Top 10 Asian Basketball Players

The top Asian players in NBA history, led by Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin's impact, showcase a promising future for Asian representation in the league, with rising talents like Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe making significant strides. Despite challenges and varied career paths, these players are reshaping perceptions and contributing to the global basketball landscape.

While there haven’t been a lot of Asians who historically haven’t been dominant in the NBA as certain countries in that part of the world are getting their first players for the first time, some of them may have not.

If you’ve followed basketball for at least 20 years, you have probably heard of Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin, and some newer players were born in that area of the world such as Yi Jianlin, “the chairman” (more on how he got that nickname later in the article when you read about him). So anyways, here we go.

Top 10 Asian Players in NBA

Yao Ming

While the actual subject can be completely subjective it’s hard not to say that Yao Ming isn’t the greatest Asian player of all time as he has the most awards and accomplishments of all the Asian players out there by far. To be more exact, during his career, the 7’6 center appeared in eight all-star games, was on the All-NBA team five times, and was named to the All-Rookie Team.

His accomplishments weren’t just inside the NBA either. On the world stage Ming won three gold medals and was a three-time MVP at the FIBA Asia championships  In a sense, Ming was a transfer of power in Houston as his first season with the Rockets was the year after fellow Rocket’s legend center Hakeem Olajuwon retired.


Jeremy Lin

For a short time Jeremy Lin got to experience what almost every American would dream of. Not only did he get to play against the best basketball players in the world, he also went to the best of colleges and even got his name on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

His hype even had its nickname of Linsanity due to going on a huge hot streak of about 25 games during the 2011-2012 season while playing with the Knicks, something that came to be a huge deal within the Asian American community and he eventually put his fame to good use, especially during the pandemic.

While Lin did go on a temporary hot streak that doesn’t mean it lasted forever.


Rui Hachimara

Time will still tell how exactly good he will be in the NBA – after all, he’s only been in the league since the 2019-2020 season with the Washington Wizards, the future looks bright and it did for him from the get-go as he made a splash in the NBA right off the bat by making the all-rookie team his first year in the league.

Fellow Wizards guard Bradley Beal thinks that he could be a 3, has compared his game to Kawhi Leonard, and could stand to work on his ball handling.

In addition to playing in the NBA, Hachimara proved he was one of the best players in Japan by making the Olympic team in 2020 which has followed a trend ever since the 1992 Olympics where various international stars get tracked from the NBA and get added onto their team.


Yuta Watanabe

While Yuta Watanabe hasn’t materialized much in the NBA, he gelled playing in G league playing for the Memphis Hustle, an affiliate of the Memphis Grizzlies where he played two years averaged 14 points and seven rebounds a game the first year and 15 points and 6 rebounds in the 2019-2020 season.

However, that could be about to change as he has most recently signed with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, so it could be a matter of time before we find out what Watanabe’s fate is going to be in the NBA.


Bateer Mengke

It didn’t take Bateer Mengke long to make it to the national spotlight in the game of basketball. By the time he was 18 years old he tried out and made China’s national team. However, that was short-lived as the 6’11 290-pound star eventually got kicked off the team due to discipline issues that were never exposed.

Unlike many of the other players on here, Bateer does have an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs during the 2003 championships. The fact that he played on China’s national team made it possible for Mengke to get on the Spurs.

The way he was found is that he was recognized by San Antonio Spurs Head Coach, Greg Popovich, who was coaching the United States national team at the time. Besides having played for the Spurs, Mengke has also played for the Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors.


Ha Seung

While Ha Seung was a huge physical menace, just like many of the other players on this list, one other thing that he had was more height than normal along with a 26-inch vertical jump. The 46th pick by the Portland Trailblazers has only gotten more athletic over the years and had a huge upside coming out of college.


Jordan Clarkson

Of all the players listed here, Jordan Clarkson found his fame the quickest. He wasn’t even a legal adult by the time he was already on the Filipino national team at 16 years old.

Some of you may be wondering why he is on the list since he was born in Florida and some of you may also be wondering how he was able to play for the Filipino national team as a United States citizen. His mom was born in the Philippines.

As for Clarkson’s career, he was another Washington Wizards pick, this time, 46th in the 2014 draft and made the 2014-2015 all-rookie team and then won the all-important sixth man of the year in the 2020-2021 season and is currently ranked ninth by ESPN in the NBA fantasy leagues.


Yi Jianlin

When doing workouts for NBA scouts Yi Jianlin tried to stand out in his unique way. Not just simply by being better than others but by dribbling better, hitting more shots, etc.

He created his workout to show off to scouts which contained him facing one chair by dribbling it around and taking some shots. Although Jianlin did not do the workouts the scouts were hoping that he’d do, that doesn’t mean that they weren’t impressed and helped him earn the nickname, the the chairman.

Jianlin didn’t take long to get picked up as the Milwaukee Bucks picked up the 7’ 240-pound center as the sixth pick of the first round in the 2007 NBA draft.


Jaylin Williams

If you are a casual Arkansas Razorbacks fan you may recognize this name and if you’re not from somewhere near Vietnam he is not from some of the places you may think. For those that might not know in the 2021-2022 season, Williams was part of an Arkansas Razorbacks team that made it to the elite 8 before falling to Duke 78-69.

But either way, Williams is the first Vietnamese player to be drafted into the NBA. Williams was picked by the Oklahoma City Thunder.


Omri Caspi

While plenty of NBA players have played for long periods for various NBA teams, that is not something Omri Caspi did. In a matter of fact, he played for seven teams in five seasons and didn’t play with any team for more than two seasons.

The 6 ‘9 225 pound Isrealean center played for Cleveland (that’s the team he played two seasons for), Golden State, Cleveland, Golden State, Houston, and Memphis.

Although Caspi played for multiple teams this doesn’t mean his game didn’t involve, especially his shot selection, and became especially skilled at getting in the paint and drawing fouls during his years with Sacramento.

Caspi was the first player to ever enter the NBA as part of Israel.


Final words

So what is the future of Asian American players in the NBA? That remains a mystery for right now, but chances are having so many players Asian players in the NBA could make that part of the world stronger when it comes to world basketball events such as the Olympics and World Games since NBA players are permitted to play in them.

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