While many players dream of one day playing in the NBA, for others it’s simply one stage in a lengthy career.
This season, there are 22 players in the VTB United League that have played at least one game in the NBA regular season. These are there stories.
Sergio Rodriguez, CSKA guard
Games: 353 (52 as a starter)
Stats: 4.9 points, 1.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers
The Spanish point guard joined the NBA at the tender age of 20 after being selected in the first round of the 2006 draft. His first few seasons in the NBA weren’t easy: three teams in three years as a bench player, abuse from Manu Ginobili and lack of recognition from other players in the league. In 2010, he joined Real Madrid, establishing himself as one of the biggest stars in Europe. Last season, Rodriguez returned to the NBA to play for Philadelphia, where he was a key member of the backcourt before signing with CSKA over the summer.
Thomas Robinson, Khimki center
Games: 313 (12 as a starter)
Stats: 4.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.6 assists
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets
Thomas Robinson had a big fan base before he even joined the NBA, both for his play in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, when he led Kansas to the championship game, as well as the heart-wrenching loss of his mother during his sophomore season. Many felt the only reason Robinson dropped to 5th in the draft was because he was of his age and that he would quickly become a star in Sacramento. Instead, the Washington D.C. native struggled to earn regular playing time with the Kings and would bounce around six different teams over the next five seasons. Nevertheless, he did have a few unforgettable moments during his time in the NBA.
James Anderson, Khimki guard
Games: 247 (83 as a starter)
Stats: 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists
Teams: San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings
San Antonio saw a lot of potential in Anderson, selecting him with the 20th pick in the 2010 Draft. He didn’t become a regular starter in the NBA until the 2013-14 season, however, averaging more than 10 points per game on a rebuilding 76ers team. His last NBA team were the Sacramento Kings, where he played from 2015 to 2016.
Mardy Collins, Lokomotiv-Kuban forward
Games: 189 (31 as a starter)
Stats: 3.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists
Teams: New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers
The Temple University grad was picked late in the 2006 NBA Draft (29th). He spent his first two seasons with the Knicks, before getting traded to the Clippers along with Zach Randolph. Collins was initially the starting point guard in L.A., but ended up on the bench a few months later.
Alexey Shved, Khimki guard
Games: 182 (25 as a starter)
Stats: 7.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks
After impressing with CSKA and the Russian national team, everyone agreed that 24-year-old Alexey Shved needed to test himself in the NBA. His first stop was in Minnesota, where Andrei Kirilenko helped him adjust to the American game in his debut season. During his rookie campaign, Shved averaged nine points per game, started 16 games and was named to the NBA Rising Stars Game. After leaving the Timberwolves, he played for three different teams before returning to the VTB United League.
Victor Khryapa, CSKA forward
Games: 143 (58 as a starter)
Stats: 4.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls
Victor Khryapa also joined the NBA from CSKA, but two years earlier, signing with Portland as a 22-year-old. During his second season in the League, Khryapa started 53 of 69 games. During the summer of 2006, he was traded to the Chicago Bulls, where he played two more seasons before returning to CSKA Moscow.
Nando De Colo, CSKA guard
Games: 119 (9 as a starter)
Stats: 3.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists
Teams: San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors
The San Antonio Spurs used the 53rd pick in the 2009 NBA Draft on Nando De Colo. But the young French guard initially spent several seasons with Valencia, while the Spurs waited for his game to mature. In 2012, he finally made the move, signing a two-year deal with San Antonio. He didn’t earn many minutes with the Spurs, or subsequently with the Raptors, but he won’t ever forget this shot against the Hawks.
Charles Jenkins, Khimki guard
Games: 110 (29 as a starter)
Stats: 3.7 points, 0.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers
When Steph Curry was injured during the 2011-12 season, 22-year-old Charles Jenkins started for the Warriors. One year later, Jenkins was traded to Philadelphia, before moving to Europe in 2013, where he’s been based ever since.
Sergey Karasev, Zenit forward
Games: 95 (22 as a starter)
Stats: 3.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn Nets
Sergey Karasev was named the VTB United League Young Player of the Year in 2013, before getting drafted by the Cavs in that summer’s draft. He was traded to Brooklyn in the summer of 2014, where he played with Andrei Kirilenko. For a while, it looked like Karasev was on the verge of a breakthrough, dishing out sweet passes and knocking down tough shots.
Cedric Simmons, Kalev center
Games: 75 (4 as a starter)
Stats: 2.2 points, 1.9 rebounds
Teams: New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings
Cedric Simmons started his career in New Orleans with a young Chris Paul and went on to be teammates with LeBron James in Cleveland and Derrick Rose in Chicago. His final stint in the NBA came in Sacramento, where he scored only one point in seven appearances. After moving to Europe, he transitioned from the forward to the center position.
Cory Higgins, CSKA guard
Games: 44 (0 as a starter)
Stats: 3.7 points, 0.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists
Teams: Charlotte Bobcats
Michael Jordan’s godson wasn’t selected in the 2011 NBA draft, but he stayed in the United States, signing a D-League contract, before making an NBA debut on New Year’s Day 2012. Overall, Higgins made 44 appearances for Charlotte. He never started a game, though he did put up 22 points against Atlanta in one of the final games of the season.
Malcolm Thomas, Khimki center
Games: 40 (0 as a starter)
Stats: 1.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists
Teams: San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers
Malcolm Thomas spent four seasons in the NBA, playing for five different teams, but only appeared in 40 games. He spent most of his time in the D-League. The big man’s final NBA stop was in Philadelphia, where he played with Alexey Shved.
Shayne Whittington, Zenit center
Games: 27 (0 as a starter)
Stats: 2.5 points, 1.5 rebounds
Team: Indiana Pacers
Shayne Whittington played two seasons in Indiana, where he was near the end of the bench. Whittington was sent down to the Pacers’ D-League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 10 times in two seasons. He ended up averaging 2.5 points in 27 NBA appearances.
Sergey Monia, Khimki forward
Games: 26 (15 as a starter)
Stats: 3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings
Sergey Monia surprised many by becoming the starting small forward in Portland to open the 2005-06 season in his rookie year. A month and a half later, Victor Khryapa took his spot and he was traded to Sacramento following the All-Star game, where he finished up his lone season in the NBA.
Zabian Dowdell, Enisey guard
Games: 24 (0 as a starter)
Stats: 5.0 points, 0.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists
Team: Phoenix Suns
Rookie Tyler Honeycutt tried to crack Phoenix’s rotation in the 2010-11 season. The American appeared in only 24 games, but gained immense experience, playing alongside Steve Nash (two-time NBA MVP), Goran Dragic (2017 EuroBasket MVP) and Aaron Brooks (2009-10 NBA’s Most Improved Player).
Tyler Honeycutt, Khimki forward
Games: 24 (0 as a starter)
Stats: 1.2 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.4 assists
Teams: Sacramento Kings
The young, athletic forward regularly turned heads with his dunking (check out this slam), but averaged only six minutes per outing. When his contract ran out, Honeycutt headed to Europe for more playing time.
Othello Hunter, CSKA center
Games: 23 (0 as a starter)
Stats: 1.4 points, 1.6 rebounds
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Hunter played at both the small and power forward position in the NBA and college. But his inability to knock down 3-pointers doomed his NBA career. Two years after debuting in the Association, Hunter moved to Europe, where he transitioned to center and earned a reputation as one of the continent’s top big men.
Nicolas Laprovittola, Zenit guard
Games: 18 (3 as a starter)
Stats: 3.3 points, 0.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists
Team: San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio scouts saw potential in the Argentinian point guard, signing him to a contract at the age of 26. But he didn’t last long with the Spurs, appearing in only 18, including three as a starter. Three months after moving to America, Laprovittola became a free agent.
Stephane Lasme, UNICS center
Games: 16 (4 as a starter)
Stats: 5.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat
Stephane Lasme was one of the oldest players to declare for the draft in the late 2000’s. Lasme was nearly 25 years old as a rookie, spending time with Golden State and Miami, where he had opportunities to play alongside Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal.
Chris Babb, Lokomotiv-Kuban guard
Games: 14 (0 as a starter)
Stats: 1.6 points, 1.2 rebounds
Team: Boston Celtics
The Iowa State sniper spent two seasons in the D-League, playing for Boston’s farm team. When the Celtics were dealing with injuries, Babb got the chance to debut in the NBA and try to earn a regular spot. In the end, he played in 14 games, averaging 1.6 points per outing.
Drew Gordon, Zenit forward
Games: 9 (0 as a starter)
Stats: 1.9 points, 2.0 rebounds
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Drew Gordon was forced to wait two years between leaving college to making his NBA debut. The Sixers gave him his chnance, signing Gordon to a non-guaranteed contract in November 2014. Philly cut him in December after nine appearances. Gordon did have a brief opportunity to play with Alexey Shved, a future rival in the VTB United League.
Coty Clarke, Avtodor forward
Games: 3 (0 as a starter)
Stats: 2.0 points, 0.3 rebounds
Team: Boston Celtics
The Arkansas grad was not drafted, but made the NBA thanks to his play with the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s farm team in the D-League. He signed two 10-day contracts with the Celtics, making three appearances and scoring six points in six minutes.