You might not know it, but there have been several big-name NBA players who originate from the UK. In anticipation of a possible return of the NBA to the UK, we take a look at them...

The UK might not initially seem like the most obvious source of basketball talent - but over the years there have been numerous UK NBA players who have found big success in the US.

The NBA has been on hiatus in the UK since 2019 when the last match was played in London, though there’s talk that it could return again to the UK at some point in the future.

Managing Director of the NBA Europe and Middle East, Ralph Rivera, told the Mirror: “We’ll eventually come back here (to the UK).”

In anticipation of future games being played in Britain again, we’re taking a look at five top homegrown NBA UK stars, both past and present.

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Current NBA UK players

OG Anunoby

Currently playing for the New York Knicks, the London native moved to the US when he was a child. He still considers himself British and has expressed interest in playing for the UK.

Anunoby’s position is as a small forward, and he is known as one of the best-ever British players to play in the NBA.

Anunoby started his career with the Toronto Raptors between 2017 and 2023, before signing for the Knicks in 2023.

The Daily Mail reports that he’s about to become the highest-paid British NBA star of all time after signing a five-year deal with the Knicks for £212.5million.  

He’s considered as one of the sport’s best perimeter defenders. In the last season, he averaged 14.7 points and 4.2 rebounds for the Nicks and the Raptors.

Anunoby has also played as part of the World Team in the Rising Stars Challenge, representing the UK.

He has said, "It's definitely a goal of mine to inspire kids in Great Britain to want to play basketball and show that they can make it to the NBA from Britain.”

Tosan Evbuomwan

The Detroit Pistons small forward was born in Newcastle and played rugby, cricket and football before it became clear that at 6’9” he also had basketball talent.

After videos of Evbuomwan playing basketball were sent to US universities, he ended up signing with Princeton University.

In 2023, he joined up with the Detroit Pistons. He has also played basketball for the UK.

Speaking about his games with the Pistons, “I’m by no means done, I’m definitely looking forward to [achieving] and [progressing] more, [to] hopefully help the team more,” reports Hoopsfix.

Past UK players in the NBA

Luol Deng

Known as the most successful ever Brit to play in the NBA, Luol Deng’s career spanned 2004 to 2019, and he was twice named an NBA All-Star.

Born in South Sudan, Deng moved to Egypt as a child to escape the Second Sudanese Civil War, where he learned to play basketball. Luol and his family were granted political asylum to the UK, and they moved to Brixton when he was a teenager, where he became a naturalised citizen.

After showing promise as a basketball player at Brixton Basketball Club, 6’9” Deng was snapped up to play at the Blair Academy in New Jersey and made his move stateside.

Playing as a small forward, Deng entered into the NBA Draft and joined the Chicago Bulls. There, his prowess ensured that the Bulls made it into the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

During his career, Deng also played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. He also played for team GB in the 2012 Olympics.

John Amaechi

Born in the US, Amaechi moved to the UK as a child where he grew up in the Heaton Moor area of Stockport.

Amaechi - who is 6’10” - tried basketball for the first time as a teenager. He ended up signing for the Manchester United basketball team (now known as the Manchester Eagles).

After displaying talent as a power forward, he moved to the US where he started playing high school basketball. He signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1995, playing 20 games, before heading to Europe to play for teams including the Sheffield Sharks.  

He made a return to the NBA in 1999 with Orlando Magic, and also played for Utah Jazz.

Amaechi stepped down from the NBA in 2003, but briefly came out of retirement to represent the UK at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, where the team won a bronze medal.

Joel Freeland

Born in Farnham, Surrey, Joel Freeland was a power forward and centre, playing in the NBA from 2006 to 2017.

After getting into basketball as a child, Freeland played for the Thames Valley Tigers, before joining the Solent Stars. After joining the England under 18s team, he started to play in Spain, before he was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2006.

The Trail Blazers advocated for him to improve his game by training more in Spain, where he played for Spanish team Unicaja Malaga, part of the EuroLeague. In 2010-2011 he had his best ever season, with an average of 13.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in each game.

Freeland signed a further three-year deal with the Trail Blazers in 2012. In 2015, he moved to CSKA Moscow to play in Russia, where he won the EuroLeague in 2016 before his retirement in 2017.  

How to secure your seat at the NBA UK Games

If the NBA makes a return to the UK, it’ll be a huge deal. While it’s not yet been confirmed, if you sign up with Seat Unique then you’ll be first in line to know.

As the leading provider of premium ticketing and hospitality experiences, we’ll let you know as soon as any tickets become available - so you can see the potential game in style.

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While you patiently wait to see if the NBA will return to the UK, you can already see it in Paris in 2025. And with Seat Unique, you can enquire now about the incredible hospitality packages we'll soon have on offer.

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