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From Euroleague Dominance to NBA Stardom: Meet the 13 MVPs Who Conquered Both Courts!


European basketball is trying to catch up with North America. Let’s take a look at the 13 Euroleague MVPs that played in the NBA.

The Euroleague is one of the premier basketball leagues in the world. In fact, some would even argue that its basketball competition is just as stiff and intense as the one in the NBA.

The Euroleague features the best basketball players based in Europe and also includes former NBA names that ring a bell to several basketball fans. Given the stiff competition in the Euroleague, it isn’t surprising that some of the most successful basketball players there find themselves playing in the NBA.

In terms of history, among 17 Euroleague MVPs, 13 of which were able to see action in the NBA. Let’s take a look at the 13 Euroleague MVPs who played in the NBA.

Anthony Parker

NBA Career averages: 9.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game

NBA Awards: N/A

In Euroleague history, Anthony Parker is one of the most successful players. He was the inaugural MVP and became the only player to win the award in consecutive seasons. In terms of playing in the NBA, Parker made it to the league before showcasing his wares in Europe, as he played for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic.

After his remarkable stint with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Parker played his best seasons with the Toronto Raptors by averaging 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game in three seasons. He ended his basketball career by playing alongside LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Juan Carlos Navarro

NBA Career averages: 10.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game

NBA Awards: All-Rookie Second Team

Having originally played for FC Barcelona, Navarro carved out a name for himself in Europe as an elite playmaker. With FC Barcelona, he earned several Liga ACB championships, Spanish Cup titles, and etc.

His dominance earned the attention of the Washington Wizards, who drafted him in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft with the 40th overall pick. However, Navarro opted instead to stay with FC Barcelona and never played for the Wizards.

However, in the 2007-08 season, Navarro was convinced to play in the NBA for a single season with the Memphis Grizzlies. Although he showed promising signs of succeeding in the Association, Navarro confessed that there were different issues that convinced him to return to Spain. However, Navarro did continue finding success in Europe by winning the Euroleague MVP, just fresh from his Grizzlies stint.

Milos Teodosic

NBA Career averages: 8.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game

NBA Awards: N/A

Having won several championships in Europe and making an impact in FIBA competitions, Milos Teodosic once made a case as one of the best point guards outside of the NBA. That particular claim grew stronger when he won Euroleague MVP in 2009-10.

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Teodosic’s absence from the Association ended when the Los Angeles Clippers picked him up in 2017. But already in his 30s, Teodosic was no longer in his prime years. However, the Serbian guard did show glimpses of his greatness as a reserve for the Clippers, playing in 60 games across two seasons.

Andrei Kirilenko

NBA Career averages: 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game

NBA Awards: All-Star, 3x All-Defensive team, All-Rookie First Team, League Leader in Blocks

Dubbed as AK47, Andrei Kirilenko found plenty of NBA success even before winning his first and only Euroleague MVP in the 2011-12 season. Arguably the best NBA player out of Russia, Kirilenko had his best NBA seasons with the Utah Jazz by making his mark on defense and earning all of his NBA accolades there. After his MVP season in Europe, the CSKA Moscow veteran even managed to return to the Association by suiting up for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Brooklyn Nets.

Vassilis Spanoulis

NBA Career averages: 2.7 points, 0.7 rebounds, and 0.9 assists per game

NBA Awards: N/A

2006 was a big year for Vassilis Spanoulis. He was the main facilitator of the Greek national team that ousted Team USA at the 2006 FIBA World Cup en route to a silver-medal finish. Later on, the Greek playmaker earned a call up from the Houston Rockets, to finally play in the NBA after getting drafted by the Dallas Mavericks back in 2004.

However, Spanoulis’ lone season with the Rockets was forgettable. Not able to earn the trust of Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, Spanoulis saw limited action in the Association. Although he had a golden opportunity to join the San Antonio Spurs a season later, the Greek guard was keen on staying put in Europe.

In hindsight, it seemed like a great choice with Spanoulis succeeding in Europe by winning Euroleague MVP in the 2012-13 season to go along with several Euroleague championships. However, it makes us wonder how Spanoulis would’ve thrived under Gregg Popovich, who was able to turn international stars like Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker into NBA household names.

Sergio Rodriguez

NBA Career averages: 4.9 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game

NBA Awards: N/A

After playing professional basketball in the Spanish League as a teenager, expectations were higher than ever for Sergio Rodriguez to translate his success in the NBA. However, Rodriguez in European play of basketball is certainly a huge difference compared to his play in the NBA.

Although he showed flashes, Rodriguez mainly played as a backup guard for his stopovers with the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks, and the Philadelphia 76ers. Although he was a reserve in the Association, the 2013-14 Euroleague MVP was a star in Europe.

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Nemanja Bjelica

NBA Career averages: 7.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game

NBA Awards: NBA champion

Drafted into the NBA back in 2010 by the Washington Wizards, Nemanja Bjelica opted to play first in Europe to further develop his game. As a result, this led him to shine in Fenerbahce by winning the Turkish League championship, Serbian Player of the Year honors, and being crowned as the Euroleague MVP.

With Bjelica’s rise to prominence, he earned a callup to join the Minnesota Timberwolves before having his best seasons in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings. In the 2019-20 season, Bjelica averaged 11.5 points and 6.4 rebounds on 42 percent shooting from rainbow country. Bjelica would go on to play for the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors, where he won an NBA championship.

Nando de Colo

NBA Career averages: 3.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game

NBA Awards: N/A

In 2009, it looked like the San Antonio Spurs were going to replicate their magic with the way they developed Tony Parker by drafting French guard Nando de Colo. de Colo would finally play in the NBA.

During his rookie season, de Colo was part of the Spurs squad that went all the way to the 2013 NBA Finals before conceding to the Miami Heat in seven games. However, de Colo was hardly a factor.

The French prospect struggled as a playmaker in the NBA, averaging 1.1 turnovers per game in limited minutes. As a result, he was relegated to being a spot-up shooter. Although he shot a decent 38 percent from rainbow country, de Colo was eventually let go by the Spurs and joined the Toronto Raptors midway through the 2013-14 season.

With a lack of minutes, de Colo eventually returned to Europe and played for CSKA Moscow. The French guard then rediscovered his game by taking MVP honors in the 2015-16 season.

NBA Career averages: 28.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.1 assists per game

NBA Awards: 5x All-Star, 4x All-NBA First Team, Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie First Team

Among the Euroleague MVPs in this list, there’s no doubt that Luka Doncic is poised to have the most successful NBA career. After playing meaningful seasons as a teenager for Real Madrid, Doncic has replicated his European success into the NBA as the franchise cornerstone of the Dallas Mavericks.

Doncic is making waves as a triple-double machine and continues to become a fixture in the MVP race. In the near future, it won’t be surprising if Doncic wins an MVP in the NBA to go along with his MVP in the Euroleague.

Jan Vesely

NBA Career averages: 3.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 0.6 assists per game

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NBA Awards: N/A

During the 2011 NBA Draft, Jan Vesely made waves by giving a kiss to his girlfriend after having his name called as the sixth overall pick. Considered to be a high flyer in the European ranks, Vesely showed flashes of his athleticism on the NBA hardwood by providing highlight dunks and a handful of double-doubles.

Unfortunately, Vesely never successfully adjusted to the NBA style of play. Moreover, his 41 percent shooting from the free-throw line ultimately didn’t help, with fans labeling him as an NBA bust.

Vesely’s return to Europe with Fenerbahce was a good choice, however. The 7-foot center was crowned Euroleague MVP for the 2018-19 season.

Vasilije Micic

NBA Career averages: 3.4 points, 0.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game

NBA Awards: N/A

Making his mark in Europe as a mainstay of the Serbian national team, Vasilije Micic also shined in the Euroleague by becoming a two-time champion and earning MVP honors for the 2020-21 season. With his steady rise in Europe, the 2014 second-round Sixers draft pick finally make his entrance into the Association with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Micic is a reserve guard for the Thunder in the ongoing 2023-24 season, tallying 12 minutes a game. Given that he’s still adjusting to the NBA style of play, it isn’t surprising that Micic has yet to break out.

Nikola Mirotic

NBA Career averages: 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game

NBA Awards: All-Rookie First Team

Born in Montenegro and naturalized by Spain, Nikola Mirotic proved that he was as good as advertised, coming into the NBA. In fact, he had a steady career as a stretch forward during stopovers with the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, and the Milwaukee Bucks.

After his stint with the Bucks, Mirotic even received a $45 million offer to join the Utah Jazz. However, Mirotic decided to return to Europe, in order to be with his family.

Although his NBA stint was short-lived, we should be happy for the Spanish big man, who gets to succeed in basketball while being there for his family. Besides, Mirotic earned MVP honors during the 2021-22 season of the Euroleague.

Aleksandar Vezenkov

NBA Career averages: 5.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 0.4 assists per game

NBA Awards: N/A

Back in 2017, the Brooklyn Nets opted to draft and stash Aleksandar Vezenkov, after drafting him in the second round with the 57th overall pick. Since then, Vezenkov collected championships in the Greek League, Greek Cup, Spanish Cup, Spanish Supercup, and the Catalan Basketball League during his stints with FC Barcelona and Olympiacos.

Vezenkov capped off his Euroleague stint with an MVP season before joining the Sacramento Kings. As of this writing, the reigning Euroleague MVP is showing signs of potential as a possible NBA star.


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