With the news that Allen Iverson is considering taking his talents to China, here's a look at some of the best NBA players to ply their trade outside of the U.S. ... including, Stephon Marbury, who also turned to China when he felt the NBA no longer wanted him.
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One of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, Gervin wasn't ready to hang up his high tops when he retired from the NBA in 1986. He played one season in Italy with Banco Roma and one in Spain with TDK Manresa. Though Gervin had lost some quickness, his scoring prowess remained, evident by his 26.1 points per game with Banco Roma.
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Four years after his retirement from the NBA, Scottie Pippen took a tour of Scandinavia. His European tour was brief -- two games with Torpan Pojat in Finland, and one with Sundsvall in Sweden -- but Pippen showed he still had what it takes. In his third game overseas, Pippen tallied 21 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two steals for the Sundsvall Dragons. Not bad for a 42-year-old.
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After testing positive for HIV, Magic Johnson retired from the NBA in 1991. Magic unretired and retired a couple more times before permanently leaving the NBA in 1996. But he couldn't stay away from the game entirely, and, in 1998, purchased a team from Boras, Sweden, aptly name Magic M7. He signed a two-year contract to play with the team, and recorded a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds in his debut.
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The lone example of a player leaving the NBA for Europe while in his prime, former Atlanta Hawks sixth man, Josh Childress, signed a three-year contract with Greece's Olympiacos in 2008. Unrestrained by a salary cap, Olympiacos offered Childress a plush deal that included housing and a car, prompting fears within the NBA that other stars would be inclined to defect. Allaying those fears, however, is Childress' return to the NBA for the 2010-11 season with the Phoenix Suns.
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One of the best dunkers in NBA history, Dominique Wilkins was also one of its most intrepid travelers. In 1995, he joined Greek team Panathinaikos BC, with whom he averaged a robust 20.9 points and seven rebounds per game before returning to the NBA for the 1996-97 season. Though he led the San Antonio Spurs in scoring that season, he opted yet again to play in Europe, this time with Teamsystem Bologna for the 1997-98 season.
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After an unceremonious ending to his illustrious NBA career, Alex English signed a one-year deal with the Italian team Depi Napoli. English was able to find his scoring stroke again amid the Mediterranean air, averaging 13.9 points in 18 contests.
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The rare example of a U.S.-born player going overseas before the NBA, in 2008 Brandon Jennings announced that he would skip college to play professionally in Europe. He thought the money and experience provided by playing overseas would better prepare him for the NBA. Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy. Jennings experienced his share of growing pains, while averaging 7.6 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in limited minutes for Pallacanestro Virtus Roma. The experience paid off however, as Jennings have been fantastic in his short NBA career.
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Though he lacked the sustained dominance that made figures such as Wilt Chamberlin and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar household names, for five years, Bob McAdoo might have been the most unstoppable force in the NBA. Though age eventually slowed McAdoo down, when he left the NBA for Europe his career was rejuvenated. Averaging 26.1 points and 10.2 rebounds, McAdoo led Olimpia Milano to the FIBA European Champions Cup twice, and he is considered one of the greatest U.S.-born players to ever play in Europe.
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Artis Gilmore remains in the public consciousness for an unfortunate reason: his glaring omission from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Similarly, in 1988, when no NBA team would give Gilmore the time of day, he packed his bags and moved to Italy where he played one year with Arimo Bologna. Despite the different style of the European game, Gilmore, then 40, was still able to rebound, block and intimidate with the best of them.
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Before the Bad Boys , the flops and the infamous elbows, Bill Laimbeer was a third-round pick out of Notre Dame just trying to keep his NBA dream alive. Drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1979, Laimbeer was forced to play overseas for a year in Italy with Pinti Inox. Upon returning to the NBA, he languished on the Cavaliers bench for two years before being traded to the Pistons, where he would spend the rest of his career.
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During the 2005-06 season, Dennis Rodman made a circuitous comeback tour with the hope of finding a spot on a NBA roster. His return to the NBA never materialized but he did span the globe, including stops in Finland and England. In Finland for a wife-carrying contest, Rodman signed a one-game contract with Torpan Pojat. He finished with 17 points before a league-record crowd of 7,420. In England, Rodman signed a one-game deal with the Brighton Bears. He scored four points, and went on to play three games total with the Bears.
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Backs played a large role in the career of Darryl Dawkins. He's best known for breaking a backboard with a thunderous dunk, and ultimately back injuries are what forced Dawkins to retire from the NBA. Deemed washed up by NBA pundits, Dawkins went to Italy where his career was resurrected. In his second year with Ipifim Torino, Dawkins averaged 21.2 points and 8.8 boards per game and led Torino to a 23-7 record, the best in Italy. After all those years, he was back to his old self.
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