By Ashley Munson
Let’s cut to the chase; Great Britain is all about football. It’s the sport that dominates social media feeds, hogs back page headlines and even steals most free conversation time in the workplace.
Here though, we’re looking to switch things up and pay tribute to the best Brits to play basketball in the NBA because they deserve huge plaudits too.
Number 5. OG Anunoby
Kicking off our top five is a youngster who may well expect to rank higher in the coming years. Anunoby, 23, has made a very fast start to his career.
He is currently with the Toronto Raptors; they took him as their first-round draft pick in 2017 and he’s improved his overall game every year since. Anunoby was born in London – hence why he is on this list – but actually moved to the USA when he was just 4 years old.
The young star has already has a NBA championship to his name and if he can continue on his current trajectory then more undoubtedly await. Right now, he averages 13.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. Not too shabby.
Number 4. John Amaechi
Not many people remember John Amaechi for his game on the court but rather the fact that he was among the first to ever come out as gay in the league.
The Cleveland Cavaliers power forward struggled in his first year in the NBA and actually went to Europe for a season. The Penn State grad wasn’t about to give up on his dream though.
He spent time developing his skills and returned to the NBA with the Orlando Magic four years later. Then came the Utah Jazz to complete his journey; he was playing so well that he had a $17m contract slapped in front of him.
It doesn’t sound colossal now but back in 1999 it was a big deal. For his ability to comeback, Amaechi deserves to be on this list in spite of distinctly average career averages of 6.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.8 assists per contest.
Number 3. James Donaldson
James Donaldson, who averaged 8.6 points and 7.8 rebounds across his NBA career, is another name that is known on the European circuit after starting and finishing his career there.
In the early days it didn’t take long for the elite to come calling though. Donaldson went on to spend the best part of 15 years in the NBA.
Throughout that time, he played with the Seattle Supersonics, the Mavericks, the Knicks, the Jazz and the LA Clippers.
The journeyman nature of his time in the NBA means he’s not remembered as a legend by any fan base but the fact he was good enough to make so many different rosters at that level proves how good he was. He appeared in the All-Star game in 1988 too.
Number 2. Ben Gordon
Gordon is another name who, like Anunoby, grew up in the US but was born in London. Gordon played in the NBA for over a decade with the Chicago Bulls, the Charlotte Bobcats, the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic. One of his best achievements actually came in his rookie year when he was named Sixth Man of the Year.
It’s not all about trophies though and Gordon is also highly regarded as one of the best three point shooters in history according to this list from TwinSpires Edge: edge.twinspires.com/nba/the-20-best-3-point-shooters-in-nba-history/
He sits second on the Bulls’ all-time list. With those two things capping off Gordon’s career alongside averages of 14.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game he definitely deserves to be high on this list.
Number 1. Luol Deng
At number one on our list is a man who was born in Sudan but has British citizenship after being raised in the UK – Luol Deng. Deng, the seventh overall pick back in 2004, played for five teams in the NBA with the most notable period of his career spent with the Chicago Bulls before spells with the Lakers, Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavs and the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was twice named an All-Star with both nods coming in back to back years in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Deng, who averaged 14.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game hardly held hero status with four of his teams but the Bulls appreciated him so much that he penned a one day contract purely so he could retire on their roster. He is a NBA legend and, in our minds, unquestionably, the best Brit to play in the NBA.
There you have it, the best Brits to play basketball in the NBA. Did we miss anyone? Let us know!