The NBA’s Most Successful French Players Pre-Victor Wembanyama
Considered the most exciting NBA draft prospect since LeBron James, 19-year-old Victor Wembanyama may be the most talented athlete out of France in decades. Widely presumed to be the No. 1 draft pick of 2023, all eyes are on the San Antonio Spurs, the fortunate team expected to nab the rising basketball star.
While the 7-foot-4 teenager has garnished widespread attention throughout the league, Wembanyama is not the first player to hail from France. In fact, several French basketball players have made a name for themselves in the NBA.
We’ve ranked the seven most successful French basketball players below, according to NBA championships, All-Star appearances, and other accolades during their NBA careers. Someday, we’ll likely see Wembanyama on this list, too.
7. Boris Diaw
The 41-year-old from Cormeilles-en Parisis, France, spent 14 years in the NBA, earning the title for most improved in 2006 and winning a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. Before retiring from the league in 2017, Diaw was known for his playmaking abilities and, according to SB Nation, was “one of the most interesting personalities the league had to offer.”
6. Nicolas Batum
Born in Lisieux, France, in 1988, Nicolas Batum began playing in the NBA in 2008 for the Portland Trail Blazers. The 6-foot-8 Frenchman currently plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. While he has never won a championship ring, Batum is considered one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. According to FanSided, last season, the 34-year-old averaged 2.1 deflections and 5.4 contested shots per game, with a 24.6 steal percentage, making him one of the “most underrated players in the NBA.”
5. Evan Fournier
The 6-foot-7 shooting guard from Saint-Maurice, France, currently plays for the New York Knicks after several seasons with the Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, and Boston Celtics. He represented France in the 2020 Olympics, winning the silver medal for men’s basketball. In 2022, Fournier scored a career-high 41 points in a victory against the Celtics.
4. Joakim Noah
Despite being born in Manhattan, 6-foot-11 Joakim Noah has strong ties to France. The two-time All-Star’s father, Yannick Noah, won the 1983 French Open and was ranked the No. 3 tennis player in the world in 1986. Drafted to the Chicago Bulls in 2007, Joakim played for 13 seasons in the NBA, earning the 2013-14 All-NBA title and All-Defensive award three times.
3. Rudy Gobert
Born in Saint-Quentin, France, the 7-foot-1 guard got drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2013. Rudy Gobert remained there for nine seasons before moving to the Minnesota Timberwolves. With the nickname “Stifle Tower,” the three-time NBA All-Star is one of the top rim protectors in the league. In 2017, he had the most blocks. For the following three consecutive years, Gobert was named the Defensive Player of the Year.
2. Joel Embiid
The 7-foot center for the Philadelphia 76ers has a big decision to make. As Basket News reports, the 29-year-old, born in Cameroon, obtained his French national citizenship and an American passport last year. So, while Team USA and France wait to see where the six-time All-Star and 2023 MVP decides to play for the 2024 Olympic games, the two-time scoring champ implied, “It’s a good thing that I acquired French nationality.”
1. Tony Parker
Once known as the “Parisian Torpedo,” Tony Parker played point guard for the San Antonio Spurs from 2001-18, spending his last season in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets. Born in Belgium but raised in France, the 41-year-old French athlete was a six-time All-Star and won four championships with the Spurs. Now living in France, Parker is the majority owner of ASVEL Basket in the LNB Pro A.
Many NBA fans think Dominique Wilkins is French
Many basketball fans believe Jacques Dominique Wilkins is French, ranking him among the most successful French basketball players. However, the 6-foot-8 former NBA player is actually an American citizen. He was born in Paris and lived there while his father was in the Air Force.
Inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2006, Wilkins played for 15 years in the league. He was named the 1983 All-Rookie while playing for the Atlanta Hawks and became a nine-time All-Star and seven-time All-NBA recipient.