Foreign players who have won NBA MVP

Foreign players who have won NBA MVP

NBA is the most popular basketball league in the world. Although NBA is only in the United States, it is one of the highest-paying sports leagues in the world. Since the commencement of the NBA, most of the MVPs have always been Americans. Only a few of them are international players. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of international players in the NBA who are competing at the top level. The 2021/22 season showed that international players are top stars in the game when the three MVP finalists who were to win the coveted award were all from outside the United States. Another reason to show that international players are competing at a high level is that two international players have won the NBA in the past four seasons with each player winning it back to back. Gradually, foreign players who have won NBA MVP will be a common thing. Read also; father-son duos who have won the NBA championship.


Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon, popularly known as ‘The Dream’ was drafted by the Houston Rockets as the first overall pick in the 1984 draft. He was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He led the Houston Rockets to win the 1994 and 1995 NBA championships. The Dream became the first foreign player in NBA franchise history to win the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP in the same season (1993/94). In the 1993-94 NBA season, The Dream averaged 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks in 80 games and was adjudged MVP of the season. He is regarded as the best-skilled center and the all-time NBA leader in blocks with a total of 3,830 blocks. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 2008 and the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2016. The Dream is well known for his signature move; the Dream Shake.


 Timothy Duncan

There is always a controversy anytime Tim Duncan’s name appears on the list of foreign players who have won the NBA MVP. Tim Duncan was born in the US Virgin Islands. Although it is considered a US territory, it is not part of the 50 States in the United States of America. Due to this, the NBA considers him an international player. Tim Duncan spent his entire 19-year career at San Antonio Spurs where he won 5 NBA Championships and a back-to-back MVP. Averaging 25.5 points, 3.7 assists, 2.5 blocks, and 12.7 rebounds per game, he was adjudged MVP of the 2001/02 season. The following season he won the second NBA Championship and second Finals MVP. Throughout the regular 2001/02 season, he averaged 23.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 2.9 blocks to win his second MVP. He was selected as the first overall draft pick by the San Antonio Spurs in 1977 and went on to be a 15-time NBA All-Star. Together with Kevin Garnet and the late Kobe Bryant, they headlined a nine-member team that was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020. Read on players who have won the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, and Balon D’or.

foreign players who have won NBA MVP

  Steve Nash

Even though Steve Nash was raised in Canada, he was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He played in the NBA for 18 seasons. During his time in the NBA, he was an eight-time All-Star. Despite not winning an NBA championship, Steve Nash is a two-time back-to-back MVP with the Phoenix Suns. He was drafted by the Phoenix Suns as the fifteenth overall pick in round 1 of the 1996 NBA draft. In the 2004-05 NBA season, Steve Nash averaged 15.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 11.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.1 blocks in 75 games to win his first MVP. The following season he averaged 18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 10.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.2 blocks in 79 games to win his second MVP over LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki. He is a 5-time NBA assist leader. He is the second foreign player to win a back-to-back MVP. Steve Nash was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.

foreign players who have won NBA MVP

 Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki is a German-born in Wurzburg, Germany. He started his basketball career with DJK Wurzburg and played for them from 1994-1998 before declaring for the 1998 NBA draft. Milwaukee Bucks selected him as the 9th overall pick but was traded to Dallas Mavericks where he spent his 21-year career. In 2011, he led the team to their first-ever NBA championship in franchise history. Dirk is best known for his trademark fadeaway jump shot. He became a 14-time NBA All-Star. Dirk is the 6th all-time leader in points with a total of 31,560 points. During the 2006-07 season, he was adjudged MVP, becoming the first European player to win the coveted award.

foreign players who have won NBA MVP

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Greek Freak is a Greek Nigerian who plays for Milwaukee Bucks. He was born in Athens to Nigerian parents. He began his NBA career at Filathlitikos in Athens. During the 2013 NBA draft, Giannis was selected 15th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. He won the Most Improved Player award in 2017. In that same season, he was selected to play his first All-Star NBA game after averaging 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 5.4 assists in 80 games. Giannis won the MVP back to back in 2019 and 2020.  He led the team to win the 2021 NBA championship. He is also one of the only three NBA players to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season (2020). The two are Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon. The rise of Giannis has been put in a book by Mirin Fader.

foreign players who have won NBA MVP

Jokic Nikola

Jokic was born in Sombor, Serbia in 1995. In the NBA, he is also known as ‘The Joker. He started his career at Mega Basket playing from 2012-2015. During the 2014 draft, Denver Nuggets selected him as the 41st overall pick in round 2. Like Giannis, The Joker is also a two-time back-to-back MVP. becoming the second European to win a back-to-back MVP. In 2021, he joined the league of foreign players who have won the NBA MVP after averaging 26.4 points,10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists and1.3 blocks. The following year, he was adjudged MVP again after he averaged 27.1 points,1.5 steals,13.8 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks. He was selected to join the All-NBA First Rookie Team in his first year after averaging 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 80 games. Jokic Nikola made history as the lowest draft pick to win the MVP. In 2021, he joined the league of foreign players who have won the NBA MVP.

Joel Embid

Joel Embid is the third player of African descent to win the MVP in the just ended 2022/2023 regular season. Thomas Embiid, a military commander, and his wife Christine welcomed him into the world in Yaoundé, Cameroon. When he was younger, he enjoyed playing football and volleyball, and his first goal was to play professional volleyball in Europe. However, he switched to basketball at age 15, and modeled his style after NBA Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon. He has significantly improved throughout his career since being selected by the Sixers with the third overall pick in 2014. He is now a 6-time NBA All-Star (2018-2023), a 4-time member of the All-NBA Second Team (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022), a 3-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2018, 2019, 2021), and a 2-time NBA scoring champion (2022, 2023).


With the rise in the number of international players being drafted into the NBA, I hope to see more of them winning the Most Valuable Player of the season.

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