Featured Gallery, NBA, Overseas / Jul 20, 2011 / 1:30 pm

The Top 5 Basketball Leagues Outside The United States

Josh Childress

Josh Childress (photo. Olympiakos)

The trendy thing to do these days if you’re an NBA player is to publicly announce that you are thinking about playing overseas. All the cool kids are doing it. Dwight Howard said he was thinking of jumping to Europe or China and Kobe Bryant was reportedly nearing a deal with Turkey’s Besiktas basketball club – the same team that recently signed Deron Williams. And why not? Playing overseas seems like a pretty sweet gig: you get to hang in some awesome foreign country for a couple months while playing against solid competition.

But that’s only if you pick the right league. Pick wrong and you could end up freezing your ass off on a bus in Siberia traveling from one empty gymnasium to another. That’s why we’re here to break down the five best leagues for NBA players looking to get some burn outside the U.S.

5. CBA, China
If you’re down with living on the other side of the world, the CBA could be the spot. The league pays well and it has a similar style to the NBA (games are 48 minutes long). It might not have the same level of talent as the top European leagues, but it boasts some solid imports like Quincy Douby, James Singleton and Lester Hudson. However, like many foreign leagues, the CBA has a two-import limit so spots will be limited.

4. Liga Nacional de Básquet, Argentina
Arguably the second best pro basketball league in the Americas, Argentina’s Liga Nacional de Básquet packs plenty of talent. Just ask Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, Luis Scola, or Carlos Delfino who all started their careers in the 16-team league. Argentina proved it produces some talented ballers at the 2004 Olympics where it grabbed a gold medal. Word on the street is that Argentina isn’t such a shabby place to live either.

3. Lega Basket Serie A, Italy
Raptors fans, you can thank Lega Basket Serie A for failing to mold Andrea Bargnani into the beast you wish he were. Bargnani, who was selected No. 1 overall by Toronto in 2006, spent three seasons with Italy’s Benetton Treviso before coming to the U.S. But just because Bargnani is soft doesn’t mean the league lacks talent. Brandon Jennings, who tiptoed around the NBA age minimum by spending a year with Lottomatica Roma before going to the Bucks, had trouble getting buckets in Italy, averaging just 5.5 points in 17 minutes per game with Roma. Other notable alumni of Lega Basket Serie A include Bill Bradley, who spent his first pro season with the Italian club Olimpia Milano while studying at Oxford, and Dominique Wilkins, who played a year with Teamsystem Bologna.

2. HEBA A1, Greece
HEBA A1 has long been a popular destination for American players. Even before Josh Childress opted to leave the NBA in 2008 to join the Greek club Olympiakos, Wilkins spent a season Panathinaikos, where he captured the 1996 Euroleague title. Even without Wilkins, Panathinaikos has had little trouble earning victories, snagging 13 of the last 14 HEBA A1 titles. The club’s dominance could finally come to an end if Olympiacos can land a solid NBA guy to replace Childress for the upcoming season. Joining Olympiakos wouldn’t be a bad gig, as the team plays in the city Piraeus on the Saronic Gulf. Just make sure to watch out for the riots.

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  • Chis

    Greek basketball is a mess and has been for years, the only thing they had going for them were two rich clubs. No parity at all, security problems, horrible organization, allegations of corruption, empty arenas. And you guys obviously missed the news about half of their teams still owing players salaries. NBA players don’t want to to Greece.

    Organization, prestiege and money wise


  • JH

    Argentina…the females are outstanding & the city has a good vibe.

  • Aleks Kaludjerovic


  • Shiptar

    hahahha, damn Martin Kessler, you obviously don’t know nothing about international baskeball. This list is total garbage!!
    The top 5 international(domestic-without Euroleague)leagues are: 1.Spain 2.Russia 3.Adriatic league 4.Turkey 5.Greece 6.Italy. And you can stop the discusion here.

    I am noticing that the majority of the new Dime writers are terribly incompetent!

  • http://250aspirin.blogspot.com DJ Leon Smith

    No honorable mention for the Australian NBL? The money is terrible but there’s zero language/culture barrier.

    FUN FACT: Stephen Jackson started his pro career in the NBL.

  • http://www.thekillerfillers.com/2011/07/smart-ultimate-all-star-weekend.html killrfillr

    Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) also deserves an honorable mention in the topic. It is the first and oldest professional basketball league in Asia and the second oldest in the world after the NBA. Kobe,Chris Paul,Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant will be here in Manila this coming weekend (july23-24) to play against the PBA All Stars and Philippines National team (Smart Gilas). Kobe will coached the said squad, joining them are: Derrick Williams (MIN), Tyreke Evans (SAC), JaVale McGee (WAS) and Derek Fisher (LAL).

  • https://twitter.com/#!/djlocdog Loc

    Gotta love Americans, have a best leagues list and then disintegrate into just talking about famous teams.

    The PBA is crazy too, fun to watch and it has some ballers and their fans are insane. I couldn’t believe how much Filipinos know about basketball and play it like religion

  • http://shiptarsablowhard Shiptarsa Blowhard

    @ Shiptar,

    What qualifies you to make ad hominem attacks on a writer whom you do not even know? I disagree, this list is pure gold. Your opinion is your opinion, and as a rational human being I respect what you have to say. As a rational human being, I also understand that ad hominem attacks are for individuals who cannot refute one’s arguments and therefore resort to personal quips. Granted, Mr. Kessler does not define the criteria with which he defines the best leagues; the kid also cranks out articles on a daily basis and therefore–not even taking into account the highly subjective nature of Dime– entitles himself to declare his own opinion. Grow up. Just as Mr. Kessler failed to identify his criteria, you failed to identify yours.

    On the other hand, commentator JH uses irrefutable logic in his analysis of Mr. Kessler’s piece: the countries with the hottest girls are those with the hottest leagues. So while you’re stuck in Russia banging pasty girls and bricking threes, JH and I will be holding it down in Argentina as we run the floor, so to speak, and explore the various tones of wood comprising the parque, so to speak, of what is a truly diverse nation. And we don’t even need to discuss the relationship between inhabitant beauty and the Adriatic Sea.

    Yours Truly,

    Shiptarsa Blowhard (we must be long lost cousins?)

    PS Mr. Kessler–Keep it coming baby!
    PPS @ JH–Keep it coming baby!

  • doc

    These leagues are trash.Brandon Jennings aint have no problems scoring in that league.They took him out if he went one on one.Nobody not from that country watches.

  • JDish

    What … problems with security, poor organization and full of corruption … sounds like some of these teams are owned by either mobb bosses or just very inept owners with almost no business management know-how.
    Sounds like the Spanish league is the best place to be when it comes to playing outside the US.
    NBAers be advised.

  • rik smiths

    Seriously these leagues are jokes. I’ve seen a couple of Spanish league games and it’s like a bad college game (and that ain’t sayin much) even though the guys are bigger/more mature.

  • Marcos Salvador Galindo

    There are at least 10 teams in the world that could take on any team in the nba for sure.
    Basketball is becoming global, and thats great for the sport.

    I would love to see a World cup of teams, like champions league but in basketball, imagine a HEAT versus Barcelona, or spurs real madrid. I would pay anything to be there.