Only British Players To Ever Make It To The NBA

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When we think of famous British sports personalities, we don’t often think of basketball players – and for good reason. To date, there have been only 7 British players that have made it to the NBA.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a popular sport in the UK to watch… it’s growing in popularity across the UK and Europe steadily – and if you check out Boylesports NBA odds, you will see many of the biggest games covered.

However, as a nation, we are more inclined to bet on it than play it. That being said, there have been seven players from the UK to have made it to the NBA – and here they are.

John Amaechi

OK, he was born in the US of A. However, he was raised in Stockport, England. Amaechi started playing basketball when he was 17 years old under Joe Forber, who is now head of the Manchester Magic Programme.

The Center stands at 6 ’10 and went undrafted until 1995 when he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played 28 games for the team between 1995 and 1996 before heading back to Europe. 

In the 1999-2000 season, he went back to the NBA after signing for Orlando Magic – and is famous for turning down a $17 million contract to join the LA Lakers to stay with the Magic. He went on to move to Utah Jazz between 2001 and 2003. The following season he played for the Houston Rockets and then for the New York Knicks – until he retired from the sport.

Robert Archibald

Archibald stands as the only player to make the NBA that hails from Scotland. He was first drafted in the second round of the 2002 draft by the Memphis Grizzlies on a 2-year contract. He was then traded to the Phoenix Suns and then later to the Orlando Magic.

The 6ft 11 player represented Great Britain for six years and played for the country in the 2012 London Olympics. He sadly took his own life aged just 39.

Steve Bucknall

The very first British-trained player to make it to the NBA was Bucknall, who played for the Lakers in the 1989-90 season.

He came through the Crystal Palace program before going to the US for high school and playing basketball in college under Dean Smith

After college success, the 6ft 6 Shooting Guard went undrafted in 1989 although he managed to hook up with the LA Lakers during training camp. He went on to return to the UK playing for Sunderland before heading into Europe. He ended up playing just one season in the NBA.

Luol Deng

Deng was probably the UK’s best-ever player- becoming a 2-time NBA All-Star, making him the most successful Brit ever in the NBA.

He played college basketball for Duke for one season before being selected by the Phoenix Suns in the 2004 NBA draft – and was then traded to the Chicago Bulls. At 19, in the 2005 season, he was named the NBA All-Rookie First Team and was an All-Star in 2012 and 2013 with the Chicago Bulls before heading to the Cavaliers. He went on to play with the Miami Heat, the LA Lakers, and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Joel Freeland

Joel Freeland was selected by the Portland Trailblazers in 2006 but chose to stay in Europe. He went on to sign a 3-year contract with the Trailblazers in 2012. During his time in the NBA, he also played with the Oklahoma City Thunder before heading back to Russia and Europe.

Popa Mensah Bonsu

Pooa Mensah Bonsu joined the Dallas Mavericks in 2006  before heading back to Europe. He went back to the NBA, playing for San Antonio, then the Toronto Raptors. In 2009 he signed for the Houston Rockets and he also played for the New Orleans Hornets. 

Michael Olowakandi

Nigerian-born Olowakandi moved to England when he was 4 – and was raised in the country. The 7’1 big man moved to the US and became Big West Conference Player of the Year. He was drafted in 1998 and enjoyed a 9-year career in the NBA with 500 appearances in total.