The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the highest level of competition that you can achieve as a basketball player. It is home to the best players, coaches and teams in the world.
It is for players from countries where basketball is not a prominent sport extra hard to reach that level. One of those countries is The Netherlands, also known as Holland, and therefore it had only six Dutch players in the history of the NBA.
The following players from the Netherlands have played in the NBA:
Hank Beenders was born as Henry Beenders in the Dutch city of Haarlem on 2 June 1916. When he was eight years old, his parents emigrated to the United States and there he started to play basketball. Beenders was one of the first internal players in the NBA, which was back then known as the Basketball Association of America. The Dutchman was also the first foreign player to reach the finals of the Association. During his active career in the United States he played for the Providence Steamrollers, Philadelphia Warriors and Boston Celtics.
The parents of Swen Nater divorced when the young Nater was four years old. His mother took all the kids with her when she emigrated to the United States of America. In the American Basketball Association (ABA) Swen Nater used to play for the San Antonio Spurs, Virginia Squires and New York Nets. He was also active in ABA All Star Games.
He entered the NBA in 1976 when he started playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. After one season he left the Bucks and moved to the Buffalo Braves, where he played until 1983. In the 1979 – 1980 season he led the National Basketball Association in rebound average, which was a special achievement; Nater is the only player in the history of basketball to lead the ABA as well as the NBA in rebounding.
The last NBA-team in the active career of Swen Nater was Los Angeles Lakers. He retired as a player after the 1983 – 1984 season.
Geert Hammink was born on 12 July 1969 in the Dutch village of Didam, who moved to the United States of America to play for the Louisiana State University, before being picked by Orlando Magic. He played there until 1995. In 1996 he signed a contract with the Golden State Warriors, but he only played 8 games for the Oakland-based team.
Rick Smits played in The Netherlands for EBBC Den Bosch, but his coach at that team told him that he was not good enough to reach the highest Dutch basketball level. He moved to the USA to study at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. After studying, the Indiana Pacers offered the ‘Dunking Dutchman’ a contract.
He played 999 games for the Pacers and was active for the NBA team from 1988 to 2000.
Dan Gadzuric is a Dutchman with Serbian roots. In the United States he played for Governor Dummer Academy and UCLA before being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. In 2010 he moved to the Golden State Warriors, but within a year he left that team for the New Jersey Nets. In 2012 he was signed by the New York Knicks and his adventure in the NBA continued, after signing for the Los Angeles Lakers in September 2013.
Francisco Marinho Robby Elson was born on 28 February 1976 in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, where he started to play basketball. After moving to the USA, he played for Kilgore Junior College in Texas and the University of Berkeley. He signed a contract with the Denver Nuggets in 1999, but after that agreement he first played four years in the Spanish league for FC Barcelona Regal, Caja San Fernando en Pamesa Valencia.
He commenced playing for the Denver Nuggets in 2003, but switched after three years to the San Antonio Spurs. At the Spurs, Francisco Nelson was the first Dutchman in history to win the NBA-title.
In 2008 he moved to the Millwaukee Bucks and his NBA-adventure continued the years after that with playing for the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz.
Currently, Francisco Nelson is playing in Iran.