Bilingual Ballers: NBA Players Who Speak Multiple Languages

Key takeaway: Many NBA players, past and present, are not only exceptional athletes but also highly educated, multilingual individuals. Their ability to speak multiple languages fosters connections with diverse fan bases globally and reflects the NBA's commitment to inclusivity.

NBA has grown in popularity worldwide over the past few decades. While a growing number of players are passing on some or all of college to make the jump to the professional ranks, a large number are highly educated as well as talented and can speak multiple languages fluently.

Here’s some of the most well-known players past and present who display multilingual talent.

Popular NBA Players Who Speak Multiple Languages

Kobe Bryant

Bryant was one of the best players in basketball history. He ranked fourth in scoring with 33,643 regular season points and made 18 All-Star teams, all with the Los Angeles Lakers.

At the age of six, his family moved to Italy when his father Joe, who also played in the NBA, continued his career in Europe. Kobe became fluent in Italian and also learned Spanish, where he became more fluent after his marriage to a Mexican-American wife. Bryant indicated he watched a lot of television in Spanish to connect better with Latinos.

In addition to being fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian, Bryant dabbled in French and Serbian from some teammates over his career.


Luka Doncic

Doncic has had a storied career for years, despite being only 23 years old. He is fluent in his first language, Slovenian, which he learned growing up in the northeast Adriatic coast country of Slovenia.

While Italian and Hungarian are recognized as official minority languages of the country, the primary language is Slovenian. Other languages spoken in the country are German, Serbian, and Croatian.

As a teenager, Doncic learned to speak Spanish while playing for the Real Madrid basketball youth academy. Learning to speak Spanish has made him a fan favorite in Mexico and areas of the United States that are predominantly Spanish-speaking.

Since Doncic father is a Serbian descent from the Kosovo region, he can also speak Serbian.

Among the league leaders in scoring this season, Doncic is a top candidate for league MVP at this stage of the season.


Dikembe Mutombo

Mutombo began studying multiple languages in Kinshasa, Congo, where he grew up. He indicated that he also learned Portuguese as a child in order to communicate effectively with his Angolan neighbors.

A very intelligent man, Mutombo earned degrees in Linguistics and Diplomacy at Georgetown University. He became the first Youth Emissary for the United Nations National Development Program.

Mutombo had an excellent career on the court, making the All-Defensive Team six times. He led the league in blocked shots three times, twice led in rebounding, and earned eight All-Star appearances in a Hall of Fame career.

Already fluent in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Lingala, and Luba-Kasai, Mutombo will add Chinese and Japanese to that list.


Joel Embiid

Playing at the top of his game, Embiid was runner-up for league MVP twice, and is once again in the mix, leading the NBA in scoring.

Embiid, who was born in the African nation of Cameroon, speaks the native language Bassa. He moved to the United States at the age of 16 and became fluent. He attended the University of Kansas and played for one season before being drafted by the 76ers.

A citizen of Cameroon, the United States, and France, Embiid is also fluent in French and now has a decision to make as to which team he would play for if given the chance in international competition.

He has stated he would choose Cameroon first since he is from there but there are many problems the nation must tend to. That narrows down to France and the United States. No matter which he’d choose, he will have no difficult speaking the native language.

Rudy Gobert

Gobert was born on June 26, 1992 in Saint-Quentin, France. The center for the Minnesota Timberwolves has been one of the top rebounders and defensive players in the NBA over the last nine seasons.

He was raised in Aisne in the northern part of France, and is fluent in French, as well as English. Arguably the most popular French-speaking player in the NBA, Gobert is also very popular in his native town, providing free basketball instruction to boys and girls.

Brook Lopez

Lopez was born in North Hollywood, California on April 1, 1988. His father was Cuban, hence Lopez learned Spanish at an early age.

A 7-footer, Lopez is a solid player who has developed into a three-point shooting threat, as well as a tough defender and tenacious rebounder. Lopez has averaged at least 20 points per game three times and is averaging over 16 points per game for his career.

Robin Lopez

Lopez is the twin brother of Brook, and also learned Spanish from his father, who was a baseball player. Lopez played collegiately at Stanford along with his brother Brook, and now is taking the court as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The far more traveled and less accomplished of the two brothers, Lopez is averaging 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 961 career games.

Tony Parker

Born in Bruges, Belgium, Tony Park is a French-American who played professional basketball in the NBA from 2002 through 2019. He made six All-Star teams and won four NBA titles, earning Finals MVP in 2007.

Besides being fluent in English, Parker is also fluent in French. He often gave interview in French to French-speaking reporters from Canada.  Although born in Belgium, Parker was raised in France by his father who was a professional basketball player in Europe, and his mother, who was Dutch.

It is not known whether or not Parker knows Belgian or Dutch. He retired from the NBA with averages of 15.5 points and 5.6 assists per game.

Can Shaquille O’Neal speak multiple languages?

One of the most popular and dominant big men in NBA history, O’Neal is an intimidating presence at over 7 feet tall and well over 300 pounds. However, he is very approachable and charismatic.

There is a myth floating around about how Shaq is fluent in Spanish, Greek, Serbian, and Chinese. The truth is that he knows a few words of each but that’s far from speaking those languages fluently.

There is another myth how Shaquille has a Ph.D. but that’s also incorrect. In fact he has an Ed.D. degree in education from Barry University in Miami-Dade County, Florida. O’Neal is a firm believer in education, which was instilled in him by his mother. He has instilled education into his sons, urging them to get at least a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree.

On the court, O’Neal averaged 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds and is a member of the Hall of Fame.


The NBA has become more diverse with a seemingly increasing number of international players on NBA rosters each season.  Hence, there will likely be more people in the league fluent in several languages.

With the increased popularity and growth of social media, the importance of including those from other ethnic groups is imperative. The NBA is an organization that is open to people of all nationalities.

While the players in the NBA are the best basketball players in the world, they are showing to be more than physically talented. Superstars, past and present, have been fluent in multiple languages. Not only does learning a foreign language help communicate with players of other nationalities, it can connect with other fan bases across the world.

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