Here we are with another difficult selection. Many years, many players, great games, great protagonists. As usual, half of this list was a no-brainer, but the other half was more difficult. I thought about the likes of Wayne Brabender, Johnny Rogers, David Rivers, Kevin McGee and many others, but after double and even triple checking, this is my list of the Top 10 Americans in the history of European basketball.
10. Bill Bradley (1943)
One of the first great Americans in European basketball. Bradley was a high school star and received major interest from universities. He was offered scholarships to as many as 75 schools and ultimately chose Duke University, but a serious leg injury made him about life after basketball and he decided to attend Princeton. Bradley starred there and for Team USA at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. In his last college season he took the team to the NCAA Final Four, where he was chosen MVP despite Princeton placing third. Bradley scored 58 points in the third-place game and finished his college career with 2,503 points (30.2 ppg.). He decided to finish his studies at Oxford in England, and that choice was used by Olimpia Milan to make a unique offer to play for the team in European games only and to practice with the team a few times. Bradley accepted and played great, often scoring more than 30 points as he took the team to the first Final Four played in Bologna and led Milan to the Champions Cup. After Oxford, Bradley went back to America, played 10 years in the NBA and won two rings. He later went into politics and served 18 years as a United States Senator.
9. Jon Robert Holden (1976)
His was a long path from small teams to glory. Holden started his pro career in Latvia with Broceni Riga and then moved to Belgium with Ostende. The next step, to AEK Athens of Greece, would be decisive because there's where CSKA Moscow saw him and signed him in 2002. In his first EuroLeague season with AEK, Holden averaged 17.2 points, but for CSKA he had a different role. Holden became the playmaker and a defensive stopper. His 608 assists are still the 13th best mark in EuroLeague history. Holden was smart, fast and capable of adapting to his team's needs. He became a true team leader and helped CSKA lift EuroLeague titles in 2006 and 2008. He also received a Russian passport and played for the Russian national team, with whom he won the gold medal at EuroBasket 2007.
8. Anthony Parker (1975)
He didn't play many years in Europe – just five in Maccabi and one in Rome, but Parker left a big mark as a high-scoring swingman with a team-first mentality. He had two stints at Maccabi and averaged 16.3 points and an impressive 41.1% from the arc in EuroLeague games. To that, he added 5.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists and led his team to back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005. He is the only two-time EuroLeague MVP and was also chosen as 2004 Final Four MVP and was twice a member of the All-EuroLeague team. He was a complete athlete with cold blood and a hot hand. A lethal combination.
7. Joe Arlauckas (1965)
Another example of how the mix of talent and work eventually succeeds. After good years in college, Arlauckas didn't succeed in the NBA, so he turned to Europe. He landed in Italy with Caserta, but only played 12 games there with moderate success. After that, Spain was next, with Caja Ronda Malaga. There, Arlauckas exploded with two great seasons before he joined Baskonia. Once there, he had three great years. Next would be Real Madrid, where, Arlauckas played alongside Arvydas Sabonis. Together they formed one of the best duos of big men ever in European basketball and led Madrid to the 1995 European crown. He played 365 games in the Spanish League, with 7,547 points and a 20.7-point average plus 7.2 rebounds. He was a spectacular player who scored 63 points against Virtus in 1996 on 24-of-28 two-point shooting and 15 of 18 free throws.
6. Audie Norris (1960)
He was probably the best foreigner ever for FC Barcelona, and that speaks for itself. For sure, he was the most beloved. After two years with Benetton Treviso in Italy, between 1987 and 1993 Norris played 184 Spanish League games with Barca and amassed 2,604 points (14.2 ppg.) and 7.6 rebounds. He never won the EuroLeague, but his mark was permanent. Norris was a great pro, a strong big man who could battle bigger guys than him. He shot well and executed spectacular dunks and off the court the 'Atomic Dog' was a great man who was always respected by everyone. Nowadays, whenever he visits Palau Blaugrana, people still stand on their seats to cheer him. Unforgettable.
5. Dominique Wilkins (1960)
Wilkins landed in Europe at 35 years of age after a brilliant NBA career mostly with the Atlanta Hawks (26,668 points), but in only one year with Panathinaikos Athens he earned his place in the EuroLeague history books. In the 1996 Final Four in Paris, he was named MVP thanks to his 35 points against CSKA Moscow in the semifinal and 16 points plus 10 boards in the final against Barcelona, which the Greens won 67-66. Over 17 games, he was worth 20.1 points and 7.4 rebounds. Wilkins played another season in Europe with Fortitudo Bologna, but his moments of glory were with him in Green in Paris which, by the way, was the city of his birth.
4. Keith Langford (1983)
I cannot guarantee he's the best American player currently in European basketball, but he surely is the best scorer. He won the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy for the 2013-14 season when he averaged 17.6 points for EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and after finishing the current season with 21.8 points per game for Unics Kazan, he is on the verge of earning that trophy a second time. Langford is now in his 11th season in Europe, of which seven have been in the EuroLeague. In those EuroLeague campaigns, he has worn the uniforms of Khimki Moscow Region, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Milan and Unics. In 118 EuroLeague games, he has scored 2,022 points and averaged 17.1, which is the most among players with a minimum of 60 appearances.
3. Walter Szczerbiak (1949)
If I have to choose one word to define him it would be: big. In all senses. He was a shooting forward, but his game was fun, elegant and diverse. He could score from anywhere and in any way. After a good run in college with George Washington University, legendary Real Madrid coach Pedro Ferrandiz convinced him to come to the Spanish club. Everybody could see the kind of player that had landed in Madrid right from his debut, as Szczerbiak scored 47 points in el Clasico against FC Barcelona for a 125-65 win. Szczerbiak once got angry at a journalist who had said he didn't like to play in the mornings because he could not sleep late and scored 65 points! He was a three-time European champ, won the Spanish League four times and was the top scorer in 1976. He finished his career in Canarias averaging 23.7 points at age 37.
2. Clifford Luyk (1941)
Another great discovery by Ferrandiz. In a 1962 game in New York, which had chosen Luyk in the NBA Draft, Ferrandiz saw the potential already in the warm-up session. He did not play that game, but it was enough for Ferrandiz to offer him a contract with Madrid. Luyk accepted and... lives in Madrid to this day. He won 14 Spanish Leagues, 10 Spanish Cups, six EuroLeague titles and three Intercontinental Cups. He was not very tall (2.03 meters), but his great technique defeated bigger men than him. Luyk was a consistent player and they say he never played a bad game. Sometimes he did not have the best of days, but he always delivered with his hook shots and rebounds. Three years after landing in Spain, Luyk received Spanish citizenship and also played 150 games with the Spanish national team, which he helped win a silver medal at EuroBasket 1973. A Madrid legend.
1. Bob McAdoo (1951)
McAdoo was a luxury veteran who landed in Europe at 35 years of age after a great NBA career. When he joined Olimpia Milan in 1986, he had two NBA titles, an MVP and five All-Star appearances under his belt, plus the Rookie of the Year award from 1973. He scored 18,787 points (22.1 ppg.) and pulled in 8,048 rebounds (9.4 rpg.) over 14 NBA seasons with seven clubs. In the 1987 EuroLeague final in Lausanne against Maccabi, McAdoo contributed 21 points and 9 rebounds to win the title. He averaged 26.1 points and 10.2 boards for the season. A year later, he led Milan to another final against Maccabi and scored 25 points in the championship game for another title. He's one of the few players that have won both the EuroLeague and NBA titles. McAdoo played until he was 42 years old.