Poland may not be the birthplace of basketball, but it has produced many players who held their own on European courts or even across the ocean. We’ve seen real legends grace the PLK (Poland’s basketball league), setting records that stand unchallenged today. And so, we created a list of the best Polish players in history. Now, if you’re a fan of Polish basketball, I’ve got a bonus for you – betting tips for the ongoing EBL season.
Best of the Best – Polish Basketball Players
Allow me to explain, crafting a rundown of Polish basketball history and picking out just six of the greatest players is no simple task. You see, there are the icons from the 70s and 80s to consider. At the same time, we can’t overlook those who brought the spotlight onto local basketball through their exploits on NBA courts.
Rest assured, our list leaves room for both. It brings together famed Polish players, NBA stars, and PLK (Poland’s basketball league) record setters. If you want a glimpse into the world of Polish basketball, this subjective list of six players is worth diving into. Without further ado, here are what we believe are the most recognizable and best Polish basketball players in history.
The most recognizable Polish name in basketball, no doubt. Let me tell you, Marcin Gortat, also known as The Polish Hammer, officially hung up his boots in February 2020, but his last NBA game dates back to a year before that, playing for the Los Angeles Clippers.
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I think it is worth to say that Gortat spent 12 robust years in the NBA, clocking in 892 games (806 in the regular season and 86 in the playoffs) – that’s the top record among Poles who’ve had the honor of playing in the US. In 2009, our Lodz-born hero faced off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals.
I am convinced, this makes him the only Pole to have done so to date. However, I must add, his Orlando team lost 1-4 to Kobe Bryant’s squad.
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Maciej Lampe – A guy who blazed a trail for fellow Poles overseas. His NBA journey started on January 23, 2004, and by March, this 7-feet-tall center had scored 17 points against the Milwaukee Bucks, a record he never surpassed in his NBA career.
Starting with the New York Knicks, his NBA adventure wrapped up in 2006 with the Houston Rockets. Then Lampe shifted his sights to European and Asian courts. Let me tell you about his travel itinerary – he played for Khimki Moscow (2006-2009), Caja Laboral (2011-2013), FC Barcelona (2013-2015), Shenzhen Leopards (2016-2017) and Jilin Northeast Tigers (2018-2019).
He reaped most of his success in Spain (a championship) and Russia (two vice-championships), I am convinced it’s safe to say he’s among the more decorated White and Reds. After all, it’s not often that Polish basketball players snag honors abroad.
Our final Pole on this list who had a taste of NBA action, and ironically the first to appear in this prestigious tournament. Cezary Trybański, or C-Mode as he’s known, graced the courts for Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, and New York Knicks between 2002 and 2004. But calling it „playing” might be a stretch.
He was often a trading piece between teams, as his short-lived stints with the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors prove, where Trybański mostly warmed the bench. His real career kicked off in 2005 with the Tulsa 66ers, in the National Basketball Development League, known as the D-League. Here, in the shadow of the world’s best legue, Trybański made a name for himself with his blocking skills.
I believe it’s worth to say that while Polish basketball players in the NBA didn’t dominate, they definitely had their moments.
Adam Wojcik is one of the best Polish basketball players ever. A virtuoso who was simply ahead of his time, but never got a shot at playing overseas. Our beloved Wojo outshone everyone in the PLK, clinching eight national championships between 1995 and 2007.
He added a Belgian championship (1997) and a vice-championship (1996) to his accolades. His most games were with Gwardia Warszawa (234), Śląsk Wrocław (158), and Prokom Trefl Sopot (108). Over 1268 professional games, he scored an impressive 17718 points and is still held as the best player of PLK.
He bagged the MVP title for the regular season and league finals three times (1998, 2001, 2005). Sadly, El Proffesore was taken from us too soon, losing his battle with leukemia at age 47.
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You cannot discuss the legends of the Polish Basketball League without talking about Eugeniusz Kijewski – better known as Kijek. Between 1969 and 1990, he played for Poznań Warta, Lech and Spójni Gdańsk. This guy was an absolute powerhouse on the court. Trust me, you haven’t seen a shooter like him in PLK.
He netted 10185 points across only 395 games, yielding an amazing average of 25.8 points per game. To add to his laurels, he clmed four national championships and was the league’s top scorer five times. But here’s the twist, after retiring, Kijewski found success as a coach. From 2000 to 2007, he won four titles with Prokom Trefl Sopot and was thrice crowned the PLK’s best coach.
In the high ranks of PLK’s all-time top scorers, there’s just one player who outdid Eugene Kijewski – that’s Edward Jurkiewicz. His name is synonymous with Wybrzeże Gdańsk, where he spent most of his career between 1964 and 1979. His accomplishments are staggering.
For starters, he was the top scorer in the Polish league eight times and averaged a whopping 32.1 points per game. You need to know that out of the 30 best PLK scoring records, Jurkiewicz holds 16, including the second-highest of 84 points in a match against Baildon Katowice in 1970, while playing for his beloved Gwardia.
Only Mieczysław Młynarski has scored more in a single game (90 points in 1982 while playing for Górnik Wałbrzych against Pogoń Szczecin).
A Final Thought
It’s clear as day, Polish basketball has never been short of talents or record breakers. Perhaps some of these players were simply born in the wrong era, and had they got the opportunity to strut their stuff on NBA courts, we might be hailing them today as global basketball superstars.
But let’s not forget what we’ve got. Our basketball history has been shaped by well-known Polish players such as Marcin Gortat or Maciej Lampe, and legends like Eugeniusz Kijewski or Piotr Wójcik. If you are an EBL player today, wouldn’t you want to emulate the successes of these pioneers? I believe so. It’s an amazing legacy to aspire to.