KEY POINTS

  • The 2022 NBA draft is set to happen on Thursday, June 23
  • Filipino cager Kai Sotto is one of the most intriguing prospects available
  • Sotto has the chance to join a long list of players with Asian descent to play in the NBA

As the calendar gets closer to this coming Thursday, June 23, many fans are looking towards the list of prospects that have been announced for the NBA draft.

It includes top prospects like Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero, but another name that has been garnering interest is Filipino stalwart Kai Sotto.

Should Sotto be drafted, he will make history as the first full-blooded Filipino to enter the league and will put him on the list of Asian prospects that graced the NBA’s hardwood.

Here are eight of the most notable Asian players to have made it into the most recognized basketball league in the world.

Jeremy Lin

One of the most recognizable names on this list, Jeremy Lin’s story about going undrafted and then eventually taking the league by storm after going on a stunning stretch that will forever be known as “Linsanity.”

The Taiwanese-American who played for Harvard during his college years seemed as if he would go on to become the savior of a struggling New York Knicks franchise that was led by then-perennial All-Star Carmelo Anthony and offensive mastermind Mike D’Antoni.

He would go on to have a fruitful career with the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks, and eventually won an NBA title with the Toronto Raptors in 2019.

Lin would later reveal in an appearance on Taiwanese Christian media outlet GOOD TV that he felt the league had “kind of given up” on him.

Regardless, Lin’s name has been forever etched into the annals of NBA history.

Jeremy Lin averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists per game in 26 games before getting injured.
Jeremy Lin averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists per game in 26 games before getting injured. Reuters

Yao Ming

Drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA draft, China’s Yao Ming became a problem for opposing teams in an era when having big men in the paint was an absolute must courtesy of his 7-foot-6 frame.

Starting his pro career with the Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) before making his way into the NBA.

The eight-time NBA All-Star and three-time FIBA Asia Cup MVP terrorized anyone who would dare come into his area on defense while becoming an unstoppable scoring machine that averaged 19 points while shooting at a 52.4% clip for his entire career.

Though injuries robbed him of his prime years, Yao’s impact on the Rockets, alongside his scoring partner Tracy McGrady, led the franchise to retiring his No. 11 jersey in 2016.

The Rockets have had a huge following in China since signing Yao Ming in 2002
The Rockets have had a huge following in China since signing Yao Ming in 2002 GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / JEFF GROSS

Wang Zhizhi

Selected with the 36th overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, Wang Zhizhi gained the honor of being the first-ever NBA player drafted from China and eventually became the first Chinese-born player to play in the league.

He averaged 4.4 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.3 assists, and 0.3 blocks throughout his career that included stops with the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat.

Wang would return to the CBA following the 2004-05 NBA season and played for the Bayi Rockets until his retirement in 2016.

Wang Zhizhi, Dallas Mavericks
Chinese center Wang Zhizhi (L) of China models his new Dallas Maverick jersey at a press conference with Mavericks' head coach/general manager Don Nelson (R) announcing his two-year contract with the Mavericks 04 April 2001 in Dallas, Texas. Wang Zhizhi is the National Basketball Association's first Asian player. PAUL BUCK/AFP via Getty Images

Hamed Haddadi

Iran’s Hamed Haddadi went undrafted in the 2004 edition of the draft, but was given a shot by the Memphis Grizzlies after signing him to a contract.

Haddadi was a third-string center for the Grizzlies and would later be traded to the Toronto Raptors, but he never suited up for them because of immigration issues.

The Phoenix Suns then acquired him on February 21, 2013 in exchange for point guard Sebastian Telfair and went on to play 17 games for them which included his career-best performance against the Houston Rockets in which he recorded six points, a career-high 11 boards and three blocks in 28 minutes.

Hamed Haddadi, Phoenix Suns
Hamed Haddadi #98 of the Phoenix Suns high-fives Michael Beasley #0 after scoring against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of the NBA game at US Airways Center on March 18, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Lakers 99-76. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Jordan Clarkson

The Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson started his journey in the NBA as a 46th overall pick by the Washington Wizards in the 2014 draft and was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he would begin to make his name.

A dynamic scorer that can heat up quickly, Lakers fans grew to love Clarkson’s impact on the team and would later earn the distinction (and meme) of being the last player that NBA legend Kobe Bryant would pass the ball to in his 60-point retirement game against the Jazz.

Clarkson later played with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers during their 2018 NBA Finals run as their primary scorer off the bench, a role that he would continue to play in Utah and eventually garnered him honors as the league’s Sixth Man of the Year.

While Filipino fans know of Clarkson’s exploits in the league, he is actually the second Filipino-American player in the NBA as the first would be Raymond Townsend who played for the Golden State Warriors from 1978 to 1980.

Jordan Clarkson #00 of the Utah Jazz
Jordan Clarkson #00 of the Utah Jazz Getty Images | Ashley Landis - Pool

Yuta Tabuse

The first Japanese-born player to play in the NBA, 5-foot-9 point guard Yuta Tabuse joined the Suns’ 2004 training camp and later made the opening night roster.

Making his season debut against the Atlanta Hawks in November of 2004, Tabuse etched his name in the league’s history books as the first Japanese-born player to play in an NBA game.

Tabuse would only go on to play four NBA games in his career before being waived by the Suns on December of 2004 and stayed in the NBA Developmental League (D-League) from 2005 to 2008.

Five-time NBA champion and head coach of the Albuquerque Thunderbirds Michael Cooper showered him with praise.

“He automatically changes the game because of his quickness and distributing the ball. He's the best fundamental player I've seen around in a long time,” he said.

Yuta Tabuse, Phoenix Suns
Japanese basketball player Yuta Tabuse attends a press conference on September 7, 2004 in Tokyo, Japan. Tabuse is hoping to become the first Japanese player to play in the NBA after signing a multi-year contract with the Phoenix Suns. Junko Kimura/Getty Images

Rui Hachimura

Japan’s Rui Hachimura was a highly-touted prospect going into the 2019 NBA draft and fulfilled those projections after being taken by the Washington Wizards with the ninth overall pick.

Hachimura quickly became a force to be reckoned with in Washington as his ability to score in the paint and from the midrange became an attractive piece to build around, plus a developing three-point stroke that is slowly becoming a dependable weapon for him.

He would also go on to be Japan’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2021 Olympics.

With three-time All-Star guard Bradley Beal potentially leaving the franchise should he opt out of his $35 million player option, Hachimura is primed to take the reins and become a franchise cornerstone if it happens.

Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards
Rui Hachimura #8 of the Washington Wizards dunks during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference first round series at Capital One Arena on May 31, 2021 in Washington, DC. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Jalen Green

The second Filipino-American in the league today, the Rockets’ Jalen Green was a top prospect in the 2021 NBA draft and had potential to be selected first overall, but the Detroit Pistons opted to select Cade Cunningham ahead of him.

Green carries with him the distinction of being the first-ever player to sign with the NBA G League Ignite, a developmental team affiliated with the G League composed of top high school prospects.

An explosive shooting guard that can dunk on anybody and score at will, Green has the potential to live up to his pre-draft comparisons to the aforementioned Beal, Zach LaVine and Kelly Oubre Jr.

Going into his second season with the Rockets, his development is expected to rapidly develop as he plays alongside the likes of young guns like Alperen Sengun and Kevin Porter Jr. plus veterans Eric Gordon and Dennis Schroder.

Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
Jalen Green #0 of the Houston Rockets dunks during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on November 15, 2021 in Memphis, Tennessee. Justin Ford/Getty Images
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