Bet You Didn’t Know These NBA Players Are Latino
Latinos have impacted a lot of sports in America, and the NBA is no exception. In the past decades, Latin America has produced some superstar players. From point guards to centers, the Miami Heat to the Toronto Raptors, these players have been fun to watch. Plus, most of them have played for their home country’s national teams, including the Olympics.
Let’s explore 11 of our favorite Latino NBA players, both past and present:
1. Al Horford
This is Horford’s twelfth year in the NBA, where he is currently playing center for the Boston Celtics. This year the Celtics have an all-star lineup, which should make for a great season.
Al Horford is part of a basketball family. His father, Tito Horford, played in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Washington Bullets. Horford was born in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic before he moved with his family to Lansing, Michigan. Horford now has a family of his own, with wife Amelia Vega and two children.
2. Nenê Hilário
Nenê is in his 18th NBA season, with stints in Denver and Washington before his current position with the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately, his long NBA career has been sprinkled with injuries. Currently, he has a strained calf that has him sitting the bench for the beginning of the 2018-19 season. But he won’t be out for long!
Fun Fact: Nenê is not his real name. Nenê was born Maybyner Rodney Hilário in São Carlos, Brazil. Nene is a nickname meaning “baby”, because he was the youngest in his family and his group of childhood friends. He liked the nickname so much he had his name legally changed to Nenê in 2003, right after his first season in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets.
3. Jose Juan Barea
J.J. Barea is the point guard for the Dallas Mavericks. He is in his 13th NBA season, where he has played entirely for the Dallas Mavericks except for a three-season stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2011-2014. He may not be in the starting lineup, but he’s an important contributor to the game. Last season, he averaged 11.6 points per game and 6.3 assists per game.
J.J. Barea may have a big personality, but he’s a short basketball player. While listed at 6’0”, his actual height is closer to 5’10”. His big career can give any of you short players out there hope!
4. Carlos Delfino
Carlos was born in Argentina, but holds dual citizenship with Italy as well. He played in the NBA for 8 seasons, from 2004-14, with a short break from 2008-09 to play in Europe. He started in Detroit, before playing for Toronto, Milwaukee, and Houston. His best years were with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he posted career highs and made a big impact from the three-point line.
When he wasn’t playing in the NBA, Delfino was a big part of the Argentinian national teams. In 2001, he played on the junior team in the 2001 FIBA World Championship. He was part of the senior team for the 2004, 2008, and 2016 Summer Olympics as well as the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
5. Tiago Splitter
Tiago had a short NBA career due to a hip injury, but it was a great one. This 6’11” played power forward and center during his seven seasons. He spent five seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, he made it to the NBA playoffs each year and became the first Brazilian to win an NBA championship in 2014. He was then traded to the Hawks and then the Philadelphia 76ers before announcing his retirement in February of 2018. Tiago was hired in April of 2018 by the Brooklyn Nets as a pro scout, with added duties related to on-court development.
Before Tiago joined the NBA, he had an 11-year career in Europe. His professional career started at just 14 years old, which is part of what kept him out of the NBA. He was expected to declare for the 2006 NBA draft, but delayed until 2010 in part because he could make more money in the Spanish ACB League, where the NBA rookie scale salary cap did not apply.
6. Anderson Varejao
The Brazilian Anderson Varejao had twelve seasons with Cleveland Cavaliers, where he was a fan and team favorite. The people loved his wild hair and energetic playing, even dubbing him with the nickname “Wild Thing”. After twelves seasons, he was traded in early 2016 to the Portland Trail Blazers, where he was waived before signing in the middle of the 2016 season with the Golden State Warriors.
In 2016, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals. The Elias Sports Bureau says that Varejao is the first player in history to play for both Finals teams in the same season. Unfortunately, he didn’t not get a championship ring because the Warriors lost after being up 3-1 in the series.
7. Carlos Arroyo
Our Puerto Rican point guard is still playing internationally, even though his NBA career is over. Over 13 seasons, Arroyo played for a variety of NBA teams, including the Toronto Raptors, the Denver Nuggets, the Utah Jazz, the Detroit Pistons, the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat, and the Boston Celtics.
Arroyo also played for the Puerto Rican national team, from 2011 to 2016. During this time, he led the Puerto Rican 2004 Summer Olympics team to victory over the United States’ team.
8. Greivis Vasquez
Greivis Vasquez grew up in Venezuela with his parents and his brother before moving to Maryland for high school to play basketball. He went to the prestigious Montrose Christian School where he played with future NBA star Kevin Durant. From there he went on to play in the NCAA at the University of Maryland.
From college, he was drafted into the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies. He went on to play for the New Orleans Hornets, the Sacramento Kings, the Toronto Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Brooklyn Nets before being waived. His career highlights were during his years with the New Orleans Hornets, where he was the league leader in assists for the 2012-13 season.
9. Francisco Garcia
Francisco Garcia is the shooting guard and small forward from the Dominican Republic. He played in college at Louisville for three years before entering the NBA draft.
In the 2005 draft, Garcia was the 23rd pick in the first round, going to the Sacramento Kings. He played with the Kings for 8 seasons before being traded to the Houston Rockets in 2013 for his final three seasons in the NBA.
10. Luis Scola
Luis Scola was born in Argentina, where he started his professional basketball career in the Aregentine league at 15 years old. He then moved to Spain in 1998, where he played for seven years with Saski Baskonia.
The San Antonio Spurs drafted Scola in 2002, but were unable to negotiate a buyout with Baskonia. Finally, in 2007, the Spurs traded the rights to Scola to the Houston Rockets, and the buyout was resolved quickly. As a starter for the Rockets and then the Phoenix Suns, this power forward was a great NBA player. His NBA career ended in 2017, but he is still playing in China and for the Argentina national team.
11. Manu Ginobili
Another Argentinian, Manu Ginobili had a long professional basketball career that finally ended with his retirement in August of 2018. He was one of the best – he will be missed by his Latino fans!
Over 23 seasons, Ginobili is one of only two players to have won a EuroLeague title, an NBA championship, and an Olympic gold medal. He actually won four NBA championships, all with the San Antonio Spurs.