The NBA is no stranger to narratives and storylines. After scheduling the Cleveland Cavaliers to play the Brooklyn Nets this upcoming Thursday in Paris, France (2:00 PM ET, NBA TV), they then scheduled the Cavs to take on the San Antonio Spurs and French teenager Victor Wembanyama in their final game before flying to France.
"French Week" for the Cavaliers is an exciting one, and the ties to France stretch throughout the league. Real GM lists 14 active players from France, and more are on the horizon for the 2024 Draft and beyond. The Spurs in particular have strong ties not simply because of Wembanyama but multiple players throughout their recent history.
In the spirit of the week, let's list the five best French players in the history of the NBA. We're factoring in only their play in the NBA, not for the French national team. We're also excluding players technically born in France but who are not French (Dominique Wilkins was born in France!) as well as those who claim some French connection but ultimately are from another country (like Joel Embiid).
With the preamble out of the way, let's discuss on important honorable mention before getting into our list.
Honorable Mention: Victor Wembanyama
Some quick trivia for you. Who is the French player with the highest scoring average in the history of the NBA?
That would be rookie Victor Wembanyama, who is averaging 19.2 points per game across his first 30 games. Additionally, his 3.2 blocks per game are not only the best for a career but the most of any individual season for a French player (they also lead the league this season).
Wembanyama has a long ways to go to pass all of the names on this list, where multiple players have received MVP votes. Yet his dominant defensive start and strong offensive bag even as a rookie have him on the fast-track to superstardom. It would probably log as a surprise if he does not finish as the best French player to play the game by the time he retires. It's too early now, but he'll be on this list very, very soon.