14 NBA Players from Puerto Rico 2024: Popular Powerhouses

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You may recognize several NBA stars from Puerto Rico who have established their prowess on the basketball court. Athletes such as José Juan Barea, Mo Harkless, and Carlos Arroyo have put the island on the map, showcasing the significant talent emanating from Puerto Rico. As someone who enjoys basketball, discovering the stories of these players who have broken barriers for their nation will certainly be rewarding.

Over the years, Puerto Rico has had its fair share of players who have left a mark in NBA history. Besides the well-known names, there are also those who might have flown under the radar, like Shabazz Napier and Renaldo Balkman. As you dive into the world of Puerto Rican NBA talents, you’ll discover how they carry their heritage onto the biggest stage in basketball.

Early NBA Players from Puerto Rico

Butch Lee

Alfred “Butch” Lee is a name that comes to mind when you think of early NBA players from Puerto Rico. Born on December 5, 1956, in Santurce, Lee became the first Puerto Rican to play in the NBA. Lee was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1978 and later traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his rookie season. He also played for the Los Angeles Lakers and had a brief stint with the New Jersey Nets. Lee’s time in the NBA was relatively short, but he left a lasting impact and opened doors for future Puerto Rican players.

Ramón Rivas

Another early NBA player from Puerto Rico is Ramón Rivas, who was born on February 25, 1966, in Arecibo. Rivas played college basketball at Temple University, where he was known for his strong rebounding and defensive skills. Rivas signed with the Boston Celtics as an undrafted free agent in 1988 and played one season. While his NBA career was limited, Rivas went on to have a successful international career, particularly in Spain, where he played for prominent teams such as FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

José Rafael Ortiz-Rijos

José Rafael Ortiz-Rijos is another early Puerto Rican player who made a mark in the NBA. Born on October 25, 1963, in Aibonito, Ortiz-Rijos was a standout player at the University of Puerto Rico and made the jump to the NBA when he was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 1987. He spent two seasons with the Jazz before signing with the Spanish team Taugrés. Ortiz-Rijos had a highly successful career in Europe, playing for several top-tier teams, and became a prominent figure among his peers in Puerto Rican basketball.

Ultimately, these early NBA players from Puerto Rico not only showcased their talents on the NBA stage, but also inspired future generations of players to pursue their dreams of playing professional basketball. While their impact on the NBA may have been shorter than others, their contributions will always be remembered and appreciated by basketball fans across the globe.

Prominent Puerto Rican NBA Players

Carlos Arroyo

Carlos Arroyo is a well-known point guard who played for multiple NBA teams like the Orlando Magic (ORL). Known for his agility and impressive ball-handling skills, Arroyo had a successful career both in the NBA and internationally, representing Puerto Rico in various competitions.

Renaldo Balkman

Renaldo Balkman was a forward who played for several NBA teams. His strong defense and energy on the court made him an asset to his teams. Although his NBA career was relatively short, Balkman continued to play professionally outside the NBA.

Peter John Ramos

As one of the tallest Puerto Rican basketball players in NBA history, Peter John Ramos made an impact during his time with the Washington Wizards. The 7’3″ center made his presence known on the court with his shot-blocking and rebounding abilities.

Gian Clavell

Gian Clavell had a brief stint in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks. The shooting guard showcased his scoring prowess and shooting touch during his time on the court. After his time in the NBA, Clavell continued to succeed in international leagues.

Shabazz Napier

Shabazz Napier is a talented point guard who has played for various NBA teams. Known for his quickness and playmaking ability, Napier is a valuable asset to any team he joins.

Maurice Harkless

Maurice Harkless, often referred to as Mo Harkless, is a versatile forward who has played for several NBA teams. His ability to guard multiple positions and contribute offensively has made him a valuable player throughout his career.

Tyler Davis

Tyler Davis, a powerful center, had a brief NBA career with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite limited NBA experience, Davis has demonstrated his skillset in international leagues, earning a reputation as a strong rebounder and inside scorer.

Tremont Waters

Tremont Waters, a point guard with impressive ball-handling skills, has been part of various NBA teams. Waters is known for his quickness and ability to create opportunities for his teammates.

Jose Alvarado

Jose Alvarado’s journey to the NBA is a testament to his determination and grit. The point guard made an impact with his quickness, ability to create plays, and tenacious defense, earning his spot in the league.

J.J. Barea

Arguably one of the most successful NBA players from Puerto Rico, J.J. Barea has had an impressive career as a point guard. Barea, an NBA Champion with the Dallas Mavericks, is celebrated for his contribution to the team’s success during their championship run.

Daniel Santiago

Daniel Santiago, a 7’1″ center, played for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns. Santiago’s size and shot-blocking ability helped him establish a role in the NBA for several seasons.

NBA Players from Puerto Rico’s International Achievements

FIBA World Cup

Puerto Rico’s national team has had a strong presence in the FIBA World Cup. Throughout the years, they have showcased their talent and tenacity, leaving their mark on the tournament. A great example is the 2014 champions, where their performance on the court caught the attention of basketball fans worldwide.

Olympic Games

Your beloved Puerto Rican NBA players also shine brightly at the Olympic Games. As part of the national team, they work together with other talented athletes to bring pride and honor to the island. Puerto Rico has repeatedly qualified for the Olympic basketball tournaments, demonstrating their players’ skill, dedication, and drive to succeed.

FIBA Americup

The FIBA Americup, a regional championship for teams from the Americas, is yet another platform where NBA players from Puerto Rico have made a significant impact. Puerto Rico’s team consistently performs well in this competition, thanks in large part to the talents of their NBA players who bring their experience and skill to the team.

Pan American Games

In the Pan American Games, a multi-sport event featuring teams from the Americas, Puerto Rico has also found success on the basketball court. Their NBA players play a crucial role in helping the national team secure victories and make their country proud.


Centrobasket is a regional basketball championship for national teams in Central America and the Caribbean. Puerto Rican NBA players have been instrumental in the team’s success in this tournament, as they bring their top-level skills and experience to help the team dominate the competition.


Though details may be scarce regarding specific achievements of Puerto Rican NBA players during the Tokyo event, it’s evident that their continued participation in international competitions will only serve to bolster their already impressive resumes. Keep an eye out for future events where these amazing athletes will undoubtedly make their mark.

Current Puerto Rican NBA Players

As an NBA fan, you might be curious about the talented NBA players from Puerto Rico that are currently making a name for themselves in the league. As of now, there is one standout player from Puerto Rico: José Alvarado, a guard for the New Orleans Pelicans.

José Alvarado, New Orleans Pelicans

José Alvarado is a promising player representing Puerto Rico in the NBA. He was born on April 12, 1998, and hails from Brooklyn, New York. Alvarado spent his college years playing for Georgia Tech, where his remarkable performance caught the eye of NBA scouts.

In the 2021 NBA Draft, Alvarado went undrafted. However, his talent didn’t go unnoticed, as the New Orleans Pelicans signed him to a two-way contract, which allows him to play for both the Pelicans and their NBA G League affiliate, the Birmingham Squadron.

His skill set and work ethic make him a valuable asset for the Pelicans organization. Alvarado has experience playing as both a point guard and shooting guard. His abilities to facilitate the offense, score consistently, and apply defensive pressure have earned him more minutes and opportunities to grow in the NBA.

Prominent Teams and Leagues

As a fan of basketball, you might be interested in knowing more about the journey of NBA players from Puerto Rico and the teams and leagues they have been part of. In this section, we will explore some of the prominent teams and leagues where these talented athletes have made their mark.

Denver Nuggets

One of the NBA teams that has had an impact on Puerto Rican players is the Denver Nuggets. They have provided opportunities for players like Renaldo Balkman, who showcased his skills in the league and even had a stint in the Euroleague. Balkman played as a forward, standing at 6-8 and weighing 208 pounds.


nba players from puerto rico

The NBA and ABA have been home to numerous talented Puerto Rican players throughout their history. Players like José Juan Barea and Carlos Arroyo made a name for themselves in these prestigious leagues, adding to the rich legacy of basketball in Puerto Rico.


The Euroleague has also been a significant part of careers for Puerto Rican players like Balkman and Arroyo. Competing at a high level in Europe allowed them to display their skills further and gain invaluable international experience.

G League

The G League, the NBA’s official minor league, has also been instrumental in the development of several NBA players from Puerto Rico. It offers these athletes an opportunity to refine their skills and gain exposure to NBA teams, increasing their chances of being signed to an NBA roster.

Guaynabo Mets

Lastly, the Guaynabo Mets are a professional team competing in Puerto Rico’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional league. This team has been essential in nurturing local talent such as Guillermo Diaz and other notable Puerto Rican basketball stars on their path to international success.

My Personal Opinion

In my opinion, the NBA players from Puerto Rico have brought a unique flavor and passion to the game of basketball. These players have not only showcased their exceptional skills on the court but have also become cultural icons and sources of pride for Puerto Rican fans.

Their representation in the league has helped bridge cultures and demonstrate the global reach of basketball. It’s inspiring to see how he Puerto Rico NBA Players have overcome challenges and risen to the highest level of competition, serving as role models for aspiring athletes from Puerto Rico and beyond.


Is basketball big in Puerto Rico?

The most popular spectator sports in Puerto Rico are American imports: baseball, basketball and boxing.

What is Puerto Rico known for?

Puerto Rico is known for its stunning beaches, rich nature ecosystems, and exciting festivals. Located in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States.

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Fabian Kühar
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