When most of us think about the Caribbean, we have images of beaches rather than basketballs. However, the massive contingent of islands that sit south of the U.S. mainland and north of the South American continent offers the world more than just sand, surf, and relaxation. Surprisingly, it has produced some elite basketball players over the years. If you don’t believe us, just look at some of the top NBA players born in the Caribbean.
Raja Bell, St. Croix
Bell was born in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands before growing up in Miami. For an undrafted player who didn’t play his college basketball in a power conference, he put together a solid NBA career.
Bell spent over a decade in the league and was an All-Defensive First-Team selection in 2007.
Ronny Turiaf, Martinique
Turiaf spent the first 15 years of his life in the French territory of Martinique in the Caribbean before he moved to France. After making a name for himself at Gonzaga as a three-time member of the All-WCC team, he was a second-round pick of the Lakers in 2005.
While he was never a star as he bounced around the league, Turiaf proved to be a hard worker and a valuable rebounder. He even won an NBA title with the Heat in 2012, starting seven of Miami’s playoff games.
Al Horford, Dominican Republic
Hailing from the baseball-haven known as the Dominican Republic, Horford is the highest-paid NBA player to ever come out of Latin America. After helping Florida win back-to-back national championships in college, he was picked third overall in the 2007 draft. Horford hit the ground running in the NBA, earning First-Team All-Rookie honors. More than a decade later, he’s still going strong and has been an all-star five times.
Patrick Ewing, Jamaica
Born in the Jamaican capital of Kingston, Ewing looked to be on the path to becoming a pro soccer or cricket player. However, he moved to Massachusetts with his family at age 12. Ewing also grew to be seven-feet tall, making his transition to basketball a natural one. He quickly blossomed into the top high school player in the country and was a three-time All-American at Georgetown.
Despite a brilliant career, mostly with the Knicks, Ewing never won an NBA title despite making 11 all-star appearances. After retiring in 2002, he made an immediate pivot to coaching and took over at his alma mater in 2017.
Tim Duncan, St. Croix
It’s hard to imagine an Olympic swimmer who’s nearly seven-feet tall, but that was Duncan’s first dream while growing up in St. Croix. However, a hurricane destroyed the island’s only Olympic-sized pool in 1989 and his fear of sharks chased Duncan out of the ocean. However, his move to basketball seemed to work out.
He had a storied career at Wake Forest, playing four years and fulfilling a promise to his late mother that he would graduate. Duncan then spent 20 seasons with the Spurs, going to 15 All-Star Games and winning three championships during his Hall of Fame career.