International Stars

In honor of All-Star week and the impact that players born outside the United States have had on the NBA, Panini and Beckett decided to put together a special lineup of the greatest International Stars in history.

The NBA is truly a global game, with stars from all over the world. At this week’s All-Star game you’ll see stars from Greece, Cameroon, Australia, Montenegro, Serbia and Germany.

This lineup features stars China to Jamaica and everywhere in between. It contains without a doubt the greatest European player ever in Dirk Nowitzki, two legendary African big men in Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutomobo and the man who opened the NBA’s gateway to China in Yao Ming.

When looking at this lineup, you’ll realize one thing: it helps to be over 7-feet tall. Any opponent would have some trouble driving the lane against this crew.

There have been many legendary international stars in the NBA, this was an incredibly tough lineup to compile. Who do you think should have made this list?

#18 Cleveland Cavaliers

The city of Cleveland was long known for the championship curse that lasted 52 years and spread across all major sports. But in 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers finally broke that curse and brought a major celebration to the city.

The Cavaliers have had some of the league’s best players, even if you aren’t counting LeBron James.

The team was originally founded in 1970 as an expansion team in the Eastern Conference. The first few seasons were tough for the franchise, but the arrival of a few stars helped point things in the right direction. Players such as Austin Carr and Lenny Wilkens helped the Cavs capture their first division title in 1976. They even advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost 4-2 to the powerhouse Boston Celtics.

After a downturn in fortune in the early 1980s, the franchise returned to the playoffs later in the decade and into the 1990s. They played in some of the most famous playoff series in NBA history, playing against the likes of Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Michael Jordan. In 1992, they beat out Indiana and Boston, but suffered a heartbreaking loss in the conference finals to Jordan and the Bulls. They had great players in this tenure as well such as Mark Price and Larry Nance Sr. Their success as a franchise continued until 1998, which would be their last playoff appearance until the King arrived.

While the time up until 2003 was rough, it would ultimately represent one of the most important times in the history of their franchise, as they were able to draft Akron, OH’s LeBron James first overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. In just 3 years, James completely turned the franchise around, leading them to a playoff appearance in 2006, and a trip to NBA Finals in 2007 for the first time in franchise history.

While they were swept by Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, it was evident that LeBron had brought a new championship mindset to the organization. For the next few years, the Cavs were perennial competitors and made deep runs in the playoffs, but were unable to reach the Promised Land again. 

Then in the 2010 offseason LeBron James left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, bringing another tough period for the organization as a whole. But those losing seasons gave them the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. With that pick they grabbed Kyrie Irving, who would become one of the best players in the entire NBA.

When LeBron returned to Cleveland, he was returned to a team with a budding superstar in Irving and an established star in Kevin Love. Those three combined to bring the first championship to Cleveland in franchise history and the first title in the city in over half a century. It wasn’t easy though, the first season they made the Finals but fell short. In their second season they returned to the Finals and pulled off the greatest comeback in NBA history, coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. Finally, the city of Cleveland had captured the illustrious and long overdue title that they desired for so long. LeBron and the rest of the Cavaliers were forever cemented in the history of the franchise and the city.

Click on each card in the slideshow below to see if the card is available for purchase on the Beckett Marketplace.

#19 Washington Wizards

Like almost every NBA team, the Wizards have had several different team names and played in multiple cities, but their most successful period came after they settled in the Washington D.C. area in the mid-1970s.

From the Chicago Packers to the Chicago Zephyrs to the Baltimore Bullets to the Capital Bullets to the Washington Bullets, it was a whirlwind first decade and a half for the franchise. Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld were drafted as the No. 2 overall pick in back-to-back drafts in 1967 and 1968 and their additions set the team on a winning trajectory. They would make the playoffs several times, even making the NBA Finals in 1971, but were swept by the dominant Milwaukee Bucks.

Earl Monroe was then traded, but the Bullets would acquire another future Hall of Fame in Elvin Hayes the next season. The Bullets became one of the best teams in the NBA, making the NBA Finals in 1975 but getting swept by the Knicks.

It wasn’t until 1977-78 that the Bullets finally got over the hump and won the NBA Title. That season, the Bullets were far from favored going into the playoffs. But the underdog Bullets were able to win the only championship in team history by defeating the Seattle Supersonics in the Finals. They made the Finals the next season, their fourth Finals in the 1970s.

The franchise would experience some down years in the following decades, but they would be lifted through the years by superstars like Bernard King, Gilbert Arenas, and, most recently, John Wall. The team officially became the Washington Wizards in 1997, their sixth name change.

Click on each player card below to see if their card is available on the Beckett Marketplace.

#20 Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets long and winding history in the ABA and NBA can be traced through their varied colors, logos and uniform combinations.

From the early days of the ABA’s Denver Rockets in their black, orange and white to the Nuggets’ cartoonish “Maxie the Miner” logo to the David Thompson-era plain dark blue jerseys, the Nuggets changed jerseys and names several times in the ABA and early NBA days. Thompson was the first true superstar for the team with his spectacular dunks and high scoring ability.

The 1980s belonged to Alex English, one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history and undoubtedly the best player in Nuggets history. English wore the “Rainbow City” Nuggets jerseys that resembled a game of Tetris.

The 1990s brought a more toned-down look to the franchise, most notably seen in the iconic images of Dikembe Mutombo celebrating the Nuggets incredible first round upset of the No. 1 seeded Seattle Supersonics in 1994.

The powder blue jerseys of the 2000s came around at the same time as the iconic Carmelo Anthony, who lit up the NBA for the better part of a decade in Denver with his dynamic scoring ability.

Now the team has returned to a more understated dark blue as it’s main color, but they boast several alternate jerseys which harken back to the colorful days of the past.

Check out the Nuggets lineup and click on the card of each player to see if it is available for purchase in the Beckett Marketplace.

#21 Indiana Pacers

Pacers fans booed when Indiana made Reggie Miller the 11th pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. It would become the most important decision in the history of the Indiana Pacers franchise.

Fans had wanted Indiana Hoosiers star Steve Alford, not the kid from UCLA. Alford would go on to score 744 career points in four seasons. Miller scored 822 his rookie season alone, en route to becoming the Pacers career leader in just about every offensive category. He’s now an Indiana icon after a career in which he changed the way the NBA viewed three-point shooting. He also took the Pacers to the playoffs several times where his clutch performances (and trash-talking with Spike Lee) cemented his place in NBA history.

Helping him on those teams in the 1980s and 1990s was 7-foot-4-inch Rik Smits. The Dunking Dutchman was a consistent No. 2 for Miller, putting up points and grabbing boards. They would eventually win the Eastern Conference in the 1999-2000 season.

Pacers fans booed when Indiana made Reggie Miller the 11th pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. It would become the most important decision in the history of the Indiana Pacers franchise. 

Fans had wanted Indiana Hoosiers star Steve Alford, not the kid from UCLA. Alford would go on to score 744 career points in four seasons. Miller scored 822 his rookie season alone, en route to becoming the Pacers career leader in just about every offensive category. He’s now an Indiana icon after a career in which he changed the way the NBA viewed three-point shooting. He also took the Pacers to the playoffs several times where his clutch performances (and trash-talking with Spike Lee) cemented his place in NBA history.

Helping him on those teams in the 1980s and 1990s was, among others, 7-foot-4-inch Rik Smits. The Dunking Dutchman was a consistent No. 2 for Miller, putting up points and grabbing boards. They would eventually win the Eastern Conference in the 1999-2000 season.

Before Miller’s time, the Pacers were the best team in the ABA, winning three titles in the nine years of the league. Those teams were led by players such as Mel Daniels, George McGinnis and others. 

In the 2000s, Indiana would feature stars like Jermaine O’Neal, Danny Granger and Paul George. 

Check out the lineups below and click on each card to see if it’s available for purchase on the Beckett Marketplace.

Before Miller’s time, the Pacers were the best team in the ABA, winning three titles in the nine years of the league. Those teams were led by players such as Mel Daniels, George McGinnis and others.

In the 2000s, Indiana would feature stars like Jermaine O’Neal, Danny Granger and Paul George.

Check out the lineups below and click on each card to see if it’s available for purchase on the Beckett Marketplace.


#22 Brooklyn Nets

The Nets have had four locations, two nicknames, two leagues, and eight different home arenas in their 50-plus seasons in existence.

Founded in 1967 as a member of the American Basketball Association, the New Jersey Americans were relocated to Long Island and renamed the New York Nets before their second season. They would join the NBA in 1976 and the next season they moved back to New Jersey and remained the New Jersey Nets until their move to Brooklyn in 2012.

In the midst of all the changes the Nets have fielded some superstars, most notably Julius “Dr. J” Erving. Dr. J was the man who brought dunking into the mainstream, but he was also much more than that. Erving is the ABA/NBA career points leader. He led the Nets to the 1974 and 1976 ABA titles, the only two championships in Nets history.

But the team had a great run of success several decades later under the leadership of one of the best point guards of all time, Jason Kidd. They made two -straight NBA Finals trips in 2001-02 and 2002-03. A triple-double machine, Kidd made a habit of dishing it to his teammates, often in spectacular fashion. A man who was often on the receiving end of those passes was Vince Carter, who is one of the few players in NBA history that could challenge Dr. J for the title of greatest dunker ever.

Check out the Nets full lineup below and click on each player’s card to see if their card is available for purchase on the Beckett Marketplace.

#23 Los Angeles Clippers

Founded in 1970 as the Buffalo Braves, the Clippers moved to San Diego in 1978 and then to Los Angeles in 1984.

After the move to LA the franchise had its struggles, but things began to look up with the selection of Danny Manning with the first overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft. He was an All-Star and helped lead the Clippers to their first playoff appearances in Los Angeles.

The best era in the Clippers’ history was actually in this current decade. The fortunes of the franchise were turned around when they added Chris Paul via trade and drafted Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. That core of players formed what came to be known as “Lob City.” With Paul’s ability to spread the ball around the floor and Griffin and Jordan’s size and athleticism, the Clippers became the hottest ticket in town. Everyone wanted to see these high flyers in action. They would win two division titles and be perennial playoff contenders from 2011-2017.

But Paul, Griffin, and Jordan weren’t the only stars that played for the Clippers. The early 2000s saw the freakishly athletic Corey Maggette. He would help lead the Clippers to their first playoff series victory since the team moved from Buffalo.

Check out the rest of the Clippers lineup and click on the cards below to see if they are available for purchase on the Beckett Marketplace.

#24 Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the current kings of the basketball card collecting world. The “Greek Freak” is one of the best and most versatile players in the NBA and he’s still only 24-years-old. Antetokounmpo’s potential is sky high and his cards are highly sought-after as NBA fans know that he could end up as one of the best players in NBA history.

Bucks’ fans should know what it’s like watching legendary players suit up for them, as they’ve been fortunate enough to have watched several legends play in Milwaukee. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the best players in the history of the league, began his career in Milwaukee. But it was when Abdul-Jabbar was teamed up with triple-double machine and fellow future Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson that the Bucks reached the top of the NBA. With Abdul-Jabbar, Roboertson and the high-scoring Bob Dandridge, the Bucks won the 1970-71 NBA title in dominating fashion.

After Robertson retired and Abdul-Jabbar was traded to the Lakers, the Bucks needed a new leader. Fortunately for them, that leader arrived in 1979 in the figure of Sidney Moncrief. Moncrief was one of the best defenders in the league, winning two Defensive Player of the Year awards and making several All-Star teams. He took the team to seven-straight division titles.

After Moncrief came the “Big Dog” Glenn Robinson who starred for the Bucks in the 1990s. Robinson played alongside a young Ray Allen, who would become one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history. Check out the lineup below and click each player’s card to see if their card is available on the Beckett Marketplace.

#25 Orlando Magic

When most people think of the Orlando Magic two names come to mind: Penny and Shaq.

Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway brought the Magic to their highest level of success in the mid-1990s. Along with the great play of teammates Nick Anderson and Horace Grant, Penny and Shaq led the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals. The dynamic duo were some of the biggest draws in the entire NBA, with Shaq’s never-before-seen combination of size, strength and athleticism combined with Hardaway’s scoring and assisting ability, the Magic were hard to stop.

The guy many thought would be the second coming of Shaq arrived in Orlando in 2004. Dwight Howard was built like Shaq, except he was even more athletic. Howard had the best years of his career in Orlando, winning numerous awards, setting records and becoming one of the most popular players in the league.

Howard led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009. Star PG Jameer Nelson was hurt for most of that playoff run, which was unfortunate as he was having one of the best seasons of his 10-year career for the Magic.

But in between the Shaq/Penny and the Dwight Howard/Jameer Nelson eras, the Magic were led by one of the best scorers in league history. Tracy McGrady only played four seasons in Orlando, but they were some of the most important in his career as he finally fulfilled his superstar potential and became one of the best players in the entire NBA.

Check out the Magic’s team and click each player’s card in the slideshow to see if you can buy their card on the Beckett Marketplace.

No. 26 Toronto Raptors

The Raptors, like most NBA teams, have been defined by their superstars through the years.

Founded in 1995, their first big star was 1996 Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire. And, while Stoudamire was really good, nothing compares to the stardom level that Vince Carter was able to reach. Carter played for the Raptors from 1998-2004 and reached stratospheric levels of stardom after the iconic 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. 

When Carter’s time came to an end, the Raptors were searching for a new star, and he came their way in the form of Chris Bosh. Bosh resembled Kevin Garnett is his build and style of play. He became the Raptors best player, team leader and perennial All-Star for almost a decade.

And then, when Bosh left and Toronto was once again looking for a star and leader, they ended up with two: DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. The duo would lead Toronto to the playoffs consistently, and even help them to the best record in the Eastern Conference. 

The Raptors may be the team of Kawhi Leonard now, but the icons before Kawhi are the guys who built the franchise into what it is today. 

Click each card in the slide show to see if it’s available for purchase on the Beckett Marketplace!