1. Forward Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki has been with the Dallas Mavericks for his entire pro career and his name has become synonymous with the franchise. He led the team to its first NBA championship trophy in 2011 and took MVP honors as well. A native of Würzburg, he is so comfortable in his adopted Dallas that he even conducted latenight host Conan O’Brien’s “Texas citizenship test.”
4. Point Guard Dennis Schröder
He’s the other German in the NBA. Braunschweig native Dennis Schröder started his basketball career in the German junior league before vaulting several levels all the way to the top German pro league, playing for the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig. He was just 19 when he was drafted by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks in 2013. Apparently, the NBA, like Ellis Islands, doesn’t do umlauts, because here he is known as Schroder without the “ö.”
6. Outfielder Donald Lutz
Outfielder Donald Lutz first picked up a bat and glove as a teen in Germany, which is super late by MLS standards. Signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, he made his major league debut with the team in April 2013, even scoring a three-run homer the next month. On his Twitter page, @braunerhulk (brown hulk), Lutz proudly calls himself the “first German in the show.” And in an interview with the German Embassy, he tells how, after more than six years in the league, he is happy to give tips to the younger German players trying to make it in the majors. Lutz is currently playing for the Reds’ Pensacola minor-league team, the Blue Wahoos.
7. Outfielder Max Kepler
Signed in 2009 by the Minnesota Twins at the young age of 16, Berlin native Maximilian “Max” Kepler earned the highest signing bonus ever for a European in the MLB, reportedly $800,000. In Twins spring training this year, he had 12 at bats, six hits and 2 RBIs. He opened this season playing for Minnesota’s minor-league team the Fort Myers Miracle and has made it to the Twins’ 40-man roster, meaning he could be called up the show anytime.
9. Catcher Kai Gronauer
Kai Gronauer of Solingen, Germany, has been signed with the Mets since 2008. Invited to Mets spring training for the past two years, he is currently a catcher with the Las Vegas 51s. Kai gets our vote for best Twitter hashtag: #HammerFettBombeKrass (doozyphatthebombincredible)!
11. Goalie Nadine Angerer
She holds both the FIFA and UEFA Player of the Year Awards, and after playing for pro clubs across Germany and as far away as Brisbane, Australia, Nadine Angerer has moved all the way to Portland, Oregon to play for the Thorns FC in the National Women’s Soccer League. She remains a key member of the German National Team.
13. Defender Andreas Görlitz
State-side fans of FC Bayern Munich can rejoice because they can now see a former Bayern player here in Major League Soccer! After a Bundesliga career that saw him play for both Munich teams (TSV 1860 München and FC Bayern Munich), among others, Andreas Görlitz signed with the San Jose Earthquakes in March.
15. Offensive Tackle Sebastian Vollmer
Sebastian Vollmer was the first German player drafted into the NFL when he was selected by the New England Patriots in 2009. A native of Düsseldorf, Vollmer was recruited by the University of Houston after playing youth football on the international level. Unfortunately, the player known to his teammates as “Seabass” missed most of last season after suffering a a broken leg in a game against the Dolphins in October.
17. Defensive Tackle Markus Kuhn
We’ve got to give this Weinheim native our vote for “greatest hair.” Markus Kuhn got a relatively late start playing football as a teen in Germany, and then he and his father did something pretty amazing. They took a road trip down the East Coast looking for a college that would let him play. That’s how he joined the NC State Wolfpack. “Good thing we were ignorant enough not to understand what a big deal college football is in the U.S.,” Kuhn told Newsday. “Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be here.” He was drafted by the New York Giants in 2012.
19. Outside Linebacker Björn Werner
Björn Werner is the latest German drafted into the NFL and the first to be a first-round pick. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2013, leaving the Florida State Seminoles after only two seasons.
21. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg
Since being drafted by Philadelphia Flyers in 2001, Dennis Seidenberg has experienced numerous trades but finally seemed to hit his stride with the Boston Bruins. In 2011, “Seids” helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup, becoming only the second German-born player to do so.
23. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff
Using the hashtag #toughdayattheoffice, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff made news recently by posting some graphic photos of the damage caused when a puck hit his ear. However, we prefer the less bloody photo below of the NHL player visiting with some high school German students. After being drafted in 2001 by San Jose, Ehrhoff has played for Canucks and the Boston Bruins, who he helped to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.
25. Center Marcel Goc
Marcel Goc’s NHL career has taken him to San Jose, Nashville, Miami and most recently Pittsburgh. He hopes to come back from a foot injury to help to contribute to the Panthers in the playoffs. The native of Baden-Württemberg has played for Team Germany numerous times.
27. And he’s not a pro yet, but …
we just had to take the chance here to call out UConn forward and Berlin native Niels Giffey. He and the Huskies went all the way to the top of the NCAA tournament this year. The win is a perfect bookend to senior Giffey’s college career, as the Huskies took the title in his first year with the team too. Making it in the NBA surely can’t be far from Giffey’s mind now, where he would follow his role model Nowitzki.