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Spain in-depth: practical information

Top 10 Best Spanish Basketball Players

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Top 10 best Spanish Basketball Players

Most fans are familiar with Pau Gasol, one of the best European players ever, running mate of the late-great Kobe Bryant, and the greatest Spanish basketball player ever. Some os these super sportsmen are amongst the most famous people from Spain.

But Spain has long been a hot-bed for basketball talent. Back in 184, the Spanish national team took home a silver medal during the Summer Olympics and when the Dream Team took Barcelona by storm in 1992, Spain’s love affair with basketball was in full swing. 

The effect of the 92 Olympics created a generation of hoop fans and a long list of amazing Spanish basketball players. In this article, we have chosen the Top 10 best Spanish Basketball Players of all time. Lets get into it. 

Table of Contents

Sergio Llull

Sergio Llull is a combo guard that currently plays for Real Madrid that stands out because of his fearless and almost reckless style of play. Llull born in Mahón, on the island of Menorca. 
He began his pro career in 2005 playing for Bàsquet Manresa, but was soon scouted by Real Madrid who signed the budding star in 2007, at the age of 19. Soon after Real Madrid would claim the ACB League title defeating FC Barcelona in the final, achieving the 30th League Title in the club’s history, and the first of Llull’s career.

During the 2008/09 season, because of his improvement on the court, Llull was nominated for the ACB’s most improved player. He tied for second place, and behind trophy winner Brad Oleson.

In June of 2009 he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 34th position of the 2009 NBA Draft. . The Nuggets immediately traded his rights to the Houston Rockets, but Llull would never make the jump to the NBA in a move that has had basketball fans scratching their heads for years. 

The 2009/10 season, saw Llull become one of the team’s leaders,  and by 2011/12 Real Madrid would win the Copa del Rey against FC Barcelona where Llull was named MVP of the tournament. After that, there was no looking back. 

To date, Llull has won two Olympic Medals (a silver and a bronze), a Gold Medal in the Basketball World Cup, Three Golds and Bronze during the Eurobasket tournament, Two Euroleague Championships, 6 ACB league titles, one Euroleague MVP, one ACB league MVP and 2 ACB finals MVP’s. 

sergio llull

Sergio Rodriguez 

Sergio Rodriguez, or “Chacho” as he’s known is one of the best point guards in the history of Spanish Basketball. Chacho was born on the island of Tenerife and came up playing for the famous Club Estudiantes in Madrid.

He was a legend in Madrid way before played a second on a pro team because of his ball-handling and passing skills, which earned Jason Williams comparisons.

Rodriguez would go on to play in the NBA for several teams, win the Spanish league (ACB) three times, the Euroleague twice, a gold medal in the 2006 basketball world cup, and a silver and bronze in the London and Rio Olympics respectively.

Today he plays for Olympia Milano that competes in both the Italian Lega and the Euroleague. 

Juan Antonio Corbalán

Another of Spain’s great point guards. Corbalán is one of the most beloved players in the history of Real Madrid basketball. An extremely intelligent guard with amazing court-vision, he would go on to win at least 1 title in every competition Real Madrid took part in. 

Born in Madrid, he became a pro at the age of 15. He would go on to play 177 games for the national team and helped win silver in the ’83  Nantes Eurobasket games ’83  and in the ’84 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Corbalán was always an exemplary professional on and off the court and was part of all the legendary teams that Real Madrid built during the 70s and 80s. 

Today, Corbalán is a renowned cardiologist. 

Jorge Garbajosa 

Jorge Garbajosa was born in Madrid and became one of the best Spanish forwards ever. Standing at 6’9, Garbajosa was one of the first versatile big men to play the game with above-average speed and agility, a great shooting touch, and great court vision. 

He began his pro career playing for what is today Baskonia, one of the best clubs in Spain. In his first season on the first team, the team won the European Cup and in the 98/99 season, they would take home the Copa del Rey.

He would leave Baskonia after 7 seasons and head to Italy to play for Benetton Travieso, coached by Mike D’Antoni. Benetton became a powerhouse in the Italian league, and Garbajosa became a superstar in Europe. 

He would return to Spain to play for Unicaja Málaga and turned the team into league champions, he would earn finals MVP honors and was named to the all ACB first team.  The Andalusian city of Malaga, besides being the hometown of Picasso or Antonio Banderas, is well-known in Spain thanks to its to the basketball team.

He would then head to the NBA to play for the Toronto Raptors, where he would play for two seasons and would suffer a horrific injury. He would return to Europe and play for a few more years before retiring. 

During his career he would win a silver medal in the 2008 Pekin Olympics, a gold medal at the 2006 basketball world cup, two silver medals a gold medal at the 2009 Eurobasket in Poland as well as an ACB championship in 2006, 2 Italian league championships in 2002 and 2003, 2 Copas del Rey in 1999 and 2005 

Jose Manuel Calderón 

“Calde”, as he’s known, was boen in Villanueva de la Serena, a small village in Badajoz, Extremadura. He was scooped up by Baskonia at a young age, to come up in their farm system. At just 13 Calderón packed his bags and headed north to Vitoria to start his basketball career. 

His first pro games came during the 99/00 season with second division Lucentum, a team from the southern city of Alicante, where he had been traded. He played his first game in Spain’s top league at the age of 18.

From 2002 to 2005 he would return to Vitoria and would find great individual success in the Spanish league and the Euroleague, and Baskonia would claim the Copa del Rey in 2004. 

He is also part of the “Golden Generation” of Spanish basketball players and enjoyed great success with the Spanish National team. 

2005 he became just the 4th Spaniard to make the leap to the NBA. He played +7 seasons with the Toronto Raptors and quickly became the starting PG.

When he was traded to Detroit in 2012, he left Toronto as the team’s all-time leader in assist and to this day holds the record for the highest free throw percentage in a season (98.2%) by any NBA player. Calderón would go on to play 8 more seasons before retiring in 2019. 

He would retire with 2 silver medals and a bronze in the Olympics, a gold in the 2006 Basketball World Cup, and a gold, two silvers, and a bronze in the Eurobasket and as one of the most influential Spanish basketball players ever. 

Jose Manuel Calderón
Epi

Juan Antonio San Epifanio a.k.a Epi 

Epi, as he’s known, was considered one of the best players in Europe in the 1980s. He spent his entire professional sports career at FC Barcelona and he is an important person in the history of the Barcelona club, ​​where he played for 19 years. He stands 1.98 meters tall and played the forward position, and stood out because of his great outside shot.

He began his relationship with basketball in his hometown Zaragoza, at the Santo Tomás school. Epi had two brothers that played basketball, but his older brother Herminio was instrumental in Epi’s career. In 1974 FC Barcelona hired, Herminio. Before accepting the Catalan club’s offer, Herminio demanded that Barcelona also to sign his younger brother Juan Antonio, who was then 15 years old. 

With FC Barcelona he coincided with a great generation of players:  Solozábal, Sibilio, De la Cruz, Audie Norris with whom he managed to end the historical hegemony of Real Madrid, and making Barcelona one of the best teams in Europe in the 80s.

With Barcelona, ​​after 19 years as a professional, he achieved an impressive record with 21 top-level titles and an Olympic silver medal

Fernando Martín 

Fernando Matín was the first Spanish Basketball superstar. He was born in Madrid and his brother Antonio also played professionally. 

Estudiantes was the club to discover Fernando, who signed the teenager in 1978. By ’81 he was a starter on the 1st team and played in the finals against FC Barcelona.

Fernando’s rookie season was so impressive, Real Madrid came calling in that off-season.  He would play with Real Madrid from ’81 to ’86 and become the best center in Spain and one of the top players in Europe.

Real Madrid won 4 of the 5 Spanish Championships, 3 Copas del Rey, and 4 European titles. He also became somewhat of a celebrity in Spain, due to his talent on the court and his personal relationships off the court

After that, he became the first Spanish Basketball player to play in the NBA. In 1886 he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers, but his NBA career was hindered by injury and after just one season, he would return to Real Madrid. 

He played two more seasons with Real before his tragic death in a traffic accident at the age of 27.   

Fernando Martín

Marc Gasol 

Marc Gasol is Pau Gasol’s younger brother and one of the best basketball players Spain has ever produced. He stands at 7’1 and plays center.

Marc grew up playing for Club Bàsquet Cornellà but when his brother Pau left for the NBA, he left with him and played at the Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis.

There he played from 2001 to 2003 and quickly became the star of the team and the top scorer and rebounder at the high school level in Memphis. He rejected offers from universities to return to Barcelona and try to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Pau and stand out in the ACB League.

He made his debut in the ACB League on October 26, 2003, in the victory against Estudiantes 91-77.  In the 2004-05 season, he played a total of 17 games for FC Barcelona.

His big jump as a player came in the summer of 2006 where he won the gold medal at the 2006 World Cup in Japan, and he had a significant role on the team

He went on to play for Akasvayu Girona where he played the All-Star of the FIBA ​​Eurocup. In the 2007-2008 season, Marc achieved truly spectacular numbers, which earned him the regular season MVP of the Spanish ACB league. 

He then made the jump to the NBA. He was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2nd Round (48th place) of the 2007 NBA draft but was traded for his brother to Memphis. He is currently a member of the Toronto Raptors, where he has played 2 seasons. He was a member of the Grizzlies for 11 season. 

He is a 3-time All-Star, an NBA Defensive Player of the Year, an NBA Champion as well as a two-time Olympic silver medalist, two-time gold medalist in the Basketball World Cup, and a 5-time medalist in Eurobasket tournament (2 golds, 1 silver, and 2 bronze’). 

Juan Carlos Navarro

Juan Carlos Navarro Feijoo was born in San Feliu de Llobregat, Barcelona, ​​on June 13, 1980. Navarro is known as “La Bomba” or “the bomb” because of his signature floating lay-up. He is one of the most successful Spanish athletes ever. 

He spent almost his entire sports career in the Barcelona of the ACB (1998-2007 and 2008-2018. He began his career with FC Barcelona on their youth squad and became the pro team’s captain.

He would win 23 titles with the team including eight Spanish Leagues, seven Copas del Rey, five Super Cups. and two Euroleagues. He is also the highest historical scorer in the Euroleague with 4152 points. 

He played the 2007/08 season in the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, along with his compatriot Pau Gasol. 

As a Spanish international player, he is considered the second-best player of the “Golden Generation”, who won European youth champion in 1998 and junior world champion in 1999, defeating the United States in the final.

He was a senior player and the captain of the national team he would play 253 matches, which make him the basketball player with the most international appearances in the history of Spain.

He won ten medals among the three major championships, including a gold medal at the basketball world cup, two-time European champion in 2009 and 2011, and double Olympic runner-up in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol Sáez is the best basketball player to ever come out of Spain, and one of the most successful European athletes ever. He was born in Barcelona, ​​July 6, 1980). He stands at 7 feet tall and plays center and forward.

He became the second Spanish to play in the NBA after Fernando Martín, and the first to be chosen to play an NBA All-Star Game (Houston 2006), to qualify for the playoffs (with Memphis Grizzlies in 2003-04), and to win an NBA championship (in two occasions with Los Angeles Lakers in 2008-09 and 2009-10).

He was selected in the third in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks, but his rights were traded to the Memphis Grizzlies where he played six and a half seasons.

He left the Grizzlies, as the leader in total points scored, games played, minutes played, field goals scored and attempted, free throws scored and attempted, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, total rebounds, and blocks.

On February 3, 2008, Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and Aaron McKie, the first two rounds of the 2008 and 2010 drafts and the rights that the Lakers had over his brother Marc Gasol.

On May 13, 2009, he was selected to his first All-NBA team. In 2010, he was selected for the second time and again in 2011 and 2015. He is one of only four players in NBA history with at least 20,000 points, 11,000 rebounds, 3,500 assists, and 1,900 blocks accumulated during the regular season, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett.

In the 2014-15 season, Pau broke another record with his brother Marc, being the first brothers to start an All-Star. Pau was selected to the all-star team 6 times during his career.

As an international player, he has 3 Olympic medals ( two silver and a bronze), 1 gold medal in the basketball world cup, and 7 Eurobasket medals (3 golds, 2 silvers, and 2 bronzes) 

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