Top-10 European stars that failed to shine in the NBA

Top-10 European stars that failed to shine in the NBA put together a Top-10 of European basketball stars that failed to shine in the NBA.

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The site listed 10 players that proved to be real stars on the European stage, housing the abilities to make it in the NBA, however failed to make an impact in the world’s top basketball league. Amongst these players were two Greeks, Kostas Papanikolaou and Vassilis Spanoulis, with the Olympiacos captain listed as No. 1 on the list.

Kostas Papanikolaou

After his impressive spells at Olympiacos and Barcelona, Papanikolaou was sure to have a successful career in the NBA. He was a second round pick by the New York Knicks in the 2012 draft, but eventually joined the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately for Papanikolaou, injuries and his inability to adapt to Houston’s rotation forced him to leave the Rockets and join the Denver Nuggets. 

Again in Denver, Papanikolaou was unable to find his form and his short stay in the NBA came to an end,  averaging 3.6 PPG and 2.3 RPG.  He returned back to Greece for Olympiacos in 2016 where he continues to play today.

Vassilis Spanoulis

Spanoulis is undisputedly Europe’s best player that failed to “make it” in the NBA. The Greek guard is a living legend in Europe’s basketball stage when looking at what he has achieved in his impressive career and is commonly recognized as one of the best combo guards in the history of European Basketball. 

Spanoulis was a Dallas Mavericks’ choice in the 2004 draft (50th overall), but did not play in the NBA until the 2006/07 season when he joined the Houston Rockets. His spell at the Rockets was rather unpleasant as he not only had difficulties adapting to the NBA’s playing style, but was also sidelined by coach Jeff Van Gundy. Van Gundy did not have full trust in Spanoulis’ abilities and the Greek international felt that he never really obtained a chance by the Rockets to show his talents and prove himself at the highest level. As a result, Spanoulis expressed his will to leave the NBA and it came to no surprise that he would reject an offer from the Spurs in 2007 to return to Europe and join Panathinaikos. 

Spanoulis averaged 2.7 PPG (31% 2-pointers, 17% 3-pointers), 0.9 APG, and averaged ess than 8 minutes per game in his short NBA career.

The complete list from

  1. Vassilis Spanoulis
  2. Aleksandar "Saša" Đorđević
  3. Juan Carlos Navarro
  4. Sarunas Jasikevicius
  5. Arvydas Macijauskas
  6. Nando de Colo
  7. Igor Rakočević
  8. Jan Veselý
  9. Luigi Datome
  10. Kostas Papanikolaou
by Dimitris Spyridakos
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