For well over a decade, European players have flocked to the NBA and become impact players. While France doesn’t always get the credit it deserves for being a basketball powerhouse, the French have been front and center in the European invasion. In fact, you could probably put together a strong roster made up of only French-born players. To prove that, let’s take a look at some of the best French-born players in NBA history.
Things never quite panned out for Ajinca, although he did stick around in the NBA for parts of seven seasons. The 7’2’’ center was a serviceable big man who could come off the bench and give a team good minutes.
He was even a D-League All-Star in 2012, so nobody should question whether or not he belonged in the NBA.
Since he’s played his whole career in Portland and Charlotte, Batum has largely been overlooked. But he’s been a starter and a double-digit scorer for most of his career, scoring a career-high 15.1 points per game during the 2016-17 campaign.
Even on the backside of his career, Batum has been a solid role player.
Born in the suburbs of Paris, Fournier dominated leagues in his home country as a teenager before the Nuggets drafted him in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft. Of course, he didn’t get much of a chance to play until going to Orlando in 2014, and from there, things took off for him.
Fournier’s star continued to rise throughout his stint with the Magic, as he became a mainstay in the starting lineup when he wasn’t hurt and ultimately averaged 19.7 points per game during the 2020-21 season.
If longevity means anything, it’s tough to deny that Diaw is one of France’s all-time greats. He was drafted by the Hawks in 2003, before there were a lot of European-born players in the NBA, and played 14 seasons in the league.
Along the way, he won Most Improved Player honors in 2006 and won a title with the Spurs in 2014. He was always more role-player than star, but he was skilled, versatile, and always a team-first player.
Sorry, if you were expecting to see Tony Parker or Joakim Noah here, they weren’t actually born in France. But Gobert was, making him the best NBA player who was actually born in the French mainland. After all, they don’t call him “The Stifle Tower” for nothing.
It took him a little time to develop, but after a few years in the league, Gobert became an elite defensive player and a capable inside scorer, eventually becoming an all-star and a centerpiece for the Jazz. He led the NBA in blocks in 2017 and won Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2018 and 2019. Gobert is likely to remain one of the best all-time French players in NBA history, as well as one of the best defensive big men of his generation.