Asian players have left a distinct impression on the National Basketball Association (NBA). Yao Ming, from China, was one of the first players to pave the way for Asian players in the league, playing for the Houston Rockets.
Sim Bhullar is the first Indian-born player in the league. Although the number of Asian players in the NBA is still relatively small, their contributions to the league have been significant, helping to grow the game of basketball globally. Many Asian players all-time have made an impact in the NBA.
Asian Players Currently Playing in the NBA
The NBA is a league that features players from various countries around the globe. Currently, several Asian players are making a significant impact in the league. In this article, we will discuss in detail the best Asian players currently playing in the NBA and their respective teams and positions.
Jordan Clarkson, an Asian-American NBA player, currently plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The first-ever player of Filipino-American is Jordan Clarkson, who played in the NBA and was a native of Florida, having a Father from America and a mother from Filipino.
Before Cleveland, he played for the Lakers and Jazz and averaged 14 points per game in season 2021-2022. Known for his scoring, he is considered one of the top bench players in the league.
Rui Hachimura, a professional basketball player with Asian heritage, is currently a member of the Washington Wizards team in the NBA. He was born in Toyama, Japan, and played college basketball at Gonzaga University. In 2019, Wizards drafted Rui Hachimura as the first Japanese player in the first round.
Hachimura has quickly become a key contributor for the Wizards and has shown flashes of becoming a star player in the league. He was recognized for his impressive performance during the 2021-2022 season, earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team with an average of 19 points and six rebounds per game.
Yuta Watanabe is an NBA player from Asia who is playing for the Toronto Raptors team. He was born in Kagawa, Japan, and played college basketball at George Washington University. In 2018, he became the first Japanese player to sign a two-way contract with an NBA team, specifically with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Watanabe has divided his playing time between the Memphis Grizzlies and their G League team, the Memphis Hustle. In the 2021-2022 season, he appeared in 24 games for the Grizzlies and averaged 2.6 points per game. He is known for his strong work ethic and defensive abilities.
Some Notable Former NBA Asian Players
Over the years, the NBA has seen a number of players of Asian heritage who have left a lasting impact on the league through their exceptional performances. While the number of Asian players in the NBA may be small, they have significantly impacted the league and helped to grow the game of basketball globally. Now we discuss some of the most notable former Asian players in the NBA.
Yao Ming, a 7’6″ towering figure from Shanghai, China, significantly impacted the NBA during his nine-year career with the Houston Rockets. He considered a standout among the greatest international players to have played in the league, was a formidable presence in the paint. His position as a player to ever play the game was further cemented by his selection for eight All-Star teams and two All-NBA awards.
Yao was crucial in helping the Chinese national team finish fourth at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Five years after his retirement in 2011, Yao Ming’s extraordinary achievements in basketball were honored when he entered the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016. And he secured his status as a real legend of the game.
He is the first person of Chinese or Taiwanese origin to play in the NBA in the 2011–2012 season. Jeremy Lin broke barriers and paved the way for future Americans of similar heritage. Lin’s career as a professional basketball player began as an undrafted free agent with the Golden State Warriors.
His seven-game victory streak and an average of more than 20 points per game earned him the nickname “Linsanity” before he joined the New York Knicks. Lin’s college basketball career was at Harvard University, and he retired in 2020 after playing for several teams throughout his professional career.
Raymond Townsend made history as the first Filipino-American to play in the NBA. Townsend, born in the Philippines and raised in America, honed his skills on the court during his high school and college years. In 1978, he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors as the 16th overall pick.
He played for the Warriors and the Indiana Pacers throughout his four-year career, averaging 5.9 points per game. After retiring from the NBA, Townsend returned to his home country and became a coach and television analyst. In 2014, his impact on basketball was honored through his induction into the PBA Hall of Fame.
Yi Jianlian, a former NBA player from Guangdong, China, made history as the highest-drafted Chinese player in the league. He was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in the sixth round of the 2007 NBA Draft. During his six seasons in the NBA, Yi played for New Jersey Nets, the Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, and Washington Wizards.
He consistently scored 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds every game over the course of his career. Yi joined the Guangdong Southern Tigers in China after leaving the NBA, where he won multiple championships and was named the Foreign MVP of the Chinese Basketball Association.
The first Israeli player to be selected in the NBA Draft was Omri Casspi, a former NBA player who was born in Holon, Israel. The Sacramento Kings drafted him with the number 23 overall pick in 2009. He played for Cleveland Cavaliers, Kings, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans during his ten-year career.
He continued to score 7.2 points and 3.3 rebounds a game. In 2019, Casspi returned to his home country and joined Maccabi Tel Aviv. Where he secured multiple championships and was honored as the Israeli League MVP.
Wang Zhizhi, a native of Benxi, China, made history as the first Chinese player to grace the NBA court. Selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1999 NBA Draft with the 36th overall pick, Wang went on to play for the Mavericks, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Miami Heat during his 7-year career.
He averaged an impressive 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. After his tenure in the NBA, Wang returned to China and donned the jersey of the Bayi Rockets. Where he was a key player in several championship wins and was honored with the title of Chinese Basketball Association’s Foreign MVP.
Mengke Bateer was a professional basketball player from Inner Mongolia, China. He played for the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs. Bateer was the first player from Inner Mongolia to play in the NBA and is considered a pioneer for Chinese basketball players in the league.
He was known for his strong rebounding and shot-blocking abilities. Bateer retired from professional basketball in 2010.
A retired Iranian professional basketball player, Hamed Haddadi, made a name for himself in the sport. Hamed was the first Iranian that plays National Basketball Association (NBA). He represented multiple teams throughout his career, including the Memphis Grizzlies and the Phoenix Suns.
Haddadi was known for his shot-blocking ability and was a popular player in Iran, where basketball is most popular sports. He retired from professional basketball in 2019.
Yuta Tabuse was a Japanese professional basketball player. And Yuta was the first Japanese player in the National Basketball Association and played for the Phoenix Suns season 2004-05. Despite his short time in the NBA, Tabuse was a trailblazer for Japanese basketball players and helped to increase the sport’s popularity in Japan. After his time in the NBA, he continued to play professionally in Japan and other countries. He ended his professional basketball career in 2015.
Seung-Jin, a South Korean professional basketball player, made history as the first South Korean to be drafted into the NBA. During the 2004-05 season, he played for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Ha was known for his size and strength and was a dominant force in the Korean Basketball League before coming to the NBA. After his time in the NBA, he returned to play professionally in South Korea and other countries. His retirement year is 2016 from professional basketball.
It is difficult to provide a conclusive statement on Asian NBA players without more specific information or context. There are a number of successful Asian players in the NBA, including players of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean descent. Some notable examples include Yao Ming, Jeremy Lin, and Hakeem Olajuwon. These players have greatly impacted the league and opened doors for future Asian players to succeed at the top level.