Top 5 Greatest NBA Players from Germany

Top 5 Greatest NBA Players from Germany


  • The NBA now has 125 international players from 40 countries; Germany is a hotspot with 6 players, including Franz Wagner.
  • Criteria for German NBA player ranking: must be born in Germany; international performance not considered.
  • Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest German basketball player of all time.



The NBA has truly become a global game. At the start of the 2023-24 season, there were 125 international players representing 40 different countries on NBA rosters. One of the most prolific global hotspots is Germany. The association currently features six German players headlined by Orlando Magic star Franz Wagner. In addition, their national team has become a force, winning the gold medal at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Throughout history, 27 German players have played in the NBA, per RealGM. That group features several All-Stars, memorable role players, and an all-time great.

Let’s take a quick moment to establish eligibility and ranking factors for this list.

List criteria:

  • The player must be born in Germany.
  • National team association does not matter.
  • International performance is not a ranking factor.

Former All-Star center Chris Kaman is the only notable exclusion due to the German-born rule. Kaman was born in Michigan, but his great-grandparents were German. He represented the national team at the 2008 Olympics.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

5 Shawn Bradley

One of the most imposing centers the league has ever seen

Accolades: 1996-97 BLK Champ, 1993-94 All-Rookie

Bradley is best known for his 7’6″ height (and brief role in “Space Jam”), but the center was truly a dominant interior defender. He was perennially toward the top of the league in blocks. He averaged 2.5+ blocks per game over the first eight years of his career. During the 1996-97 season, he reached his peak as a member of the Dallas Mavericks, leading the league with 3.4 rejections per game.

Bradley is 15th all-time in league history in blocks. Notably, 10 out of the 14 players ahead of him are Hall of Famers; three of the exceptions are Defensive Player of the Year winners (Mark Eaton, Marcus Camby, and Dwight Howard).

Shawn Bradley Career Stats













Offensively, Bradley was not as prolific. His career-high scoring average came in 1996-97 when he chipped in 13.2 points per game. There were sporadic flashes, though. He scored 30+ points in three individual games.

The “Stormin’ Mormon” was born in Landstuhl, West Germany. He would go on to play for the German national team, as well. He competed for the nation at the 2001 EuroBasket.

4 Detlef Schrempf

Schrempf was one of the best Sixth Men of all time

Detlef Schrempf
Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Accolades: 3x All-Star, 2x Sixth Man of the Year, 1x All-NBA Third Team

Despite playing in the 80s and 90s, Schrempf was a modern NBA forward. He shot over 40 percent from three in six individual seasons. He was also a capable passer, averaging 6.0 assists in a single season (1992-93).

Schrempf was born in Leverkusen, West Germany. As a teenager, he played for Bayer Leverkusen.

After moving to the United States, he attended the University of Washington, where he played for four years. As a senior, he averaged 15.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.2 assists.

The Mavericks selected Schrempf with the eighth overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. Early in his career, he was a solid role player off the bench. After three and a half seasons, he was traded to the Indiana Pacers.

In Indiana, Schrempf emerged as a key scoring option. In 1990-91, he won his first Sixth of the Year award. In 1992-93, he made his first All-Star team, averaging a then-career-high 19.1 points per game.

During the 1993 offseason, Schrempf was traded to the Seattle Supersonics. Across six seasons with the franchise, he averaged 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists, while shooting 41.4 percent from three. During that span, he made two more All-Star appearances and an All-NBA team.

Detlef Schrempf Career Stats













Schrempf spent his final two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, before retiring in 2001.

Nowadays, the big man is known for his role in “Parks and Recreation”, but he was one of the most prominent European players of his era.

3 Carlos Boozer

Boozer was born in Germany and qualifies despite playing for Team USA

carlos boozer

Accolades: 2x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Third Team, 2002-03 All-Rookie

Yes, Carlos Boozer was born in Germany. Typically, the veteran power forward is not the first name that comes to mind when discussing German basketball players. Nevertheless, he was born in the town of Aschaffenburg. He did not stay in Germany for too long, moving to Alaska as a child. As an adult, he chose to represent the U.S. national team, playing in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Boozer attended Duke University and helped lead the program to a National Championship in 2001. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected him in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft. He quickly outperformed his draft slot as an All-Rookie selection.

In his second season, he averaged 15.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 1.0 steals. He finished as the runner-up for Most Improved Player behind Zach Randolph.

During the offseason, Boozer sign a six-year, $70 million deal with the Utah Jazz. He would go on to establish himself as one of the game’s premier big men, garnering two All-Star selections and an All-NBA third-team selection. Boozer, along with guard Deron Williams, led the Jazz to four straight playoff appearances, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2007.

Carlos Boozer Career Stats













In 2010, Boozer signed with the Chicago Bulls, where he, once again, became a key member of a contender. In his first season, he averaged 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds, and the Bulls made the Eastern Conference Finals, fueled by an MVP season from guard Derrick Rose. Boozer would continue to be a regular starter for the franchise for three more seasons.

In 2014, he was waived. He then signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played one final NBA season.

Boozer gets a slight nod over Schrempf due to his statistical peak. The big man averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for back-to-back seasons (2006-07, 2007-08).

2 Kiki Vandeweghe

One of the first European talents in the NBA

Kiki Vandeweghe
Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Accolades: 2x All-Star

Kiki Vandeweghe averaged 29.4 points per game during the 1983-84 season. That was the third-most in the NBA, trailing only Adrian Dantley and Mark Aguirre.

Vandeweghe was quietly one of the most prolific scorers of his era, averaging 20+ points per game for seven consecutive seasons (1981-88). During that span, he was fifth in the NBA in total points (12,688). As a 6’8″ small forward, he was a lethal mid-range scorer, who could get his shot off easily over smaller defenders. He was also able to get into the paint with ease.

Vandeweghe was born in Wiesbaden, West Germany. Like Boozer, he moved to the U.S. as a child.

Kiki Vandewegde Career Stats













After a successful college run at UCLA, he was selected in the first round of the 1980 NBA Draft by the Mavericks. However, he was quickly traded to the Denver Nuggets. He spent four seasons in the Mile High City, making two All-Star appearances.

He was traded to the Blazers in 1984, where he played another four and a half seasons.

Vandeweghe finished his career with stints with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers.

1 Dirk Nowitzki

Nowitzki is an all-time great with one of the most improbable championships in NBA history

Dirk Nowitzki

​​Accolades: NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 14x All-Star, 4x All-NBA First Team, 5x All-NBA Second Team, 3x All-NBA Third Team

This comes as no surprise. Dirk Nowitzki is one of the greatest players in league history. He is a former MVP and NBA champion, and he sits sixth overall on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (31,560 points).

Nowitzki was born in Würzburg. At age 15, he joined the basketball club, DJK Würzburg. After playing four years in Germany, he entered the 1998 NBA Draft, where he was selected by the Dallas Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki Career Stats













Nowitzki played an astonishing 21 seasons for the franchise, amassing 14 All-Star selections. At his peak, he finished top-three in MVP voting for three consecutive seasons.

His most iconic moment came in 2011 when he led the Mavericks to their first NBA title. In the series, he averaged 26.0 points and 9.7 rebounds, as the underdog Mavs defeated the “Big 3” Miami Heat.

Nowitzki is not just the greatest German NBA player; he is in the discussion for the greatest power forward of all time, along with Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett, and Charles Barkley.


In international competition, Nowitzki suited up for the German national team, helping the team earn a bronze medal in the 2002 World Cup and a silver medal in the 2005 EuroBasket.

At the moment, the NBA features one young German star in Franz Wagner, and there will certainly be more German star players in the future. However, it will be a long time before anyone challenges Nowitzki for the top spot on this list.

All statistics courtesy of Statmuse and Basketball Reference.


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