Today, the NBA is graced by players from all over the world but prior to the 1980s, players from Europe were rare. Spain is one of Europe's top basketball nations and some of their best players have made it to the NBA. Here are the pick of the bunch.
Martin was born in Madrid and emerged as a Spanish basketball pioneer, becoming the first from his country (and the second European) to play in the NBA. In 1986, after five trophy-laden years at Real Madrid, he switched to the Portland Trail Blazers. However, his spell was dogged by injury and he only made 24 appearances for the Oregon-based team before returning to Madrid. Unfortunately, he died in a car accident in Madrid on December 3 1989, aged just 27. He is considered one of the greatest Spanish players of all time. In 1991, he was listed in FIBA's 50 Greatest Players of all time.
It took 14 years after Martin's departure before another Spanish player would have an impact in the United States. In 2001, Barcelona star, and that season's Spanish league MVP, Pau Gasol, was entered into the NBA draft and was signed by the Atlanta Hawks who immediately traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Gasol broke many records and won numerous personal awards during his club career. At an international level, he won one World Cup, three EuroBasket titles and two Olympic silver medals with Spain.
Following in his brother's footsteps, Marc Gasol joined the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008 and remained with them for 11 years before making the switch to the Toronto Raptors in 2019 where he won an NBA title. The Gasols are the first set of brothers to become NBA champions.
Marc is also a two-time FIBA World Cup winner and a two-time EuroBasket champion. Now aged 34, he is still playing for the Raptors and could still add more silverware to his already impressive haul.
In 2005, after a successful spell with Tau Vitoria, Jose Calderon was drafted to the Toronto Raptors where he spent eight seasons. He represented six other NBA teams before his retirement in 2019. He didn't win an NBA title but enjoyed much success with the Spanish national team winning the FIBA World Cup in 2006, the EuroBasket title in 2011 and two Olympic silver medals in 2008 and 2012.
Other Spanish NBA players who warrant a mention are brothers Juancho and Willy Hernangomez, who have already featured in six NBA campaigns between them and are still playing stateside; and Ricky Rubio, who was part of Spai''s 2019 World Cup-winning squad and is currently starring in his ninth NBA campaign where he represents the Phoenix Suns.