten Asian hoop stars to make a mark for themselves in the NBA are mentioned in the article below:

Wataru Misaka

Wataru Misaka was a Japanese-American athlete who played for the New York Knicks in the 1947-1948 season. Misaka was the first Asian player to play in the NBA.

Wataru was born in Salt Lake City of Utah in 1923. The former athlete was a star basketball player at the University of Utah. Misaka made history as he was the first player of Asian culture to play in the NBA.

Wat Misaka was the first person of color to play in the NBA, Misaka to the right
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Despite his short run, Misaka cleared the door for players from various backgrounds for the future and laid down a blueprint for new athletes. The former NBA athlete motivated generations of Asian Americans to play basketball.

The Japanese player received recognition for his sports contributions when he was invited into the Japanese American National Museum Hall of Fame in 2004. The NBA professional faced a knee injury after successfully playing three seasons for the  Rochester Royals. The injury ended his career in the NBA.

Bering the first one to represent Asia in the NBA, Wataru has a section dedicated to him in the Japanese American National Museum in L.A. Furthermore, a documentary film on the life and playing career of the hall of fame has been made named ' Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story'. 

Misaka significantly influenced the NBA and basketball during his time on the court. He represented the American Dream and proved that anyone could participate in and excel in the sport, whatever their background. The Hall of Famer passed away in 2019 at 95, yet his influence as an NBA pioneer is still felt today.

Yao Ming

Yao Ming is a retired professional basketball player born on September 12, 1980 in China. Ming is regarded as one of the greatest players in Chinese basketball history.

Yao Ming began his basketball career in China playing for the Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese Basketball Association. Yao was chosen by the Houston Rockets as the number one pick in the NBA draft in 2002. Ming played for the same team until his retirement in 2011.

Ming played for the Rockets throughout his NBA career
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The NBA star was well-known for his exceptional size and center skill throughout his NBA career. One of the league's tallest players at 7'6", he was a powerful force on both ends of the court due to his combination of height and mobility.

Having a height advantage over the competitors, The Rocket's center was a great finisher at the rim and a great offensive scorer who could shoot from outside the lines. He was a danger to block shots on defense and could contest jump anyone with his long arms.

The 7 feet former NBA athlete motivating the youths during a graduation ceremony
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The former NBA athlete overcame various barriers to establish himself as one of the world's most well-known and recognizable athletes. He continues to be one of the most recognizable figures in Chinese sporting history and has served as an example for the new generation.

In addition to his impressive career statistics, Yao was a two-time All-Star player and was also selected to the All-NBA team in 2009. The NBA star was also well-known for his off-court accomplishments like his charitable work on behalf of causes related to health, education, and the environment.

Yuta Watanabe

Yuta Watanabe is a Japanese basketball player currently playing for Brooklyn Nets in the NBA. Watanabe was born on October 13, 1994, in Kagawa, Japan.

Yuta started playing basketball at an early age as his mother Kumi played for Japan women's national team and his father was also a Basketball athlete. The NBA professional played basketball for the school's team while he was a student at Meiji University in Japan.

The Brooklyn athlete wished his audience a happy new year via his Instagram on Dec31,2022
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In 2016 and 2017, the Japanese athlete was selected for the All-Japan Intercollegiate Basketball League, and in 2017 he his team to championship success. Watanabe played for the Memphis Hustle of the NBA G League until initially being signed to a two-way deal by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2018. 

In 2019, Yuta signed a contract with the Grizzlies making him the second Japanese player to play in the league. The NBA star joined the Toronto Raptors on December 19, 2020, and played with the team until August 28, 2022, After his run with the raptors the NBA athlete joined the Nets.  

Yuta worked as a free agent with the Nets in 2022
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The Japanese athlete worked as a free agent with the Nets and was the NBA's top three-point shooter in terms of percentage in November 2022. Yuta is renowned for his versatility on the court and his aggressive playing style.

Watanabe has distinguished himself as a valuable member of the NBA and has been praised for his tenacity and work ethic. Young basketball players in Japan look forward to him for his accomplishments in the league, making him a role model for them as well.

Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson is a Filipino basketball player currently playing for the Utah Jazz in the NBA. Clarkson was born on June 7, 1992, in Tampa, Florida.

Jordan played college basketball at the University of Missouri before being drafted by the Washington Wizards in the 2014 NBA draft. The wizards layter traded the athlete to Los Angeles Lakers on draft night for financial purposes.

The NBA star played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2014 to 2018
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Clarkson solidified his role as a reliable Lakers reserve scorer, averaging over 14 points per game over the course of his four seasons with the organization. He was later moved to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018, where he flourished and developed a reputation as an important sixth man.

After being traded to the Utah Jazz in 2019, Clarkson has since made a significant contribution as a valuable player off the bench. The athlete gives the Jazz a boost with his scoring prowess and quickness, and he has assisted the team in making many postseason appearances.

Clarkson joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018
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Clarkson was cleared to play for the Philippine National team by the NBA on August 2018. During the 2018 Asian games, the Basketball professional played his first game for the nation scoring 28 points in the game against China. 

SBP stated on August 9, 2022, that Clarkson has been selected as a naturalized player for the 2023 World Cup Asian qualifiers and upcoming FIBA competitions.

Jordan has established himself as a dependable scorer and an important member of multiple winning teams. Off the court, the Jazz star is renowned for his sense of style, his taste in clothing, and his charity activities particularly his assistance to autistic families. The basketball star has a huge following both on and off the court.

Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin is a Taiwanese professional basketball player born on August 23, 1998. Lin currently plays for the Kaohsiung Steelers of the PLG.

Jeremy played basketball for Harvard University in college and was undrafted for the 2010 NBA draft. Later, the athlete played for the Golden State Warriors for two seasons after joining them as free agency.

Lin currently plays for the Kaohsiung in his 13th year playing the sport
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Lin has played with the Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, and Brooklyn Nets. Despite playing with a number of teams, The NBA star is known for his explosive run with the New York Knicks in 2012. The star made NBA history by becoming the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese origin to play for the Knicks. 

During this time, he was known as "Linsanity," Jeremy led the Knicks to a seven-game winning streak and set a modern-era record by scoring more points in his first five starts. His #17 jersey went on to become the top-selling NBA jersey in Asia. 

The former NBA athlete switched to the Chinese federation on 2022
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The NBA star joined the Toronto Raptors in 2019 where he made history by becoming the first Asian American to win an NBA championship. Lin is well-known for his charity activities and has participated in several philanthropic projects and has donated millions to relief efforts in Taiwan.

The 6-foot 3-inch athlete has had big sponsors like Nike, Adidas, Volvo, and Xtep throughout his career and has a signature shoe called 'Xtep JLin One' which is popular in Asia. Although the NBA star has a private personal life, he announced on social media in January 2023 that he got married to his wife.  

Rui Hachimura

Rui Hachimura is a professional basketball player currently playing for the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA. Hachimura was born in Toyama, Japan on February 8, 1998.

Hachimura played college basketball at Gonzaga University, where he was a standout player for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. ESPN covered this and ranked him one of the best basketball players entering college. The basketball player was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Year as well. 

Rui was the ninth overall pick by the Wizards during the 2019 NBA Draft
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Rui was selected ninth overall by the Washington Wizards in the 2019 NBA Draft, making him the first player of Japanese ancestry to be chosen in the first round. He had an early impact for the Wizards in his rookie campaign, averaging 13.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. 

The professional athlete possesses a special set of abilities that allows him to play both forward positions well. Because of his strength, quickness, and shooting talent, he presents a challenging opponent for defenders. Due to his impact on the game, the Lakers traded their player for the athlete and Rui made his debut for the Lakers two days later.

Rui was featured on the cover of the GQ JAPAN magazine for July/August in 2020
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The Lakers star is a well-known character in his native Japan and a proud member of that nation's national team. Young Japanese basketball players look forward to him as a role model for embracing his cultural roots.

Despite only having played in a few NBA seasons, The Japanese native has already made a name for himself as one of the most intriguing young players in the game.

Raymond Townsend

Raymond Anthony Townsend is a Filipino-American retired professional basketball player. Townsend was born in Los Angeles, California on February 22, 1955.

Raymond played guard during his college days for UCLA, where he was a star performer and helped the team win the NCAA title in 1976. Anthony was selected by the Golden State Warriors as the 16th overall choice in the 1978 NBA Draft. The athlete played in the NBA for eight seasons.

The NBA star played for various teams during the course of his career, including the Warriors, Indiana Pacers, and Philadelphia 76ers. In games over the course of his career, he averaged 7.1 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.2 rebounds.

The Warriors honored Raymond Townsend, the first Filipino-American to play in the NBA on March 19, 2017
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Anthony was one of the best basketball players to ever graduate from UCLA, Raymond Townsend is known for both his prowess on the court and his service to his neighborhood. The 6 feet 3-inch star was given the label of "oldest junior college basketball player in history". He was the second player off the bench at the age of 39.

Off the court, Raymond is well-known for his volunteer work and charitable endeavors. He was active in a number of groups, including the American Cancer Society and the Boys & Girls Club. The former athlete also spoke to young people as a motivational speaker, imparting his knowledge and wisdom.

Townsend decided to pursue a career in finance after leaving the NBA. The former basketball athlete held positions with a number of financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley and UBS. Now that he is retired, he invests in real estate and coaches young basketball players.

Yi Jianlian

Yi Jianlian is a Chinese professional basketball player playing for the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the CBA. Yi was born on October 27, 1987, in Guangdong, China.

Jianlian began his professional career in China, playing for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association. The athlete became known as one of the greatest young players in the league very fast, and in 2005, he was chosen for the CBA All-Star squad.

Jianlian is a member of the Chinese National Basketball team
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The Milwaukee Bucks selected the Chinese professional player as the sixth overall choice in the 2007 NBA Draft. The star averaged 8.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in his debut season. He was traded to the New Jersey Nets in 2008, where he excelled, averaging 9.0 points and 5.2 rebounds a contest.

The NBA athlete had to deal with injuries throughout his career. Jianlian played brilliantly in the NBA despite a history of injuries and was renowned for his adaptability and athleticism. In 2010 he was traded to the Washington Wizards. The Chinese professional had hype with his name and was often compared to the basketball legend Ming. 

L.A Lakers signed the Chinese athlete on August 23, 2016
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The 7feet giant played for a number of other NBA clubs including the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks before joining the Guangdong Southern Tigers again in 2018. The basketball star competed for the Chinese national team in international events and was a part of the FIBA World Cup and the Summer Olympics.

Yi has been a star performer for the group, guiding them to numerous victories. He is well-known throughout the nation and is recognized as one of the greatest Chinese basketball players of all time.

Hamed Haddadi

Hamed Haddadi is an Iranian basketball player currently with the Sichuan Blue Whales of the CBA. Haddadi was born in Iran on May 19, 1985.

Haddadi's basketball journey started in Iran, where he played for several clubs before traveling to the United States to pursue his dream to play in the NBA. The 7 foot 2-inch center was signed by Memphis Grizzlies in 2008 and spent three seasons with the team.

 The 7 foot 2-inch center was a part of the Grizzlies from 2008 to 2013
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Hamed made a name for himself as a top-notch defender while playing with the Grizzlies and became well-known for his shot-blocking abilities. Haddadi was traded to the Toronto Raptors and spent one season with them in 2011.

Later, in 2012, the NBA star relocated to the Phoenix Suns, where he played for two seasons before the organization released him. Haddadi later played for several seasons in China with the Sichuan Blue Whales after signing a contract with them.

Haddadi's career in the NBA was full of challenges and had a hard time due to the playing time restrictions, language and cultural obstacles, and other factors. He nevertheless stayed dedicated to the activity and consistently contributed to the group.

Haddadi led the Iranian National team to the worldcup 2019
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While competing for Iran's junior national teams, The professional basketball player won a silver medal at the Asian Under-18 Championship in 2002 and a gold medal at the Asian Under-20 Championship in 2004. Hamed is one of the players that inspire youths of the continent to pursue their dreams with hard work and dedication. 

Bateer Mengke

Bateer Mengke is a retired professional basketball athlete who played in the NBA. Bateer was born on August 22, 1978, in Inner Mongolia, China.

Mengke started playing basketball at a relatively young age and made a name for himself in the Chinese Basketball Association. The 7 foot 2 inches tall athlete was a member of the Bayi Rockets and contributed to their several championships.

The Denver Nuggets signed Bateer in 2000 making him the first Chinese player to compete in the NBA. Despite spending only a season with the team, Mengke had a successful season. In 2001, he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs.

Bateer joined the Spurs in summer 2002
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Bateer participated in the 2002 Asian Games from his national team and secured a gold medal. The Basketball professional played a total of five seasons in the NBA playing for a number of groups including the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors, and San Antonio Spurs. 

Bateer was renowned for his size, strength, and versatility on the floor despite having little playing time in the NBA. Following his retirement from the NBA, the former athlete has worked on a number of initiatives in China, including coaching and advocating for the game there.

The Chinese player also oversees a basketball academy where he instructs new players and aids in their skill development. Bateer motivates and helps the future generation to pursue their dreams by sharing his expertise and experiences.