1. Oscar Schmidt:
If Reggie Miller spoke Spanish he would have been Oscar Schmidt. No seriously. Schmidt is one of the greatest shooters I have ever seen at any level. It should be noted that he never played in the NBA, not because he wasn’t good enough but because at that time NBA players were not allowed to participate in the Olympic games. He saw fit to representing his country in international play rather than challenge himself at the highest level of basketball. Not to mention he had absolutely no interest in playing defense.
Schmidt, a six foot-eight two guard did get drafted by the New Jersey Nets with the 131st pick in the 1984 draft, but declined. Schmidt’s greatest achievement during his career came during the 1987 Pan American games, where he scored 46 points to lead Brazil to a 120-115 over a star laden U.S. team which had future stars David Robinson, Pervis Ellison and Danny Manning. Though Schmidt never got past the second round in the Olympics he did have numerous great runs in the tournament, posting his personal best and an incredible 42.2 points per game in the 1988 Seoul games. He would go on to break many international records along with an alleged record of over 49,000 points, before retiring in 2003 a legend and national hero in Brazil.
2. Drazen Petrovic (Croatia)
To describe Drazen in a word would be; fearless. I never saw him back down to anyone on the court, including Michael Jordan. In fact, he may have been the only player I saw truly compete against the now legendary Dream Team in the entire 1992 Olympics. The late Drazen Petrovic was one of the brightest rising basketball stars during the late 1980′s and early 1990′s. Sadly, the six-time European Player of the Year was involved in an automobile accident, and his once promising career and life ended when he was 28-years-old. Nevertheless, Petrovic is remembered as one of the best European basketball players and became a posthumous member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
3. Arvydas Sabonis (Lithuania)
Long before Rasheed Wallace was throwing towels in his face as teammates on the Portland Trailblazers, back when he had a David Hasselhoff mullet, he was one of, if not, the best big man on the planet. The former Lithuanian basketball player was selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011 because of his excellent NBA and European career. Besides playing for three European teams and being an eight-time European Player of the Year, Sabonis also played a pivotal role on the Lithuanian 1988 Summer Olympics team which earned the gold medal.
4. Sergei A. Belov (Russia)
As a member of the 1972 Summer Olympics Russian team, Belov played an important role for the team and was one of the reasons why Russia earned the gold medal in basketball. Although Belov never played in the NBA, he is considered one of the best basketball players of all time and was selected as the first European player to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
5. Toni Kukoc (Croatia)
Kukoc was supposed to be the European Magic Johnson. What he really was, was the first Lamar Odom. Kukoc had a very underrated game in the fact that he was a pass first player, who liked to pick his spots to score. In international play he dazzled fans with his skill at 6’10, and was dominant in Europe as a youngster, especially in the same lineup with Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic. After a rough indoctrination into the NBA by teammates Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Kukoc was actually the perfect complement to both players. He helped the Bulls win three of their six NBA Championships. Kukoc was selected as the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 1996 and was 190 points away from scoring a career total of 1,000 when he finished his career in 2006.
6. Andrew Gaze:
Gaze made his Olympic debut as a 19-year-old in Los Angeles in 1984. In doing so, he became the youngest man to ever represent Australia on the Olympic basketball team.
Gaze played a peripheral, but nonetheless important part in the first ever NBA championship for the San Antonio Spurs, earning himself a championship ring.
Gaze also excelled at the international arena, and in 2000 became (jointly with American Teresa Edwards) the third basketball player to compete at five Olympics, after Puerto Rican Teófilo Cruz and Brazilian Oscar Schmidt. He led the Boomers to their best performance, fourth at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. (The Boomers also came fourth in 1988 and 2000) He was selected as flag-bearer for the Australian team at the opening ceremony at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He is the scoring record holder in Olympic competition, and second-highest scorer of all-time in World Championship play.
7. Kresimir Cosic (Yugoslovia)
Commonly referred to as one of the best Yugoslavian basketball players, Cosic also had an excellent career overseas. He helped his country achieve the gold medal at the 1980 Olympic Games. Although he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, Cosic never played for the team and his international career helped him become inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.
8. Drazen Dalipagic (Serbia)
Elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004, Dalipagic was another popular European basketball player, and played along with Cosic for Yugoslavia at the Olympics Games. “Praja”, as his fans and teammates frequently called him, was one of the reasons why the team also earned silver in 1976 and bronze at the 1984 Olympics.
9. Vlade Divac (Serbia)
Besides helping Yugoslavia earn the silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics, Divac had a prolific career as one of the best NBA centers of all time. Drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, Divac finished his 16-year career with 13,398 points and 9,326 rebounds.
10. Dino Meneghin (Italy)
Arguably, the best Italian basketball player of all time, Dino Meneghin never played on an NBA team, but he was instrumental in helping the Italian basketball team earn the silver medal at the 1980 Olympic Games. Meneghin was the second Italian basketball player to be selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
11. Dirk Nowitzki (Germany)
Dirk could have been way higher on this list if not for his NBA exploits. Once he established himself as a super star in the NBA, he still played for his native country of Germany, but as much to stay in shape as it was for national pride. In international play he was obviously dominant, but he never played on great teams, and you got the feeling that he was trying to elevate his national team and basketball in Germany as much as win a Gold medal. Not to mention Dirk has an affinity for Black women, and there simply aren’t that many sisters roaming the streets of Berlin on any given Friday night. Since being drafted in 1998, he has been a member of 10 NBA All-Star teams and has been on four All-NBA First Teams.
Detlef Schrempf (Germany)
Along with Nowitzki, Detlef Schrempf is considered one of the best German basketball players of all time. Although his international career wasn’t as esteemed as others, mostly because he spent almost his entire professional career in the NBA. Schrempf was a hell of a player. Schrempf retired after playing 16 seasons in the NBA, he was a three time All-Star, and was selected as the Sixth Man of the Year twice in 1991 and 1992.