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As the NBA community watches turmoil unfold between Russia and Ukraine, the history between Russia and the league comes into focus.
Basketball is a global sport, and the America-based NBA is seen as the most competitive professional basketball league of all. Athletes from all over the world endeavor to play in the NBA for maximum exposure and more lucrative deals.
While the NBA is dominated by Eastern European stars such as Luka Dončić and Nikola Jokić, few athletes born in Russia have made it all the way to the NBA. As of now, there have been 11 NBA players who were born in Russia, although as the current conflict implies, the history between Russia and Ukraine makes national identity rather complicated.
Viktor Khryapa exemplifies this: he was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1982, but he is listed as a Russian national and played for CSKA Moscow before and after his time in the NBA.
Are there any Russian NBA players in the league right now?
According to BasketballReference, there are not any players born in Russia who are currently active in the NBA.
The three most-recent Russian players to be active in the league were Sergey Karasev, Sasha Kaun, and Timofey Mosgov. The 28-year-old Karasev played in the NBA from 2013-16, playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets. Kaun went to high school at the Florida Air Academy before spending four years at Kansas and being drafted to the Seattle Supersonics in 2008.
Kaun was actually the final draft pick in Sonics history before the franchise moved to Oklahoma City. Kaun moved back to Russia to play for CSKA Moscow before spending the 2015-16 season with the Cavaliers, where he won an NBA championship.
One of Kaun’s teammates on that 2016 Cavs championship team was Mosgov, a 35-year-old center who has played for five different teams. Mosgov played in the NBA from 2010-18, spending his longest stint with the Denver Nuggets.