Top Ten NBA Players From Africa

Hakeem Olajuwon

While NBA basketball talent has been found all over the world, a number of the best players in league history have come from Africa. Now with more international players suiting up to play in the best league in the world, the NBA is looking to expand with exhibition games, camps, and programs such as the Basketball Africa League.

With the odds of an African-born basketball player making the NBA harder than winning the jackpot on a free online casino game, we tip our hat to the ten best players who have paved the way for future generations.

Hakeem Olajuwon

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, as Akeem Olajuwon, the future Hall of Fame big man would make his way onto North American soil as a member of the Houston Cougars. Nicknamed “The Dream”, Olajuwon helped the Cougars to three Final Four berths in four years.

Selected first overall by the Houston Rockets in the iconic 1984 NBA Draft, Olajuwon quickly became one of the top defensive players in the league. Elevating his offensive game, the Rockets big man would lead Houston to back-to-back NBA titles, winning Finals MVP both times. Olajuwon’s resume also contains an NBA MVP, twelve Al-NBA and All-Star honors, and nine All-Defensive Team selections.

Steve Nash

Casual hoops fans believe that Steve Nash is Canadian (which he is), but for the first eighteen months of his life he was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. Following an impressive high school and college career, Nash would be selected fifteenth by the Phoenix Suns in the 1996 NBA Draft.

A two-time MVP, Nash would earn seven All-NBA honors and play in eight All-Star Games. While the Hall-of-Fame point guard was known for his crafty ball handling and assists (leading the league five times), Nash would become the only four-time member of the elusive 50/40/90 shooting club.

Dikembe Mutombo

There may not be a Mount Mutombo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but there was one in the NBA for eighteen years. After spending his college years as a member of the Georgetown Hoyas, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo would be selected by the Denver Nuggets as the fourth pick in the 1991 NBA Draft.

An eight-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA selection, the Hall-of-Fame big man would be a four-time Defensive Player of the Year, three-time Blocks Leader and two-time Rebounding Leader and featured on one of the most entertaining series of commercials by an NBA player.

Joel Embiid

By the time his career is done, Yaounde, Cameroon’s Joel Embiid could make his way into the top three of this list. After playing his high school career in Gainsville, Florida, Embiid spent one year in Kansas, playing for the Jayhawks before being selected third by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2014 NBA Draft.

The focal point of “The Process”, Embiid, who missed the first two seasons of his NBA career with foot problems, has since been an NBA All-Star in six of his first seven years. While numerous All-Star teammates have come and gone, the Sixers continue to build around Embiid, who was named the MVP last season and who has averaged 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists during his career.

Pascal Siakam

An NBA Champion and two-time All-Star, Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam was first noticed at a basketball camp hosted by Luc Mbah A Moute before he relocated to Lewisville, Texas to attend prep school. Following two years as a member of the New Mexico State Aggies, Siakam would declare for the 2016 NBA Draft.

After coming off of the bench and struggling for his first two years in the NBA, Siakam found his groove, becoming one of the Raptors’ top players. A two-time All-NBA member, Siakam would help the team to their first NBA title in 2019.

Serge Ibaka

Hailing from the Republic of Congo, Serge Ibaka played three years of professional basketball overseas before being picked up by the Seattle SuperSonics (turned Oklahoma City Thunder) with the 24th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

A three-time All-Defensive Team member, two-time shot-blocking leader, and a key contributor to the 2019 Toronto Raptors NBA Championship, Ibaka would suit up for five different teams during his NBA career which spanned from 2009 until 2023.

Luol Deng

Born in Qau, Sudan, Luol Deng grew up in South London before relocating to New Jersey at the age of 14. A five-star college recruit, Deng spent one season with the Duke Blue Devils, helping the team reach the 2004 Final Four before declaring for the NBA.

Drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the seventh pick and then immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls, Deng would spend nine and a half years in the Windy City. During his fifteen-year NBA career, Deng would suit up for a total of five teams, earning two trips to the All-Star Game.

Manute Bol

As one of just five players from South Sudan to make it to the NBA, Manute Bol was known for two things, being one of the tallest players in NBA history and blocking shots. Standing at 7’7” and weighing just 200 pounds, Bol came to North America in 1983 when he was drafted by the San Diego Clippers with the 97th pick. However, Bol would be ineligible for the NBA due to improperly submitted paperwork.

Redrafted in 1985, Bol would spend the next ten years playing for four different teams, including Washington, Golden State, Philadelphia, and Miami. While he would never average more than 3.9 points per game or more than six rebounds, Bol would provide a shot-blocking presence, leading the league twice.

Luc Mbah A Moute

Throughout his twelve-year NBA career, Luc Mbah a Moute, who hails from Yaounde, Cameroon, suited up for six different teams. Although he was a journeyman, Mbah A Moute found himself as part of the starting lineup in 66% of the games he played in as a result of his defensive talents.

After helping the UCLA Bruins to three straight Final Four appearances, Mbah A Moute was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft. While his best statistical season would come during his one year with the Philadelphia 76ers, Mbah A Moute spent most of his career with the Bucks and the LA Clippers.

Emmanuel Mudiay

Known best for bypassing college to play in the Chinese Basketball League straight out of high school, there was a lot of hope for the Democratic Republic of Congo-born Emmanuel Mudiay.

Unfortunately, the talented point guard did not live up to expectations after the Denver Nuggets selected him seventh overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. After suiting up for five teams in six years, Mudiay has since found himself competing in the NBA G-League and in Puerto Rico.