Le Magnifique: The 5 best French players in NBA history

Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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No. 2: Rudy Gobert

Victor Wembanyama was the first overall pick in his draft. Rudy Gobert, by contrast, was a player that virtually no one saw coming. A raw seven-footer who was dominant on the French U-18 teams, Gobert nonetheless dropped on draft night, falling to the 27th pick, where the Denver Nuggets traded the pick for cash.

That's right: the Nuggets traded a future Defensive Player of the Year for cash.

Gobert started slow, to no one's surpsie, but by his second season was averaging 2.3 blocks per game. By his fourth season he was dropping 14 points, 12.8 rebounds and a league-leading 2.6 blocks per game; that year he made his first of six All-Defense teams.

The following season Gobert beat out Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis for his first Defensive Player of the Year award; he would win two more times, and make four All-NBA teams and three All-Star appearances. He could add to his trophy case this year as well, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves' No. 1 defense.

Gobert landed in Minnesota after the 2021-22 season as the Jazz entered a rebuild, and his strong play has the Wolves in first place in the Western Conference at the time of writing. He is one of the greatest defenders not simply in French history but league history, with a record-setting wingspan and standing reach and incredible defensive instincts.

Finally, it would be remiss not to mention that Gobert has some of the best nicknames in the league. The "Gobert Report" or "French Rejection" was best known as the "Stifle Tower". Well done NBA fans.