No. 1: Tony Parker
The No. 1 player on this list is likely not a surprise to fans of the NBA over the past 25 years. The San Antonio Spurs (yes, them again) had the longest run of sustained success in basketball history and a French player was at the center of it.
William Anthony Parker Jr. was born in 1982 in Bruges, Belgium but was raised in France. The father of a professional basketball player, Parker developed into one of the best young European guards ever seen. Even so, he was not discussed much leading into the 2001 NBA Draft, allowing the Spurs to draft him all the way back at the 28th pick.
When Parker first checked into a game during his rookie season, he became just the third French player in NBA history. By the end of his rookie season, he became the first foreign guard to make the All-Rookie First Team. He wouldn't stop there.
In his second season Parker exploded for 15.5 points per game and never looked back, becoming one of the key pieces on a perennial contender. He and Tim Duncan developed elite chemistry and his speed and passing helped to elevate an offense while Duncan provided the foudnation for an elite defense.
Parker would make six All-Star games, four All-NBA teams and win Finals MVP in 2007, the highest-scoring player on a well-balanced Spurs team winning its third title in five years. In all, Parker would win four championships with the Spurs.
Parker's career slowly faded out, and at 35 years old he was moved to the bench and the following season played one last year in Charlotte (do all French players end up in Charlotte at some point?) before retiring. He ranks 11th in career playoff scoring and 6th in career playoff assists. He received at least one MVP vote in seven different seasons, finishing as high as fifth in 2011-12.
Victor Wembanyama will be coming for this list. Perhaps Bilal Coulibaly or Ousmane Dieng will end up here as well. Three French players are in the mix to be drafted in the first round in this year's draft. The future of French basketball is bright. As the Cavaliers fly to France this week to play in Paris, they are flying on the legacy of these great French players who went before them.