10 Best Basketball Countries

Basketball is a truly global sport, played almost everywhere, and with millions of fans. However, some nations absolutely love everything that surrounds it: the official games, the culture, the international competitions, and more.

These ten countries are known for their love for hoops.

10. Turkey

  • Current FIBA ranking: 16
  • Honors and medals: 2 silver (Eurobasket 2001, FIBA World Championship 2010)
  • Notable players in the NBA: Omer Asik, Mehmet Okur, Ersan Ilyasova, Furkan Korkmaz, Enes Kanter, Hedo Turkoglu

Soccer is the most popular sport in Turkey, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some space for basketball in people’s hearts. The Basketbol Süper Ligi; or BSL, is one of the most prestigious competitions in Europe, and has successful clubs such as Anadolu Efes, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, and Besiktas, among others.

Turkey is routinely a competitive team in European and World Championships. They have one silver medal in Eurobasket (2001) and the FIBA World Championship (2010), and a couple of golds in the Mediterranean Games.

Some of the best Turkish players have made it to the NBA: Mehmet Okur, Cedi Osman, Ersan Ilyasova, Furkan Korkmaz, Alperen Şengün, Enes Kanter, and the most decorated player Turkey has ever had, Hidayet “Hedo” Turkoglu.

Turkoglu forged a 15-year career in the NBA, and won the Most Improved Player award in the 2007-2008 season. He averaged 11.1 points per game, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists.

9. Canada

  • Current FIBA ranking: 18
  • Honors and medals: 4 silver (1936 Olympic Games, 1980 and 1999 FIBA AmeriCup, 2015 Pan American Games), 4 bronze (1984, 1988, 2001, 2015 FIBA AmeriCup)
  • Notable players in the NBA: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cory Joseph, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, Nik Stauskas, Andrew Wiggins, RJ Barrett, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Luguentz Dort

The origins of basketball as a sport are tied to Canada. It was a Canadian, James Naismith, the one who invented the sport after moving to Springfield, Massachusetts, in the 1890s.

Although hockey and other winter sports are still preferred by most people, basketball is currently one of the most popular sports in the country. In fact, Canada has one team in the NBA: the Toronto Raptors, an organization that won its first title in 2019.

Speaking of the NBA, some of the league’s best players are Canadian: RJ Barrett, Luguentz Dort, Cory Joseph, Andrew Wiggins, and others. 

The men’s national basketball team has one Olympic medal, a silver in Berlin 1936. They still haven’t been able to win one in the FIBA World Championship, though.

Canada does have some medals in the FIBA AmeriCup (two silver, four bronze), and a second-place finish in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.

8. France

  • Current FIBA ranking: 5
  • Honors and medals: 1 gold (2013 Eurobasket), 5 silver (1949 and 2011 Eurobasket; 1948, 2000, 2020 Olympic Games), 8 bronze (2014 and 2019 FIBA World Championship; 1937, 1951, 1953, 1959, 2005, and 2015 Eurobasket)
  • Notable players in the NBA: Tony Parker, Mickael Pietrus, Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier

Basketball is huge in France. The country has one of the strongest league competitions in Europe, the LNB Pro A (Ligue Nationale de Basket Pro A), where some of the best non-NBA ballers go to play.

France has been having a lot of success at the international level recently. They won the silver medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, where they lost the gold medal game to the United States of America.

Some of the very best players in the NBA, the best league in the world, are French: Utah Jazz’s center Rudy Gobert, New York Knicks’ small forward Evan Fournier, and forward Nicolas Batum, just to name a few.

One of the most respected players in the history of the game is Tony Parker, a retired point guard who won everything with the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA and the national team, including the MVP award in the 2013 Eurobasket tournament.

The biggest accomplishment in French basketball is the 2013 Eurobasket tournament which resulted in a gold medal.

7. Lithuania 

  • Current FIBA ranking: 9
  • Honors and medals: 3 gold (1937, 1939, and 2003 Eurobasket), 3 silver (1995, 2013, and 2015 Eurobasket), 5 bronze (1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympic Games; 2010 FIBA World Championship; 2007 Eurobasket)
  • Notable players in the NBA: Arvydas Sabonis, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Šarūnas Jasikevicius, Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Domantas Sabonis, Linas Kleiza, Jonas Valančiūnas

For much of its history, Lithuania was a part of the Soviet Union. Valdemaras Chomičius, Rimas Kurtinaitis, Šarūnas Marčiulionis, and Arvydas Sabonis actually led the Soviets to the Olympic gold in 1988. After separating from them, the national team took off.

Basketball is, by far, the most popular sport in Lithuania, unlike some of the countries listed so far. The nation is small in area and population, but that hasn’t stopped it from being a true force in European basketball year and year out.

Some of their best players have left their mark in the NBA: Arvydas Sabonis is the prime example, and now, his son Domantas is performing admirably there alongside Jonas Valančiūnas.

When it comes to medals, the country has a total of eleven between Eurobasket tournaments, FIBA World Championships, and Olympic Games.

6. Argentina

  • Current FIBA ranking: 7
  • Honors and medals: 6 gold (2004 Olympic Games, 1950 FIBA World Championship, 2001 and 2011 FIBA AmeriCup, 1995 and 2019 Pan American Games), 10 silver (2002, 2019 FIBA World Championship; 1995, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2015, and 2017 FIBA AmeriCup; 1951, 1955 Pan American Games), 6 bronze (2008 Olympic Games; 1980, 1993, 1999, 2009, 2013 FIBA AmeriCup)
  • Notable players in the NBA: Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, Fabricio Oberto, Facundo Campazzo

Argentina plays some of the finest basketball in the world, and has been doing it for a while. Their golden generation took over the international scene in the 2000s. They became the first team to defeat a United States roster of mostly NBA players in the 2002 FIBA World Championship, in which they finished second.

Since 1992, only one team other than the United States has won Olympic gold: Argentina, in 2004, when they defeated the Americans in the semifinals.

Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, and Andres Nocioni, plus others, changed the course of history with their incredible play in the 2000s and 2010s. Their success on the court helped the sport become extremely popular in a country dominated by soccer.

5. Russia

  • Current FIBA ranking: 14
  • Honors and medals: 1 gold (Eurobasket 2007), 3 silver (1994, 1998 FIBA World Championship; 1993 Eurobasket), 3 bronze (2012 Olympic Games; 1997, 2011 Eurobasket)
  • Notable players in the NBA: Andrei Kirilenko, Timofey Mozgov, Victor Khryapa

The Soviet Union was a force in the sport of basketball, stealing a couple of gold medals from the United States in the 1972 and 1988 Summer Olympics.

When the Soviet Union was dissolved, however, Russia was on its own. It hasn’t been the most successful of the Soviet nations, but it has won seven medals in major international tournaments, including gold in the 2007 Eurobasket.

The country has strong domestic competition, the VTB United League, and successful clubs that have been prominent internationally, such as CSKA Moscow and Khimki.

Notable players who have had success in the NBA are Andrei Kirilenko, Timofey Mozgov, and Viktor Khryapa. Other prominent players are Alexey Shved and Sergey Karasev.

4. Greece

  • Current FIBA ranking: 10
  • Honors and medals: 2 gold (Eurobasket 1987, 2005), 2 silver (2006 FIBA World Cup, 1989 Eurobasket), 2 bronze (1949, 2009 Eurobasket)
  • Notable players in the NBA: Vassilis Spanoulis, Kosta Koufos, Nick Calathes, Kostas Papanikolaou, Georgios Papagiannis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Thanasis Antetokounmpo

The gold medal at the 1987 Eurobasket tournament represented a huge deal in Greek society, which started warming up to basketball at that point. From there, the country has developed into one of the most successful in Europe.

The sport is well-organized in the country, and there are several leagues and competitions: the Greek Basket League, the Super Cup, the A2 Basket League, the B and C Basket Leagues, and the Women’s League are some of them.

Throughout history, several Greek players have shined in the game of basketball: Nikos Galis was the MVP of that 1987 Eurobasket tournament and one of the pioneers of Greek basketball. 

After him, Panagiotis Fasoulas, Fanis Christodoulou, Dimitris Diamantidis, Theo Papaloukas, Vassilis Spanoulis, and others have proudly represented the Greeks in international competitions.

Of course, one of the very best players in the NBA today, Giannis Antetokounmpo, in addition to his brother Thanasis, represents the Greek national team.

Greece’s biggest international win was that 1987 Eurobasket tournament, although they also lifted the trophy in 2005.

3. Serbia

  • Current FIBA ranking: 6
  • Honors and medals: 5 gold (1998 and 2002 FIBA World Championships; 1995, 1997, 2001 FIBA Eurobasket), 5 silver (1996 and 2016 Olympic Games; 2014 FIBA World Championship; 2009 and 2017 FIBA Eurobasket), 1 bronze (1999 Eurobasket)
  • Notable players in the NBA: Nikola Jokic, Vlade Divac, Predrag Stojakovic, Milos Teodosic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nenad Krstic, Boban Marjanovic, Vladimir Radmanovic

Basketball is one of Serbia’s favorite pastimes. The atmosphere that surrounds a game is simply indescribable, with people jumping, shouting, and chanting all game long.

Serbia is also one of the most successful countries in basketball at the international level. They have won two golds at FIBA World Championships and three at Eurobasket tournaments, with a couple of silver medals at the Olympic level.

One of the NBA’s best and most dominant performers, and the current MVP, hails from Serbia: Nikola Jokic, who also proudly represents the national team.

Some of the best to ever play the game are Serbian: Dejan Bodiroga, Predrag Stojakovic, Milos Teodosic, Aleksandar Đorđević, Vlade Divac, and Jokic, just to name some of them.

Divac and Stojakovic famously teamed up with the 2000s Sacramento Kings in the NBA.

2. Spain

  • Current FIBA ranking: 2
  • Honors and medals: 5 gold (2006 and 2019 FIBA World Championships; 2009, 2011, and 2015 Eurobasket), 9 silver (1984, 2008, and 2012 Olympic Games; 1935, 1973, 1983, 1999, 2003, and 2007 Eurobasket), 5 bronze (2016 Olympic Games; 1991, 2001, 2013, and 2017 Eurobasket)
  • Notable players in the NBA: Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon

Soccer comes first in Spain, but basketball is an undisputed second. People love the sport there, and often fill stadiums just to enjoy top-end entertainment for a couple of hours.

The country has been extremely successful, especially in the last 20 years thanks to a golden generation that included the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro, Felipe Reyes, Sergio Rodriguez, Sergio Llull, Ricky Rubio, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, Jorge Garbajosa, and Nikola Mirotic, among others.

Spain has been good enough to win two gold medals in FIBA World Championships, in 2006 and 2019, in tournaments in which the United States took NBA players.

Some of the country’s most successful clubs in the Liga ACB, the domestic competition, are FC Barcelona Basquet, Real Madrid, and Baskonia. 

1. United States

  • Current FIBA ranking: 1
  • Honors and medals: 28 gold (16 Olympic, five FIBA World Championships, seven AmeriCup), 5 silver (one Olympic, three in FIBA World Championships, one in AmeriCup), six bronze (two in Olympic Games, four in FIBA World Championships) 
  • Notable players in the NBA: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Patrick Ewing

If Canadians invented basketball, the Americans made it what it is today. Together with football and baseball, basketball is the United States’ heart and soul.

People play the sport every day, anytime. Neighborhoods often have a court, and one can see kids and young men hooping all day.

The United States has by far the best and most competitive league in the world, the NBA, an organization that gave birth to legends such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Isiah Thomas, Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and many more. 

Internationally, they have won every competition in sight, with a few notable exceptions. Ever since they started taking NBA players to FIBA competitions, the Americans have been almost unbeatable.

The Americans are the true basketball ambassadors, and no team or country can match their skills and athleticism.

Chris Davis

I'm Chris, the guy behind BasketballJoy. I've played basketball for 20+ years and have been a full-time coach since 2017. On this website, I share everything I know about the most beautiful sport in the world - Basketball.

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