Latin America is defined as the region of South and Central America that includes countries where Romance languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese, are spoken. The region is home to approximately 650 million people, or nearly twice the population of the United States.

Latin America’s success in professional sports is unsurprising given the region’s population. Many Latin Americans regard it as the best source of income, which is understandable given that three of the top ten wealthiest athletes are from this region.

Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Latin America, with baseball and basketball close behind. Basketball’s popularity has steadily increased since the turn of the century. The most likely reason for this is that top players from this region have made it to the NBA, the world’s most elite basketball championship. The full list of some of the greatest athletes in LATAM includes several NBA players and can be read at For this article we’ve selected five of the best Latin American players ever to play in the NBA; 

J. J. Barea (Puerto Rico)

José Juan Barea, also known as JJ, is a Puerto Rican basketball player who was trained by the country’s most famous basketball team, the Cangrejeros de Santurce. Barea spent over 15 years in the NBA mostly with the Dallas Mavericks. He was a part of their NBA Championship-winning team in 2011 when the Mavs became the first team to win the NBA Finals in six games.

The 5’10 forward was the shortest player on the court in the Finals which Dallas played against the Miami Heat. That, however, didn’t stop him from putting on some impressive performances. For instance, in Game 4, he was his team’s assists leader.

Manu Ginobili (Argentina)

Born in Bahía Blanca, Argentina, Manu Ginobili played basketball professionally for 23 years. During that period, he became the first player since Bill Bradley to win an Olympic gold, the EuroLeague, and the NBA Championship.

Actually, he won the NBA title on four occasions, each time with the San Antonio Spurs, which is where he played for 16 seasons. Together with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, he was a part of the Spurs’ Big Three, who led this team to glory during the first 15 years of the 21st century. To recognize the importance he had for this team during its glory days, the Spurs decided to retire the no. 20 jersey, which he wore until 2018.

Apart from helping his team win trophies, he also won a couple of prestigious awards for himself. For instance, he was crowned the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2008. Also, he got the NBA All-Star honors two times – in 2005 and 2011.

It’s needless to say that his NBA story made other Argentinians obsess with the NBA. In fact, each of three Argentine-born players currently playing in the NBA – Leandro Bolmaro, Facundo Campazzo, and Luca Vidoza – cite Ginobili as their role model.

Nene Hilario & Leandro Barbosa (Brazil)

Argentina’s main rival in sports is its north-western neighbor Brazil. The most populous country in the Latin American region is famous for its soccer players, but this doesn’t mean Brazilians haven’t been doing great in other sports, basketball included.

In fact, among the most successful NBA players from Latin America are two Brazilians – Nene Hilario and Leandro Barbosa.

Nene came to the NBA in 2002 and had spent 18 years there before retiring in 2020. He started his NBA journey as a Denver Nuggets player, getting a spot in the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2003. Nine years later, he moved to the Washington Wizards, while finishing his professional career as a Houston Rockets player. In total, he featured in 965 regular-season games, as well as in 91 games in the playoffs.

His fellow Brazilian Leandro Barbosa played slightly fewer games, but he did achieve more than Nene. In fact, while playing for the Golden State Warriors, he won the NBA Championship in 2015. He also won a major individual award during his NBA days – the 2007 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award.

Eduardo Najera (Mexico)

Since the establishment of the NBA in 1949 – then known as the Basketball Association of America – only five Mexican players have played in the league.

The most successful of them is Eduardo Najera, who played in the NBA for 12 seasons. He played for four different teams, namely, the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, and New Jersey Nets.

During his career, he played a total of 678 games, including both regular-season and playoff games. Although he wasn’t a superstar during his NBA days, his story did inspire other Mexicans to try themselves in the sport.

One of those is Juan Toscano-Anderson, a small forward who’s been playing for the Golden State Warriors since 2020. Although his NBA career is still in its infancy, JTA has already made headlines for his breathtaking abilities on the court. For instance, the guy made history at the 2022 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest, becoming the first Mexican to take part in the contest.

The Success Behind Latin American Players In The NBA

All of the players mentioned in this article have made a significant impact on the NBA both on and off the court and have helped to redefine what it means to be a successful Latin American player in the NBA.

Latin American players have a unique style of play that is often characterized by its athleticism, ball handling, and passing ability. They are known for their hard-working, team-oriented style of play, and they often embrace the challenge of playing against some of the best players in the world. They also bring a lot of passion and flair to the game. Latin American players in the NBA often have a strong dedication to their family and community, which is evident in their play on the court. Additionally, they are known for being very agile and athletic, which makes them difficult opponents. Finally, Latin American players are typically very humble and appreciative of any opportunity they receive to play in the NBA. 

This style of play has enabled many Latin American players to excel in the NBA as the most skilled and talented players, and to become some of the league’s most recognizable stars.