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Useful Notes / Notable Players of the NBA

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Like some other leagues, there have been a number of famous NBA players to put on basketball jerseys throughout the years. They are cataloged by the teams with which they're most often identified, which are not necessarily the teams they've played on for the biggest part of their careers.

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    Atlanta Hawks 
  • Bob Pettit: One of the greatest scorers of the '50s and '60s, the 6'9" Hall of Fame forward out of LSU began his career in 1954 when the Hawks were still in Milwaukee, averaging a double-double and being named Rookie of the Year. The next season, with the Hawks now in St. Louis (where they remained until 1968, three years after his retirement), he led the league in both scoring and rebounding, and won the NBA's first official MVP award. He went on to lead the Hawks to their only NBA title in 1958, earn another MVP award in 1959, and receive four All-Star Game MVP awards (a record to this day, though now shared with Kobe Bryant). In the 1958 Finals, Pettit scored 50 points in the Hawks' series clincher—a feat that would not be repeated until Giannis Antetokounmpo did it in 2021. Perhaps most notably, he's the only player with 10 or more seasons in the league to be named All-NBA in every season of his career—earning first-team honors every season except his last (1964–65), in which he was on the second team.
  • Dominique Wilkins, "The Human Highlight Film," was a forward known for his thunderous dunks, usually on opposing players. Won the Slam Dunk contest twice; his notable Slam Dunk contest losses were to Spud Webb and to a tightly contested final against Michael Jordan. He was also a scoring machine, winning the scoring title in 1986 and having a career average of 24.8 ppg, and is one of the few players to recover relatively well from from torn Achilles, normally a career ender for most.
  • Spud Webb, who is noted for his height - 5 feet 7 inches. He is the shortest player ever to win - or enter - the Slam Dunk contest.
  • Dikembe Mutombo: Or, in full, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo. It's a close call as to where this Hall of Fame center out of DR Congo should be placed... he spent 19 seasons in the league, with five seasons for each of three teams (Nuggets, Hawks, and Rockets). However, he got the largest share of his honors with the Hawks (also retiring his number there alongside Denver), so that's where he'll be placed (for now). Mutombo had never been in the States before enrolling at Georgetown with ambitions of becoming a doctor. However, his 7'2" frame and athleticism changed those plans. He starred alongside Alonzo Mourning (see Miami Heat) before being picked fourth overall in 1991 by the Nuggets. In his five seasons there, he made three All-Star Games and picked up the first of his record four Defensive Player of the Year awards (a record later tied by Ben Wallace). Going to the Hawks in 1996 as a free agent, he spent five seasons there, making four All-Star Games and two All-NBA teams, plus winning his other three DPOY awards. He then bounced around the Sixers, Nets, and Knicks before finishing his career with five seasons in Houston. The Nuggets and Hawks both retired his #55, and he made the Hall of Fame in 2015. Mutombo, however, may be even better known for his humanitarian work, mainly in Africa. Most notably, he spearheaded the building of a major hospital in his hometown of Kinshasa. He's the only two-time winner of the NBA's Citizenship Award. Mutombo was also well known for his signature taunt, waving his index finger to an opposing player after a blocked shot.
  • Trae Young is the most recent Hawks star to help make them become competitive. Unlike other failed attempts to help them go far during the 21st century, Young looks to be the new constant for the Hawks to become a respected threat in the Eastern Conference again. Young went from an unknown to an instant superstar in college, being the league leader in both points scored and assists made in his only year at the University of Oklahoma. Being traded to Atlanta after the Hawks were willing to give up Luka Dončić for Young and another first round pick from Dallas, he became an instant leader for the team, pretty much continuing his successful production from Oklahoma with the Hawks like it was no big deal for him. In fact, his rookie season was so good that if he were drafted in any other year, he likely would have won the Rookie of the Year Award instead of been the runner-up to the aforementioned Luka. Due to the above trade, comparisons to Luka are always going to be seen as a given with Young. However, in his third season, Young flipped the narrative into his favor when he not only brought the Hawks back into the Playoffs after struggling early on with their old head coach, but he helped Nate McMillan get a team into a Conference Finals spot for the first time in his coaching career, losing only to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks that year. During their 2021 Eastern Conference Finals run, he cemented himself as a villain to the New York Knicks' fanbase, as well as put the kibosh on the 76ers' Process before being stopped by Giannis Antetokounmpo and company. Young will look to continue to bring success with the Hawks going forward into his career.

    Boston Celtics 
  • Bill Russell is perhaps the greatest defensive player ever and another major contender in the "best ever" debates. He led the Boston Celtics to eleven world champions, won five regular season MVP awards, and his on-court wars with Wilt Chamberlain were legendary. Arguably the league's first black player to truly become a superstar, Russell was active in the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s, once leading a boycott of black players from a 1961 preseason game against the St. Louis Hawks to protest racism and segregation. He also became the first black coach in NBA history, succeeding Red Auerbach after Auerbach retired from active coaching and moved up to the Celtics front office. Russell had a strained relationship with the city of Boston for many decades, often being labeled as cold and aloof for refusing to sign autographs for children and refusing to attend team events after his retirement; Russell claims that this was a response to the racism that he experienced living in the city, and this tension has cooled in recent years. For his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He's also the most recent of the five individuals who have made the Hall of Fame as both players and coaches, entering as a player at his first chance in 1975 and as a coach in 2021.
  • Sam Jones was a shooting guard who won 10 championships with the Celtics, just one shy of Bill Russell. He was known for his quickness and game-winning shots. Jones’ perfect form when shooting a jump shot, along with his great clutch shooting in general, led opponents to nickname him "The Shooter". He was particularly adept shooting the bank shot, where the shooter bounces the ball off the backboard en route to the basket. At 6-foot-4, Jones was the prototype of the tall guard who could run the floor, bang the boards and had a rangy offensive game that gave opponents fits. Led the league in scoring for three seasons, even repeating in 1964-65 and 1965-66 seasons. A Hall of Famer, his #24 jersey was retired by the Celtics.
  • Bob Cousy was a point guard for Russell's Celtics. Six-time champion, 13-time All-Star and 1957 MVP. Led the league in assists for eight straight seasons. His ball-handling and dribbling skills earned him the nicknames "Cooz", "The Houdini of the Hardwood" and "Mr. Basketball". If you want to get technical, Cousy introduced an array of ambidextrous, behind-the-back dribbling and "no-look passes, behind-the-back feeds or half-court fastbreak launches". In fact, many consider him to be the forerunner for all point guards; Magic Johnson and Pete Maravich modeled their styles after him. Was elected into the Hall of Fame and had his #14 jersey retired by the Celtics.
  • John Havlicek competed for 16 seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning eight NBA titles, half of them coming in his first four seasons. Only Russell and Sam Jones won more than him, and he's easily one of the best defensive players in NBA history. Mostly overlooked as a college player, he revolutionized the "sixth man" role, and has been immortalized for his clutch steal in the closing seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference championship. His jersey number, 17, was immediately retired at the Boston Garden after he left the game.
  • Jim Loscutoff was a power forward for Russell's Celtics. A defensive specialist, Loscutoff was once described as a hatchet-man, due to his strength and durability. Was Bob Cousy's unofficial bodyguard, often retaliating against opposing players who would try to hurt him. His #18 jersey would've been retired by the Celtics, but Loscutoff wanted others to wear it instead, so they retired his nickname "Loscy" instead.
  • Tom Heinsohn was a forward who arrived alongside Russell in 1956. Although somewhat overshadowed by Russell and several other teammates, he was named Rookie of the Year ahead of Russell, made six All-Star teams, and won eight titles with Russell and Jones (the only two players with more championship rings). During his playing career, Heinsohn also played a major role in the development of the NBA Players Association (union). After retiring as a player, he became the Celtics' TV play-by-play man until becoming head coach in 1969; in his nine seasons in that role, he was Coach of the Year once and led the Celtics to two titles. He then returned to Celtics TV in 1981, this time on color commentary; he continued to hold that position through the 2018–19 season, although by then his advanced age meant that he called only home games and served as a studio analyst when the Celtics were away. Passed in November 2020. Along with Bill Russell, one of only five individuals to be a Hall of Famer as both a player and a coach.note 
  • Dave Cowens was a center (often called undersized for a center), drafted 4th overall by the Celtics at the behest of Bill Russell. Although largely overlooked because of who's listed below him, Cowens was the 1971 Rookie of the Year, the 1973 regular season MVP, a seven-time All-Star and a two-time champion (1974, 1976). His #18 jersey (sound familiar?) was retired by the Celtics. Cowens' playing credo was all-out intensity at both ends of the court, a style that never wavered during his 11-year NBA career. As a testament to his all-around ability, Cowens is one of only five players to lead his team in all five major statistical categories for a season: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals (during the 1977-78 season). The other four are Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Also was a bit of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer - Cowens took a leave of absence from the Celtics and worked as a cab driver for one night. He explained that he just needed "to clear his head" and that he was "suffering from burnout." He was, for the 1978-79 season, the last player-coach in NBA history.
  • Larry Bird was a forward who played with the Celtics in the 80s. Led a "Big Three" with Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. One of the most popular figures in Boston sports history, Bird is a three-time NBA champion, a three-time MVP and a two-time Finals MVP. Generally considered one of the game's great shooters, maybe the greatest, but also played very unselfishly and averaged better than six assists a game for his career (though he did get sixty points in one game). In another game he was a single steal away from a quadruple-double, but sat out the entire fourth quarter because he just didn't care. He was The Rival to Magic Johnson; their three Finals matchups were some of the most watched ever at the time. Played with the Dream Team, but retired shortly thereafter due to lingering back injuries. Also a current minority owner of the Indiana Pacers, as well as a former coach and president of the team. And a master of I Shall Taunt You.
    • Incidentally, he was considering leaving college after his junior year in 1978, but eventually decided against it, but the Celtics drafted him anyway. This prompted the league to enact the so-called "Larry Bird Rule" that said teams can't do that; they have to wait until a player officially declares himself eligible for the draft or completes his college eligibility, whichever comes first.
    • Thanks to his career on the bench and in the front office with the Pacers, Bird is the only individual ever to be named MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.
  • Kevin McHale was a backup forward behind Bird and Maxwell. A three-time champion, a 7-time All-Star, 2-time Sixth Man of the Year and six-time Defensive Team member. He was particularly frustrating to play against, out-leaping, out-spinning and out-maneuvering defender after defender throughout his career - which he called the "torture chamber". (Charles Barkley would call him the toughest defender he ever played against.) During the 1981 playoff series versus the Sixers, McHale helped save the Celtics' series-clinching Game 6 win by blocking Andrew Toney's shot and corralling the rebound with 16 seconds left to protect the Celtics' one-point lead. In the Finals of the same year, the Celtics would later defeated the Houston Rockets in six games, taking their fourteenth championship in history, and the first for Bird's Celtics. In the 1984 Finals versus Los Angeles, McHale is famous for violently flinging Kurt Rambis down by his throat, as the Lakers' forward raced to the basket. The physical play touched off a bench-clearing scuffle; Boston would later win the series in seven. McHale's known for setting Boston's greatest record of scoring 56 versus Detroit and 42 versus New York; the consecutive 98 points has never been broken in the Celtics' record. Bird is the only Celtic to have ever scored more than McHale in a single game - 60 points versus the Atlanta Hawks.
  • Robert Parish was a center for Larry Bird's Celtics. Drafted by the Golden State Warriors, but quickly traded to the Celtics, which he stayed from 1980 to 1994. While with Boston, Parish helped to win three NBA titles (1981, 1984 and 1986) and another to finish his career as a bench player for the Chicago Bulls in 1997. He was known as a versatile center, using his 7' size and speed to contain opposing players, launch precise shots from outside the paint, and finish fast breaks - the latter uncanny for a man of his stature. Parish was unusual for his surprisingly high field goal and free throw shooting ability, an unusual talent among most centers. His trademark was his high release jump shot, which traversed a very high arc before falling.
  • Dennis Johnson was a point guard for Larry Bird's Celtics, though he started his career as a slam-dunking shooting guard for Seattle (who drafted him) and a high-octane sharpshooter for Phoenix. Lauded for his versatility, "DJ" was a defensive stopper (he was half the reason Magic lost the '84 Finals), an accomplished sharpshooter (scoring 32 points during the 1979 NBA Finals), and all-around clutch performer (converted a last-second layup in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals after a Bird steal). Known for his "rocket launcher legs", which enabled him to jump high to grab rebounds against taller opponents. He won a championship with the Sonics in 1979, even earning the Finals MVP. He followed that up with two more titles with the Celtics in 1984 and 1986. DJ was voted into five All-Star Teams, nine consecutive All-Defensive First and Second Teams, and the Hall of Fame itself. His #3 jersey was retired by the Celtics.
  • Cedric Maxwell was a small forward with Larry Bird's Celtics. He was named MVP of the 1981 NBA Finals. Best known for his moves near or beneath the basket. He was very effective in the low post, faking defenders into the air, drawing contact, then making high percentage shots (and sometimes drawing a foul) using either his jump-hook close to the basket or going up against the glass. Maxwell was known for being a colorful trash-talker, mocking Lakers' forward James Worthy's inability to make free throws during overtime of game 4 by walking across the lane between free throws with his hands around his own neck.
  • Reggie Lewis was drafted in 1988 to eventually become Larry Bird's successor at small forward. He played sporadically in his first couple years, but eventually came into his own as a bench player. When Bird retired in 1992, Lewis was up to the challenge of replacing him, had a solid 1992-93 season and was selected for that year's All Star Game. Sadly, he died suddenly in June 1993 during an off-season practice from an undiagnosed heart defect.
    • Lewis was drafted by the Celtics to replace another tragic figure in their history intended as Bird's heir. Len Bias was considered to be one of the most dynamic and exciting college basketball players of the mid-1980s, and the Celtics selected him with the 2nd pick of the 1986 draft. Two days after the draft, Bias died from a cocaine overdose; It was the first time he had ever touched the drug. The Celtics were demoralized by Bias' death. In particular, Bird was excited to have him on board and once claimed he would have retired in 1988 if Bias had lived. Bias is widely considered to be one of the greatest college players to have never played in the NBA.
  • Paul Pierce was the captain of the Boston Celtics until he and Kevin Garnett (below) were traded to the Brooklyn Nets after the 2012–13 season when the Celtics decided they couldn't win a title and blew up their roster. Pierce spent one season in Brooklyn before moving on to the Washington Wizards, and then to the LA Clippers. Noted for his late-game heroics and versatile Lightning Bruiser credentials. He took the Celtics to a championship against Kobe's Lakers in 2008; a rematch was made in 2010, where Kobe won instead. He won the 2008 Finals MVP, he's The Rival to LeBron James and he's the second-leading scorer in Celtics history, right behind Havlicek. Not even Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy or Kevin McHale can lay claim to that feat. He's also rather cocky - after winning in a 2012 playoff game against the Hawks, Pierce briefly celebrated by Tebowing on the court. Moreover, he once said "I'm the best player. There's a line that separates having confidence and being conceited. I don't cross that line, but I have a lot of confidence in myself." At a late night dance club in Boston's theatre district, Pierce was stabbed 11 times in the face, neck and back, and had a bottle smashed over his head; eyewitnesses claim that he was attempting to separate the fighters when he was stabbed. Tony Battie, Pierce's teammate at the time, along with Battie’s brother, saved him by rushing him to a nearby hospital after the near-fatal stabbing. He had to undergo lung surgery to repair the damage. Nevertheless, Pierce was the only Celtic to start all 82 games in the 2000–01 season. One particular moment involves a teammate trying to hug him as he runs along the court like a fairy. Pierce announced that the 2016–17 season would be his last, and during the 2017 offseason signed a ceremonial contract so he could officially retire as a Celtic. Joined the rest of the late-2000s Celtics "Big Three" in the Hall of Fame in 2021.
    • Incidentally, Pierce is the closest thing to an actual rival for LeBron James. This dated all the way back to their first meeting in the Eastern Semifinals - it was a seven game series, the last of which had James scoring 45 to Pierce's 41. Pierce went on to defeat James' Cavaliers and won his first ring. Failing to defeat Pierce was part of what ultimately prompted James to leave Cleveland as a free agent and join the Miami Heat (partly due to Wade convincing him to do so). It was bad enough that James almost exclusively referred to the Celtics as "that team". Pierce and James went against one another in the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals, where the Heat defeat the Celtics in five games (you can see James triumphantly head-banging at the end).
  • Rajon Rondo, until being dealt to the Mavericks during the 2014–15 season, and still later moving to the Bulls, then the Pelicans, the Lakers, the Hawks, the Clippers, and the Lakers again was a point guard for the Celtics, seen as one of the best of this generation. While Pierce, Allen and Garnett were touted as Boston's Big 3, it was Rondo that regularly coordinated their plays during games. This was made especially evident during 2010, when the Celtics defied expectations and met the Lakers in the Finals instead of the 1st seed, Cleveland. His first major drive into stardom, media coverage and fan recognition was when he kept playing Game 3 against the Heat in 2011 (which was ultimately won by the Celtics), even when his arm was dislocated. As Pierce, Allen and Garnett reach their twilight years as NBA players, Rondo's quickly become their trump card and the face of their future, along with defensive specialist Avery Bradley. On a more personal note, Rondo is noted for his weird on-court antics, off-court quirkiness (arriving to Chicago in the 2009 playoffs in a Red Bull NASCAR car) and his relative Hair-Trigger Temper. In 2020, he became only the second player to win a championship for both the Lakers and the Celtics (the first being Clyde Lovellette, who won two rings with Boston in 1963 and 1964). Also holds the record for the longest gap between championships (he won his last ring before 2020 in 2008...ironically against the Lakers).
  • Ray Allen is a shooting guard who formed the third part of the 2008 "Big 3" Boston Celtics, along with Pierce and Garnett. A Military Brat, Allen is the all time NBA leader in three-point and free throw shooting, surpassing the great Reggie Miller. Allen once played for the Bucks and the SuperSonics before going to Boston. He is also remembered for an impressive performance (for an athlete) as lead character Jesus Shuttlesworth in the Spike Lee movie He Got Game. Starting in July 2012, Allen joined the Miami Heat on a two-year, $6 million deal. Despite being hot and cold during the 2012–13 season, the trade to Miami Heat would pay off during the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. With seconds left in Game 6 and the Spurs looking like they would pick up their fifth championship trophy, Allen hit a big three point shot to tie the game. The game went into overtime and the Heat won it to force a Game 7; a game which the Heat won and Allen picked up another championship ring. After the 2013–14 season, he became a free agent, but didn't catch on with any team and never played in the league again, although he didn't announce his retirement until November 2016. Entered the Hall of Fame in 2018.
  • Isaiah Thomas, not to be confused with Hall of Fame guard and Hall of Shame executive Isiah Thomas (see the "Detroit Pistons" folder below), is now on his sixth NBA team, but made his name with the Celtics. A point guard out of Washington, he was a three-time All-Pac-10note  selection, but was the very last pick in the 2011 draft by the Kings, mainly due to his size—or lack thereof (being all of 5'9"/1.75 m). He became a regular with the Kings before being traded to the Suns in 2014. Late in the 2014–15 season, he was dealt again, this time to the Celtics, where he would emerge as an All-Star in 2016 and 2017, as well as second-team All-NBA in 2017. However, by the end of the 2016–17 season, he was struggling with a hip injury, and eventually had surgery. Thomas was traded to the Cavaliers during the 2017 offseason in a deal that brought Kyrie Irving to the Celtics. Due to his surgery, he didn't actually play for the Cavs until January 2018, and didn't really fit into the team; the Cavs then moved him to the Lakers in one of a series of trade-deadline deals the following month. He barely played for the Lakers before having another hip operation, and signed with the Nuggets as a free agent in the 2018 offseason. He joined the Wizards in 2019 before being traded to (and waived by) the Clippers in a trade-deadline deal, and signed a 10-day contract with the Pelicans the following season.

    Brooklyn Nets 
  • Dražen Petrović was a shooting guard from Croatia and a tragic example of What Could Have Been - a prolific scorer in Europe and in the NBA, his life and career were sadly cut short by a car accident in 1993. He is widely considered to be the most talented European player ever seen, being nicknamed Basketball's Mozart, and is undoubtedly one of the best sharpshooters who ever played in the NBA. Before playing in the NBA, he utterly dominated the European basketball scene, notably scoring 62 points in European Cup finals in 1989note . He once scored 112 pointsnote  in a Yugoslavian League game when he was 20 years old.
  • Deron Williams is a point guard, originally drafted 3rd overall by the Utah Jazz. Although flourishing under Jerry Sloan's pick-and-roll system, the two would come to have disagreements, which led Sloan to resign and Williams to be traded to the Nets.
  • Jason Kidd is a veteran point guard who played for four different teams throughout his career. Drafted by the Dallas Mavericks on 1994, he was given Rookie of the Year honors along with then-Detroit Piston Grant Hill (who entered the Hall of Fame alongside him in 2018) and played there for three seasons until he was traded to the Phoenix Suns, where his point guard skills was widely acknowledged (with Steve Nash, another brilliant point guard who would also enter the Hall of Fame in 2018, as his backup). But it was with the New Jersey Nets where Kidd established himself as a future NBA legend, turning the once woeful Nets to playoff contenders every season, even reaching the Finals twice in a row, only to lose to the Lakers and Spurs respectively. He returned to the Mavs in 2008 and won his first ring with them in 2011 after 17 years of trying. In the summer of 2012, Kidd signed on with the Knicks, but would retire at the end of the 2012–13 season. In the summer of 2013, he was named the new head coach of the Nets. After a playoff berth in his first season as a head coach, he left to become head coach for the Bucks, with the Nets getting two future second-round picks as compensation. Kidd remained in that job until being fired during the 2017–18 season. In 2019, he was hired as an assistant coach for the Lakers, where he won a title in his first year. Two years later, the Mavericks signed Kidd to replace long-time head coach Rick Carlisle.

    Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats 
  • Muggsy Bogues is the shortest player ever in the NBA - and in his rookie year in Washington, played along with the tallest ever, Manute Bol. His short stature led him to become something of a secret weapon for the teams he played on, and he was often a league leader in both steals and assists. He also once pulled a basketball out of the hands of the much taller Patrick Ewing while the Knicks legend was preparing for a shot, thereby giving Bogues one of the few "blocked shots" he is credited for in his career. After the Hornets brought in Bogues during the Expansion Draft, he became one of the faces of the popularizing team, along with Alonzo Mourning and...
  • Larry Johnson, the first pick on the 1991 Draft. Also known as "Grandmama" for dressing as his grandma in a commercial. He was a great player in his early years, winning ROTY and making two All-Star teams, but was never the same after a back injury. In 1996 was traded to the Knicks, where he played the 1999 Finals.
  • Emeka Okafor was the Bobcats' first draft pick, won Rookie of the Year, and played well while being considered reliable-if-not-outstanding. Was eventually traded to the Hornets for Tyson Chandler, leading both Okafor and the Bobcats to reach their first playoffs separately.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the Bobcats' top pick in the 2012 draft, following an NCAA title. Currently the player with most expectations in the roster. One of the league's best wing defenders, with a steadily improving offensive game.
  • Al Jefferson began his career with the Celtics, before being sent to the Timberwolves in the Kevin Garnett trade. He only began to get some respect after joining the Jazz, and once signed by the Bobcats in 2013 led them to their second ever playoff appearance.
  • LaMelo Ball, currently the Hornets' most popular player, had a very unique path into the NBA after initial plans to go to UCLA with his older brothers were derailed. He first started gaining popularity when he took part in an undefeated Chino Hills High School team in California alongside older brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo when LaMelo was a freshman. His popularity grew even further between LaMelo and LiAngelo continuing to give Chino Hills success, Lonzo gaining respect in UCLA, and their father LaVar receiving plenty of media attention for his grandiose talk on his three boys. However, his 2018 junior year saw him drop out of Chino Hills to be homeschooled by his father after LiAngelo attracted international controversy for shoplifting while in China. He and LiAngelo began to play professionally, first in Lithuania and then his father's special basketball league for young talents, the Junior Basketball Association. While LiAngelo went undrafted that year, LaMelo expressed an interest in returning to playing in high school again, which he did by going to the SPIRE Institute in Ohio for his senior year before going back to pro basketball a year later in Australia. Once there, his previously fluctuating draft status solidified back into a top caliber player. He was drafted as the #3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (one spot lower than Lonzo in 2017, despite some outlets viewing LaMelo as the best choice for the #1 pick that year), and he almost instantly gave the Hornets more respect as a team with his presence in mind, recording his first triple-double by his tenth game in the NBA (and by extension, being the youngest player to ever record a triple-double in a game) and quickly becoming a key figure for the Hornets in their first play-in tournament stint (out in the Eastern Conference). LaMelo also holds an interesting distinction of being the first player to win Rookie of the Year honors both in Australia and in the NBA (in back-to-back seasons), though no natural Australian has been able to get that mark yet.

    Chicago Bulls 
  • Artis Gilmore was a center (seven-foot-two without Afro, seven-foot-six with) who won both Rookie of the Year and MVP for the Kentucky Colonels for the 1971-72 season, led the team to the ABA championship in 1975, led the league in total rebounds all five years he played, and holds the ABA record for blocked shots. He wasn't quite as dominating when he went to Chicago during the merger, but still put up some impressive numbers, including a preposterous 67% field-goal percentage one year. He's still the NBA's leader in career field goal percentage, and including NBA and ABA totals ranks first in defensive rebounds and fourth in blocks.
  • Michael Jordan is probably the most recent player to have a legitimate claim to the title of "best ever," and arguably the best athlete in American Sports, period. He played in the '80s and '90s for the Chicago Bulls, and was largely known for being unstoppable - so much so that other teams would often just let him do his thing and just try to stop the other four guys. Jordan was one of the most heavily marketed and merchandised athletes in any sport ever. He retired at the height of his career to attempt a career in baseball - rumors abound as to why this happened (although his father's tragic murder that year certainly had something to do with it). He returned a couple of years later with his skills undiminished. And then retired again. Some people may try to tell you that he came out of retirement a second time to play for the Wizards, but they're clearly confused. He's currently owner of the Charlotte Hornets.
  • Scottie Pippen was The Lancer to Michael Jordan during his golden years, their second-leading scorer and led the team through the two seasons of Jordan's first retirement. Though largely known as Jordan's Number Two, Pippen was one of the most versatile small forwards in the history of the league an an elite defender. He came to in the 1993-94 season, the first year without Jordan, when he was named to the All-NBA First Team, won the All-Star Game MVP award, and led the Bulls to a 55-win season, only two less wins than in 92-93. After the Bulls' second three-peat, Pippen left to play for the Rockets and Trail Blazers (where he made a trip to the Western Conference Finals before falling to the Shaq-Kobe Lakers) before returning to Chicago to retire.
  • Dennis Rodman, aka "The Worm", was a power forward famous for his daily hair color changes, non-conformist persona and controversial off-the-court antics. Despite his antics, he is among the greatest defensive players in league history and constantly led the league in rebounding. He's most famous for his time as a "Bad Boy" Piston and joining Jordan and Pippen on their second three-peat, winning five championships during his career. Later became an ambassador to North Korea, largely because Kim Jong-Un is a fan of his.
  • Luol Deng — A 6'7" small forward from what's now South Sudan by way of Egypt, London and Duke, Deng played for four teams in his career, but is best known for his 10 seasons with the Bulls (2004–2014). During his time in Chicago, he occupied much the same role as Scottie Pippen (only starter playing with 4 bench players). Much like Pippen (the only player constant throughout Phil Jackson's coaching tenure), Deng was on the roster for every Bulls playoff run post-MJ (though missing out on the 2005 and 2009 series due to late season-ending injuries) until being traded to the Cavaliers during the 2013–14 season, signing with the Heat in 2014, and then moving to the Lakers in 2016, retiring after the 2018–19 season. Made his first All-Star Appearance back in 2012. Has been praised for his defense on LeBron James. Was the first Bull since Michael Jordan (who also did twice in consecutive seasons) to lead the league in minutes per game, despite not being in the top ten of total minutes in either of the previous two seasons.
    • Also noted as being the unwitting trigger for the 2015 sale of the Atlanta Hawks.Explanation 
  • Derrick Rose - Point guard for the Bulls until being traded to the Knicks in the 2016 offseason, later with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and now back with the Knicks after a stint with the Pistons, Rose was picked first overall in the 2008 draft and was widely touted to be the next great point after Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. Like LeBron, Rose is also a hometown hero; born, grew up, and played in Chicago in his high school days, although he played for Memphis in college. He didn't disappoint - he became Rookie of the Year in 2008, became the first rookie to win the All-Star Skills Challenge, and the youngest player and one of the only two Chicago Bulls to win the Season MVP Award, the other being Michael Jordan himself. Throughout the 2012 regular season, Rose was plagued with various injuries on his turf toe, his back, his groin, his foot and his ankle. Nevertheless, Rose managed to play a few games while recovering, but he was notably rustier, and he missed the most games from his groin injury. Furthermore, his team managed to play well without him throughout the regular season, but when the playoffs started, Rose suffered a torn ACL in his knee during Game 1 against the 76ers; he missed the rest of the playoffs, and the Bulls weren't able to last long without him. Rose skipped out the 2012-13 season, and his return the following season only lasted 10 games before his other knee gave in and forced Rose out again. While he remained a productive player after his return, he sadly never quite got back to the rarefied level he was at before his first knee injury. After the 2016–17 season, he joined LeBron and the Cavs as a free agent, but truly began showing the effects of his injuries in the 2017–18 season. He was traded to the Utah Jazz in one of the Cavs' 2018 deadline deals, and was released before playing a game, soon signing on with the T-Wolves and moving on to the Pistons after the 2018-19 season. He returned to the Knicks in February 2021, and was a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year that season.
    • A fun fact to note: Michael Jordan was his childhood hero. In honor of Jordan, Rose (like LeBron) wore the number 23 through his high school and college career, until he was drafted by the Bulls. Because he cannot wear 23 again (It's retired for Jordan), Rose chose number 1 as his jersey number, which he shares with the team's mascot Benny the Bull. Oh, and for those interested, Rose is close to a Real Life example of a Bishōnen - like so.
  • Joakim Noah — Center for the Bulls from his arrival from Florida in 2007 until signing with the Knicks as a free agent in the 2016 offseason. Despite many injuries, he has been improving every season, even becoming the seventh player to achieve a triple-double of 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 blocks. Even without Rose and Deng, kept on carrying the Bulls in both 2012-13 and 2013-14 (winning Defensive Player of the Year in the latter). Plays internationally for France, as his father (1980s tennis star Yannick Noah) is from there.
  • Jimmy Butler – A 6'7" swingman (small forward/shooting guard) out of Marquette who became the face of the Bulls before being traded to the T-Wolves in the 2017 offseason, and was traded twice within a 12-month period, first to the Sixers early in the 2018–19 season and then to the Heat after that season. Butler started out in 2011–12 as a bench player, being stuck behind Deng in the rotation. An injury to Deng in the 2012–13 season gave Butler a chance to start, and he made the most of it, becoming a key rotation player even after Deng returned. Deng's departure for the Heat gave him the chance to start in 2014–15, and he ended up making his first All-Star appearance and winning the league's Most Improved Player award that season. Has an interesting backstory as well—his father abandoned the family when he was an infant, and his mother kicked him out of the house when he was 13; he was eventually taken in by the family of a fellow player at his high school.note  As a testament to his rise, Butler became the first player to out-score, out-rebound, and out-assist LeBron James in a Finals game when he did so in Game 3 of the 2020 Finals.

    Cleveland Cavaliers 
  • Craig Ehlo was a decent player for the Cavaliers between '86 and '93 sporting '80s Hair. However, he is mostly remembered for being a Guard, and as such having defensive duties on opposing Guards, including the Bulls' one whose name you already know, and for regularly failing to stop him. Notably the guy that took The Shot in the face.
  • Žydrūnas Ilgauskas, "Big Z", is the Cavaliers' leader in games played, rebounds, and blocks, playing from 1996 to 2010. After a career year in the season before LeBron's arrival, became one of his wingmen and got to the 2007 Finals, and even after deciding to retire in 2010 tried to get a title by following LBJ to the Heat (losing the 2011 Finals as well made Ilgauskas call it quits). His number 11 was retired, making him only the third European with his honor. One of the best Lithuanians who wasn't a fixture for the country's powerhouse national team (he only played in three international matches, all before he came to the NBA; the Cavs vetoed his participation in the 2008 Olympics).
  • LeBron James, a forward who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, is most identified with the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he played for the bulk of his NBA career. In many ways, his life reads like that of a Real Life Byronic Hero. He first received media attention for his prowess as a basketball player, even though he was still in high school, appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated and signing a shoe deal before he even graduated. Embraced by Cleveland as "King James", he was drafted #1 overall by his hometown Cavs in the 2003 Draft, almost immediately transforming them into a serious contender. During his stint as a Cavalier, Cleveland garnered two 50-win season, two 60-win seasons, one conference title (2007), two division titles ('09 and '10) and a trip to the 2007 NBA Finals (though they were swept), all almost entirely because of LeBron. During his first stint in Cleveland, he was the Rookie of the Year, the leading scorer for 2008, a two-time MVP, a 6-time All-Star, and 6-time All-NBA player achieving a combined 28 triple-doubles as a Cavalier and reaching many "Youngest-to-ever" records. However, his frequent postseason defeats, most notably by the Celtics, prompted LeBron to leave the Cavaliers and announce his decision to join the Miami Heat via a live television special. It was not received well by fans and the media, leading many to openly criticize or even actively root against LeBron. For his part, LeBron embraced the role of a villain for the 2011 season; he ran roughshod with Wade and Bosh through the 2011 Playoffs, including closing out Chicago and finally defeating Boston, before meeting Dirk Nowitzki's Mavericks in the Finals. His lackluster performance against the Mavericks, due to their defense taking him out of his comfort zone, quickly etched his image as a choker in the minds of NBA viewers. He quickly bounced back; after heunderwent a rather convincing case of Character Development, he finally achieved his first championship in 2012, earning the Finals MVP on top of that. As icing on the cake, he won an Olympic gold medal, becoming the first player to win a championship, the Finals MVP, and Olympic gold in one year since Michael Jordan. In 2013, he made history again as the only player in NBA history to win 6 straight games with over 30 points and a field goal percentage over 60 percent. In 2013, he won another championship, season MVP, and finals MVP. He also made the All-NBA first team in each of his four seasons in Miami. After 2013-14, James announced that he would return to his hometown team, leading to much rejoicing in Northeast Ohio. Cleveland won the divison and the conference, making it LeBron's fifth straight year atop the East, though injuries led to them coming up short once again. The next season, with everyone healthy, he led the Cavs to a rematch against the Dubs in the Finals and brought them back from a 3–1 series deficit to give the city its first major sports title in over a half-century. He brought the Cavs back to the Finals in 2017 and 2018, losing both times to the Dubs; in that time, he made four more All-NBA first teams, giving him a record 12. LBJ then left as a free agent, signing a four-year deal with the Lakers. In his first season in L.A., he suffered the first significant injury of his career, a groin injury that hampered him for a good chunk of the season, but still made the All-NBA third team, drawing him level with Kareem, Kobe, and Tim Duncan for the most All-NBA selections (15). He passed them the following year, extending his record for first-team nods (13), and led the Lakers to the NBA title. LBJ also claimed his fourth Finals MVP award, becoming the first player ever to win that award with three different franchises, and also broke Derek Fisher's record for most playoff games played and won.
    • James' incredible versatility have led to comparisons to multiple Hall of Famers of varying skill sets, from Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to Karl Malone and Oscar Robertson. Due to his athletic ability, he is one of the best slashers and finishers in basketball, having led the league in completed traditional three point plays during various points in his career. His size also allows him to rebound the ball effectively, and he regularly ranks among the league leaders in rebounds for his position. Furthermore, he is an unusually gifted passer for his position, averaging 10.2 assists per game during the 2019–20 campaign to lead the league in that category. Among his many great games include: dropping 48 points (including the last 30 for Cleveland and the game-winning layup) against the Pistons on a double-overtime Game 5 win (2007); 45 points against the Celtics in Game 7 (2008, a loss); 49 points against the Orlando Magic in Game 1 (2009, a loss); a game-winner against the Magic in the same playoffs (2009, Game 2); 43 points, 13 rebounds, 15 assists, two steals, and four blocks against the Denver Nuggets (2010, regular season loss); 40 points versus the Indiana Pacers (2012); and 45 points against the Celtics (2012). And, to top it all off, he led both teams in the 2016 Finals in points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocked shots—something that had never been done before in any playoff series. Even in defeat, he can still be enormously dominant—in the Cavs' 2017 Finals loss to the Dubs, he became the first player ever to average a triple-double in the Finals.
  • Anderson Varejão was an Ensemble Dark Horse in Cleveland from 2004 to 2016, earning the nickname "Wild Thing" because of his Wild Hair (that at times would be homaged by wig giveouts) and energetic and relentless style of play, that earned him an All-Defensive Second Team selection once. First Brazilian to play in the NBA Finals, when the Cavs lost in 2007 to the Spurs. With limited play and the Cavs needing cap space for new signings, was traded halfway through 2015-16, and eventually signed with the Warriors, which like the Cavs got all the way to the Finals, making Varejão the first guy who played for both finalists the same season. (Incidentally the cruel twist about it is that Varejão played for the also-rans in those 2015 & 2016 Finals.)
  • Kyrie Irving, a point guard out of Duke, was the first overall draft pick in 2011, and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012. When he plays isolation (one-on-one plays), he's more effective, but during his career with the Cavs his defense was, by NBA standards, mediocre at best. Born in Australia, as his dad was playing in the country's pro basketball league at the time—but his parents returned stateside when he was two years old, and he's played for Team USA at both youth and senior level. Named MVP of the 2014 FIBA World Cup. During the 2017 offseason, he stunned the league by reportedly demanding a trade, though it later came out that the Cavs had already been shopping him around and his "request" was more or less him forcing the issue. Irving was dealt to the Celtics that August. With the Celtics, he showed vast improvement on the defensive end; while still not a top-tier defender, he's no longer the liability he was in Cleveland. Following a rather disappointing 2018–19 season, including rumors of locker-room tension, he left as a free agent to join Kevin Durant in Brooklyn.
  • Kevin Love is a power forward who became the final cog in Cleveland's new "Big Three" when he arrived from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2014 offseason. Surprisingly, he's the last of the "Big Three" to remain in Cleveland, with Irving having been dealt to the Celtics in 2017 and LeBron leaving for the Lakers the next year. Drafted by Minnesota, Love was a key example of the new generation of "Stretch 4" playersnote ; he gained big notice when he ended up getting 30 points and 30 rebounds in a single game, which hadn't occurred (in the NBA) since The '80s. Play like this, and his array of highlight full-court passes and impressive outside shooting, resulted in Love being the shining beacon of hope in an otherwise gloom and doom team. With Love riding off the momentum of the 2010-11 season (where he won the Most Improved Player award), he had continued to provide the team great numbers to help the Timberwolves out, but never made it to the playoffs with them in spite of his performances. With free agency approaching, the Wolves opted to trade him to Cleveland.
    • Kevin is also notable as the son of former NBA player Stan Love... who in turn is the younger brother of Mike Love as well as first cousin to Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, all four being founding members of The Beach Boys.
    • Most recently, he's become one of the faces of a growing movement for mental health awareness in the league, opening up about his struggles with panic attacks and the therapy he's undergone to help him overcome them.

    Dallas Mavericks 
  • Dirk Nowitzki is a German-born player who spent his entire career with the Mavericks (unlike former teammate and best friend Steve Nash). One of his biggest claims to fame is that he holds the record for most seasons with a single NBA team (21). His other claim to fame in the NBA is his unorthodox style of playing; (he was one of the few power forwards who scored better from distance rather than by driving the paint) and his unblockable fadeaway jumpshot - with a height of 7 foot flat and a high jump of 13 inches with his right leg raised to create space (incidentally, the "wrong" leg for the right-handed Nowitzki) - anybody guarding Nowitzki could only pray that he missed the shot. His incredible career (multiple All-Star appearances, an MVP award, a Championship ring and so forth) spawned a great deal of interest in other European-born players. He decided before the 2018–19 season that he would retire at the end of that season, and made it official after the Mavs' final regular-season home game. Next stop: Springfield in 2023.note 
  • Luka Dončić is a swingman from Slovenia by way of Real Madrid,note  picked third in 2018 by the Hawks but immediately traded to the Mavs, with the Hawks receiving #5 pick Trae Young and a 2019 first-round pick. Dončić emerged as a potential star of the future at EuroBasket 2017, when he played a major role in leading Slovenia to a surprise championship, and followed it up the next season by being named the youngest MVP in the history of the EuroLeague. In his first season in the NBA, which turned out to be Nowitzki's last, he became only the fifth player to average 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists as a rookie. The others? Only some guys named Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. And Tyreke Evans. Dončić ended the season as Rookie of the Year, and further cemented himself as a generational talent before COVID-19 put the 2019–20 season on hold. He went on to make the All-NBA first team that season, as well as 2020–21. He has cemented himself in the Olympics as well, scoring 48 points in his debut in 2021 (against Argentina), the second-highest single-game performance in Olympic history.

    Denver Nuggets 
  • Dan Issel is a Hall of Fame forward–center who played most of his career with the Denver Nuggets in both the ABA and NBA. He arrived in the ABA in 1970 after a storied career at Kentucky which saw him leave as the Wildcats' all-time leading scorer, a distinction he holds to this day (at least on the men's side). Issel began his pro career just down Interstate 64 in Louisville with the Kentucky Colonels, leading the ABA in scoring as a rookie. He went on to make the ABA's All-Star Game in all five of his Colonels seasons, and capped off his Colonels career with a league title in 1975, alongside fellow former Wildcat Louie Dampier and the aforementioned Artis Gilmore (see Bulls folder). After the title season, he was traded to the Baltimore Claws, which folded before playing a game, and then went to Denver. He made two more All-Star Games in Denver (one ABA, one NBA), continued as a very productive player, and became an icon in the Mile High City even after retiring as a player in 1985. Issel went on to serve on the Nuggets' broadcast team, then had two stints as head coach and one as general manager. When he retired, his combined ABA–NBA point total was behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Julius Erving.
  • David Thompson is a Hall of Fame small forward and shooting guard who, like Issel, played most of his career with the Nuggets. Nicknamed "The Skywalker" because of his incredible vertical leap (he could jump high enough to touch the top of the backboard) which allowed him to throw down powerful dunks. Along with Julius Erving, he and his playing style helped to popularize the "high-flying, above-the-rim" game that the league became known for. Despite the emphasis on his dunks, Thompson was also a great, efficient shooter: his career 50% field goal percentage rivaled that of George Gervin, whom he frequently competed for the NBA's scoring title. Their frequent scoring battles led to Thompson becoming one of five people to score more than 70 points in a game, which he did against the Detroit Pistons on the final game of the season in 1978. Amazingly he had the potential to be even greater, but persistent problems with substance abuse and a severe injury to his knee at a nightclub in New York put an end to that. Despite all of this, he's probably more known today for being the idol of Michael Jordan, who has said that he looked up to Thompson in the way that people look up to Jordan himself. This admiration led to Jordan choosing Thompson as the person to introduce him for his Basketball Hall of Fame induction in 2009.
  • Alex English was the face of the high-scoring Nuggets teams of the 80s. Arriving in Denver at the turn of the decade, English thrived under the Nuggets' Glass Cannon playing style, averaging over 25 points for eight seasons straight, resulting in a scoring title in 1983 and being the highest scorer of the entire decade. He left Denver as the franchise's leader in points, assists, and games and minutes played, and was a member of the 1997 Hall of Fame class.
  • Nikola Jokić, a center from Serbia, is the current face of the Nuggets. He was picked by the Nuggets in the second round of the 2014 draft and stashed in Europe for a year, being named as MVP of the Adriatic Leaguenote  for the 2014–15 season. "Joker" was immediately seen as a future star, making the All-Rookie team in 2016. He went on to improve his per-game totals in points, rebounds, and assists in each of the next three seasons, emerging as a true superstar in the 2018–19 season and making the All-NBA first team. Jokić further cemented himself as one of the league's elite in 2020–21, when he was named MVP. While the 7-foot Jokić has the body of a typical inside banger—or at least did until he dropped a noticeable amount of weight during the league's COVID-19 hiatus—his greatest skill is his passing. In fact, when he's on the floor, the Nuggets now run their offense more through him than through any of their guards. He's now seen as a strong candidate for the best passing big man ever, with Arvydas Sabonis as one of his very few competitors.

    Detroit Pistons 
  • Dave Bing was a Hall of Fame guard who arrived from Syracuse in 1966 and immediately became a star, earning Rookie of the Year honors and leading the league in scoring in his second season. Bing made seven All-Star appearances in his nine seasons in Detroit before short stints in his hometown of Washington (two seasons) and finally Boston (one season). Though listed as a point guard, his playing style was somewhat ahead of his time, as he was much more of a scorer than typical ballhandlers of his era. After his retirement, he went into business supplying parts for the auto industry, with noticeable success. He later went on to serve as mayor of Detroit for a bit more than a full term,note  but during that time the city declared bankruptcy (in fairness, the city was falling apart long before he became mayor).
  • Bob Lanier was a Hall of Fame center who arrived from St. Bonaventure in 1970, joining Bing as the second face of the Pistons and becoming the face after Bing's departure from the Motor City. An eight-time All-Star, he averaged just over 20 points and 10 rebounds during his 14-year career. Was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks during the 1979–80 season, and helped lead the Bucks to division titles in each season until retiring in 1984. Also notable for his gigantic feet—visitors to the Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts can compare their feet to Lanier's U.S. size 22s.note 
  • Isiah Thomas, the leader of the Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons, was a very controversial figure. While initially lauded for his determination and playmaking, his popularity took a huge hit when he said that Larry Bird would be "just another guy" if he weren't white and refused to back down from his statements. He accepted his new villain role with open arms and became the general for the Bad Boys' aggressive style of play. He was infamous for his Hair-Trigger Temper, his rambunctious competitiveness, his trash-talking swagger and his dirty plays. He would often overreact to calls that went against him, commit hard-to-flagrant fouls on others and leave the court without shaking his opponents' hands; he was snubbed from the Dream Team due to his unpleasant on-court demeanor. Nevertheless, Isiah was the man who kept Michael Jordan from winning a championship three years in a row, from 1988 through 1990, twice in the conference finals. Isiah took his Bad Boys to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, winning two consecutive titles in 1989-1990 against Clyde Drexler and the Lakers (though they were without Magic Johnson), the latter of whom defeated the Pistons in 1988. However, they were eventually eclipsed by Jordan's Bulls in 1991 through 1993; Isiah himself retired soon after tearing his Achilles tendon in 1994. After retiring, earned an infamous reputation as a bad coach, and even worse executive with plenty of boneheaded decisions. He's also not to be mixed up with current Nuggets player Isaiah Thomas (see Celtics folder).
  • Joe Dumars was a combo guard, able to play at the point and run as a shooter. A tenacious defender who could average 23 points per game, Dumars and Thomas formed one of the deadliest backcourt duos at the time. Even Michael Jordan said that Dumars was the best defender that he's ever played against. A Hall of Famer, a six-time All-Star, a two-time champion and the 1989 Finals MVP, Dumars finished his Detroit career with 16,401 points, 4,612 assists, 2,203 rebounds and 902 steals. Despite being one of the Bad Boy Pistons, Dumars became personally known for his quiet and upstanding behavior. The trophy given to the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award is named for him.
  • Bill Laimbeer was a center, and in many ways, the face of the "Bad Boys" era. The most disliked player of his time. While highly popular among Piston fans, Laimbeer was despised by opposing players and fans for committing hard fouls himself, while seeming to bait officials into calling fouls on opponents by flopping to the ground after slight contact. A four-time All-Star and a two-time champion, Laimbeer finished among the league leaders in rebounding and free throw percentage several times, winning the rebound title in the 1985-86 season. His #40 jersey was retired by the Pistons. He's since gone on to a successful coaching career in the WNBA, coaching the Detroit Shocknote  to three championships, and is now head coach of the Las Vegas Aces. Had his own video game, the unusual future basketball title Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball, released for the Super Nintendo in 1991.
    • Fun fact: Early in Laimbeer's career, he joked that he was the only NBA player who made less than his dad (who was a top executive with the glass packaging company Owens-Illinois).
    • Fun fact #2: He played a Sleestak when he was a teenager.
  • Grant Hill was a small forward drafted third by the Pistons in 1994 out of Duke. He made an immediate impact, becoming the first rookie ever to lead All-Star Game fan balloting (though admittedly this was during MJ's first retirement), and also the first Piston since Bing to be the league's Rookie of the Year (though Hill had to share honors with Jason Kidd). Hill made five All-NBA teams in his first six years in the league. Illustrating his versatility, he was also only the third player to lead his team in points, rebounds, and assists in more than one season, doing so three times; Wilt Chamberlain (also three times) and Elgin Baylor (twice) preceded him, and Russell Westbrook and Giannis Antetokounmpo (twice each) have since joined the club. With free agency looming in 2000, he went to the Orlando Magic in a sign-and-trade deal. Sadly, an ankle injury that he had suffered near the end of his final regular season in Detroit and aggravated in that season's playoffs turned into injury hell. He played a total of 47 games in his first three seasons in Orlando, and after that missed the entire 2003–04 season after a major ankle surgery followed by a MRSAnote  infection. He finally got to play something approaching a full season in 2004–05, though hampered by an unrelated injury, and became an All-Star for the final time. Hill remained an effective though injury-prone player with the Magic, Suns, and Clippers until retiring in 2013 to the broadcast booth. Also notable as one of the nicest men in the sport, winning the NBA Sportsmanship Award three times. Now a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks and part of the Hall of Fame's Class of 2018.
  • Ben Wallace was an undersized centernote  who went undrafted in 1996, but made the roster of the then-Washington Bullets. After three seasons in Washington, the Wizards traded him to the Magic, and Wallace arrived in Detroit a year later as part of the Grant Hill trade. In Detroit, Wallace emerged as one of the league's most prolific rebounders and biggest defensive stars, leading the league in rebounding twice and blocks once and also being named the league's Defensive Player of the Year four timesnote . Later had stints with the Bulls and Cavaliers before returning to Detroitnote  to finish his career, retiring in 2012. Has played more games than any other undrafted player in NBA history. Now part of the ownership group of the Grand Rapids Gold, currently the Nuggets' G League affiliate. In 2021, he became the first undrafted NBA player of the modern era to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  • Tayshaun Prince is a small forward drafted by Detroit in 2002, and a key part of the Pistons during their 2004 championship run. An all-around player, but best known for his defense, best illustrated with his chase-down block of Reggie Miller in the 2004 playoffs. Was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, then the Celtics, and back to Detroit until the end of the 2015 season, he signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2015 offseason.
  • Chauncey Billups bounced around the league before joining the Pistons in 2002. There he became a respected player, that lead the Pistons to the 2004 title as Finals MVP, as well as six straight conference finals. After being traded to his hometown Nuggets and reaching yet another Conference Final (Billups is the only non-Celtics or Lakers player to get there seven years in a row), begun to get frequent injuries during the 2011 season in the Knicks, and helped the Clippers emergence before returning to the Pistons in 2013. He retired at the end of the 2013–14 season, went into broadcasting for a few years, and returned to the court in 2020 as an assistant for the Clippers, moving from there to become head coach of the Blazers in 2021.
  • Darko Miličić was a center drafted by Detroit in 2003. He's listed on this page not because he had a notable career, but because he is known as one of the biggest busts in league history, picked right between LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, but never becoming an All-Star-caliber player like them. Incidentally, he won a championship before any of them in his rookie season, as the Pistons were already a good team who had lucked into a good draft pick.
  • Rasheed Wallace was a power forward/center first drafted by Washington before going to Portland, Atlanta, and Detroit before winning his first title in 2004. Known for his colorful personality, shooting range, post moves, and propensity for technical fouls (ironically, he was one of the players who tried to break up the infamous "Malice at the Palace" brawl). The phrase "ball don't lie" (a.k.a. if a disputed foul call was made by the referees, the player will miss the free throws, because while the referees may lie, the ball doesn't) was made famous by him. Retired for a few years after a stint in Boston before finishing his playing career in New York, and was hired as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons during the 2013-14 season, but lasted only one season in that post. After an interlude as a high school coach in North Carolina, he entered college coaching in 2021 as an assistant under Penny Hardaway (see Orlando Magic folder) at Memphis.

    Golden State Warriors 
  • Nate Thurmond was a Hall of Fame power forward/center for the Warriors in the 60s and 70s. "Nate the Great" was a dominant scorer and rebounder, and the first player to record a quadruple-double (adding 12 blocks to a standard triple-double line). A native of Akron, Ohio, he was traded to the Chicago Bulls (ironically, just before the Warriors' 1975 title run) and finished his career with his hometown Cavaliers. Despite that, he remains primarily identified with the Warriors, and lived out his days in San Francisco (passing in 2016).
  • Rick Barry was a small forward who played for several teams in the 60s and 70s, but had his longest tenure and greatest success with Golden State. He was drafted by the then-San Francisco Warriors in 1965 and immediately impressed, but contract disputes led him to jump ship to the pre-merger ABA. He bounced around the league until a court injunction sent him back to the Warriors, where he settled in as the team's star and eventually led them to the 1975 NBA championship. Barry retired in 1980; despite his notoriously prickly personality and the occasional off-court controversy, he was a shoo-in Hall of Famer, one of the league's historically great scorers before the introduction of the 3-point line. Also famous for his unique free-throw style—he shot them granny-style (i.e, two-handed and underhand), which was popular in the early days of the game but had largely disappeared by his day. Since he was one of the league's best free-throw shootersnote , no one laughed for very long; to this day, his style is occasionally suggested as a way to help out notoriously poor free-throw shooters.
    • He's also the most famous member of a basketball family that dates back to the 1930s...
      • Barry's (first) father-in-law, Bruce Hale, played college ball in the 1930s and went on to play for three teams in the early days of the NBA. He then went into coaching, and eventually became Barry's coach at Miami of Florida.
      • His four sons with Hale's daughter Pam—Scooter, Jon, Brent, and Drew—all played professionally, and only Scooter didn't play in the NBA. Jon and Brent both played 14 seasons in the league, and Drew played in three. Brent was the most accomplished of the four, winning the 1996 Slam Dunk crown and two NBA titles with the Spurs. This made Rick and Brent the second father-and-son duo with NBA rings after Matt Guokas Sr. and Jr., later joined by the Waltons (Bill and Luke) and Thompsons (Mychal and Klay). Although Scooter didn't make it to the NBA, he had the longest professional career (17 years), and won NCAA, CBA, and Belgian league titles.
      • And he and his current wife Lynn (herself a former college player at William & Mary) have another son, Canyon, who finished his college career in 2017, playing three seasons at Charleston before playing his final season at Florida. Canyon was initially better known for combining his play with top-notch academic achievements, being named the top academic/athletic performer in D-I men's basketball in 2016–17. He's since picked up a gold medal in international competition as part of Team USA at the 2019 FIBA 3x3 World Cup.note 
  • Stephen Curry (pronounced "STEF-un") is the Warriors' point guard, son of former NBA guard and current Charlotte announcer Dell Curry. "Steph" first drew national attention in college, as a 3-point specialist leading small Davidson College to the NCAA Elite 8 in 2008, and the Warriors drafted him 7th overall in 2009. Early-career ankle injuries led many to consider him another bust for the hapless Warriors, but starting in the 2012-13 season, Curry's career took off on an upward trajectory. Initially labelled an "undersized shooting guard", he established himself as an accurate and creative passer, talented ball-handler, and even a capable defender - but it was his shooting that drew accolades. He broke Ray Allen's single-season three-point shooting record in 2013, and set a new one in each of the next three seasons, using a combination of quick release and improbable shooting range. In the 2014-15 season, he collected his first MVP award while leading the Warriors to their first championship in forty years, and then followed that up with one of the greatest offensive seasons in NBA history, becoming the first player ever to be unanimously voted as MVP. Currently in the prime of his career, Curry sits on a short list of contenders to the title of "best player in the league"—though he did miss most of the 2019–20 season to a broken wrist.
    • Steph's unique combination of scoring volume and shooting efficiency is the stuff of which basketball analysts' fantasies are made; the simplest way to explain his domination of the 3-point line is a single number. Before Curry, the record for three-point makes in a single season was held by legendary shooter Ray Allen, who hit an incredible 269 shots from deep. As of the 2015-16 season, Curry's record is 402.
  • Klay Thompson is a shooting guard, drafted 11th overall in 2011 out of Washington State. Like his backcourt partner Curry, he's a second-generation NBA playernote  best known for his 3-point shooting; together, they're referred to as the "Splash Brothers". Also like Curry, Thompson steadily improved with every season, going from a catch-and-shoot 3-point bomber with no inside game to a lockdown defender and versatile scorer. Klay is generally seen as the Warriors' #2, and first achieved national prominence when the Warriors refused to trade him for then-Timberwolves star Kevin Love and offered him a contract extension instead. Klay rewarded the team's faith by putting up career-high numbers, making his first NBA All-Star team, and going supernova in Sacramento to set a new all-time single-quarter scoring record. Sadly, he's since become a Glass Cannon, first tearing an ACL in the 2019 Finals and missing the entire 2019–20 season, and then tearing an Achilles, which cost him the entire 2020–21 season.
  • Draymond Green is the Warriors' power forward. A Saginaw native and four-year college player at Michigan State, Green was considered a classic "tweener", not quick or athletic enough to be a guard, not big or strong enough to be a forward. In the 2012 draft, the Warriors took a flier on him in the second round, where a useful bench player is generally considered a good draft result. Green's competitiveness and defensive smarts made him that useful bench player for Golden State, but when injury opened up the starting power forward position in the 2014-15 season, Green seized it with both hands and never looked back. He's since become arguably one of the league's best frontcourt players - a uniquely versatile defender who's been known to cover point guards and centers on the same play, and an unexpected offensive weapon for the Warriors, with a respectable jump shot and the ball-handling skills to serve as a release valve for Stephen Curry. But perhaps more than anything else, he's known as the Warriors' "heartbeat" - the team's vocal leader, competitive engine, and most brash, profane, and constant trash-talker.
  • Andre Iguodala is a small forward/shooting guard who was the role player, relatively speaking, of the Warriors dynasty's starting lineup. Iguodala started the first eight years of his career with the Sixers, where he earned himself an All-Star selection and two All-Defensive selections. Afterwards, he had a brief stint on the Nuggets before being traded to the Warriors. In his second season with Golden State, Iguodala was relegated to the bench for the first time in his career, but was promoted to a starting position in the Finals, where he successfully defended against LeBron and won Finals MVP, becoming the first regular season-long bench player to win the award. LeBron got his revenge, however, in the next Finals, where he made a decisive block on Iguodala's layup, which ultimately cost the Warriors another title. In the 2019 offseason, Iguodala was traded to the Grizzlies, and was in turn traded to the Heat in February 2020, not long before COVID-19 interrupted the season. After the 2020-21 season, he returned to Golden State after Miami declined to use their team option on his contract.
  • Kevin Durant is the heir apparent to Kobe and LeBron, a four-time leading scorer (three of them consecutively). Also the heir apparent to LeBron in another way, as we'll soon see. Playing with the Seattle SuperSonics for his first season, and then the following eight with the team after it became the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant is the youngest PPG leader in a season in the NBA's history, praised for his humble demeanor, his sharpshooting accuracy, his scoring efficiency and his public affection for his mother. As the franchise superstar in OKC, Durant's prowess was a major reason as to why the Thunder took a major leap forward in their development, along with his then-teammates in Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka. Ironically, prior to his inception into the NBA, Durant's lanky figure prompted many to view him as a draft bust, whereas the guy drafted before him, Greg Oden, was an athletic big man (a rarity in this day and age). Ultimately, Oden had a Game-Breaking Injury, and is now viewed as the bust instead. In his earlier years, Durant went through a Training from Hell so vicious that he actually considered quitting basketball twice; his trainer often put him in situations that didn't involve basketball, and for all that, he was repeatedly overlooked by scouts and recruiters, apparently due to his lanky figure. The only reason he even stayed was because his mother pushed him to stick with it, who taught him the work ethic he has now. He wears the "35" number on his jersey as a tribute to his AAUnote  coach, who was murdered prior to seeing Durant drafted to the NBA. Throughout his time as a Thunder player, Durant and Westbrook are largely seen as a Red Oni, Blue Oni dynamic, with Durant as Blue and Westbrook as Red. Also a Friendly Enemy of LeBron James; the two trained in the offseason during the 2011 lockout, though Durant admits that he's uncomfortable playing with LeBron in the 2012 Olympics, since he's still reeling from his loss to the Heat in the 2012 Finals. In the 2012–13 season, Durant became the sixth player in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 club. At the time, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki (both now retired) were members among active players; he's since been joined in the club by Curry (in 2015–16) and Malcolm Brogdon (2018–19). When he became a free agent at the end of the 2015–16 season, he took a page from LeBron's book, leaving his first NBA team for one of the league's strongest. Durant then became the league's designated villain, much like LeBron during his time in Miami... especially to fans in OKC. Not to be confused with the fifth generation Pokémon of the same name. Took away some of the spotlight from Steph and Company upon his arrival, not that it really mattered to them... especially after the Dubs won the title in both of KD's first two seasons, with KD claiming Finals MVP honors both times. During the final season of his Golden State contract in 2018–19, he struggled with a calf injury late in the season, and missed the first four games of the NBA Finals. He came back for Game 5, only to tear his Achilles, ruling him out until 2020–21. Signed with Brooklyn during the 2019 offseason. Similar to Dominique Wilkins, he is one of the few players to recover from an Achilles injury with nary an impact on his performance; bringing eventual champion Milwaukee to seven games (with James Harden and Kyrie Irving hobbled by injuries in some of them) in the second round of the 2021 playoffs, and leading the US Team to another gold in the 2020 Olympics.
  • JaVale McGee is a journeyman now with the Suns, his eighth team (preceded by the Wizards, Nuggets, Sixers, Mavs, Dubs, Lakers, Cavaliers, and Nuggets again). McGee has been known mainly for bone-headed plays like these. He's listed with Golden State because he flipped the script on his career once joining the team at the same time as Durant. During his two seasons in Oakland, he not only won rings in both seasons, but went from serviceable backup to part-time starter (and during his Lakers tenure, full-time starter at center), cutting down greatly on said bone-headed plays along the way. He also won a gold medal in the 2020 Olympics alongside his current teammate Devin Booker in Japan after being a last-minute replacement for Kevin Love for that team. With his mother winning a gold medal in 1984 for women's basketball, JaVale and his mother Pamela became the first mother-son duo to ever win Olympic gold medals for their respective careers.

    Houston Rockets 
  • Hakeem Olajuwon, a legendary center, was drafted #1 by the Houston Rockets in 1984 out of the University of Houston,, the same draft that included Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton. He used to be a soccer player before getting into basketball. Nicknamed "The Dream" for his grace on and off the court, Olajuwon formed the first pair of Twin Towers with the 7'4" (2.24 m) Ralph Sampson, leading the Rockets to the 1986 Finals, losing in six games to Larry Bird's Celtics. After Sampson was traded to the Warriors in 1988, Olajuwon became the Rockets' undisputed leader. He led the league in rebounding twice (1989, 1990) and blocks three times (1990, 1991, 1993). After he was very nearly traded away during a contract dispute in 1992, the Dream delivered. He won the 1994 and 1995 Finals against Ewing's Knicks and Shaq's Magic, sweeping the latter and taking the former to seven games; he won the Finals MVP both times. In the 1993–94 season, he became the only player in NBA history to win the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP awards in the same season. To stay true to his Islamic faith, Olajuwon fasted during daylight hours for one month during Ramadan, which in certain years coincided with the NBA season. During one of the Ramadan months, February 1995, he won NBA player of the month. He retired in 2002 after a final season with the Raptors.
  • Yao Ming was drafted first in the 2002 Draft due to his championship winning performance with the CBA's Shanghai Sharks, and he played rather well for a few years until various leg injuries sidelined him for the second half of his career, ultimately causing his retirement in 2011 due to a game-breaking, career-ending foot injury. However, his mere presence in the NBA dramatically increased basketball's popularity in his native China (with many Chinese people being fans of the Houston Rockets for obvious reasons), and has done massive amounts of charity work after major Chinese disasters. Most star centers in the league have been 6'9" to 7'2" - the 7'6" (2.29 m) Yao might have actually been too tall to be truly great at basketball, as despite being much more mobile and less awkward than any previous players in his height range, his feet and leg joints just didn't seem to be able to take all the stress resulting from his size. These physical problems have been used to criticizes China's sport-academy system (for more, see below). Yao retired in 2011; because of his extensive humanitarian work and his major role in the growth of the game in China, he was touted as a potential entrant into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor, before he became eligible for induction as a player 5 years after retirement. After a change in the Hall's induction rules to effectively trim a year off the induction process for all former players, making Yao eligible for the 2016 class instead of the 2017 class, he was elected to the Hall as a player that year.note  He's now the president of the Chinese Basketball Association... and the Chinese Basketball Association.note 
  • Tracy McGrady was a swingman whose best years were with the Magic, though he's most well-known for his tenure with the Rockets, which included a 13-point comeback in the last 33 seconds of a game. A prep-to-pro whose early years were wasted on the Raptors bench, McGrady signed with the Magic to escape the shadow of his cousin Vince Carter and became an All-Star, earning the Most Improved award in his first year in Orlando. When he was traded to the Rockets, T-Mac formed a formidable duo with Yao Ming, though injuries to the both of them prevented Houston from getting out of the first round. Afterwards, he bounced around the league and even played in China, before retiring as a member of the 2013 Spurs who lost in the Finals; it was the only time he played outside of the first round. Was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.
  • James Harden, a shooting guard now with the Nets, was the third wheel of the OKC Big 3 (next to Durant and Westbrook), generally coming off the bench to reinforce his teammates; he later earned the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2012. As the first player ever drafted by the Thunder (Seattle got Durant, Ibaka and Westbrook first), Harden quickly improved his play, scoring an average of 16.8 (compared to 9.9 in his first and 12.2 in his second) during his third season, despite only starting in two games. His most famous play was when he scored a game-winning three-pointer in the finals seconds of Game 5 versus San Antonio in the 2012 Western Conference Finals. Famous for his beard, which he grew 'cause he was too lazy to shave. Despite his offensive prowess, there was a lot of talk that Harden might leave the Thunder after the 2013 season, due to both himself and Ibaka having large contracts that could put the Thunder in a bad economic spot. In fact, Harden was traded to the Rockets before the start of the 2012-13 season so he could get a max contract and start there, while the Thunder reinforced their bench. Harden's style of play reflects the increasingly analytic nature of the league, as he primarily takes shots from beyond the arc, in the lane, and draws many free throw attempts (a stat in which he was second to former teammate Durant in the 2012-13 season). Harden was named MVP in 2018 after a season in which he led the league in scoring and was third in assists, also leading the Rockets to the league's best regular-season record. This made him only the second player (after Bill Walton) to be named Sixth Man of the Year and MVP in his career. In late 2020, he requested and got a trade out of Houston, going to Brooklyn (and reuniting with KD) in a four-team megadeal that also involved the Cavs and Pacers. The Rockets got four future first-round picks and three players, the most notable of whom was Victor Oladipo from the Pacers. Current shooting foul rules in the NBA were implemented as of the 2021-22 season in part due to Harden infamously goading for forced fouls for free-throws to shoot on a constant basis.

    Indiana Pacers 
  • Roger Brown was the original Indiana Pacer. Like Connie Hawkins (below), he was a New York high school star who was banned by the NBA for his association with notorious basketball fixer Jack Molinas (and as with Hawkins, there was never any real evidence of wrongdoing on Brown's part). When the ABA was formed in 1967, he was working in a GM plant, and was the first player the Pacers management sought out and signed. He won the playoff MVP award when the Pacers won their first championship in 1970, scoring 53, 39, and 45 points in the final three games against the L.A. Stars. When the team won their second championship in '72 against the New York Nets, he went head-to-head with Rick Barry and outscored him in the final game 32 to 23. The Pacers won another championship in 1973. The NBA later lifted his ban, but he preferred to remain with the Pacers and the ABA before retiring in 1975, one year before the Pacers were placated to move to the NBA. He has since had his number retired with Indiana and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2013.
  • Reggie Miller was the face of the Indiana Pacers during The '90s and early 2000s and one of the greatest three-point scorers in the history of the league. Famous for his perimeter sharpshooting that came in useful in sealing games; he even earned the nickname "Knick Killer" for his classic game-winners against New York and even posted game-winners over Michael Jordan, taking the Bulls to the full seven games in the '98 conference finals, one of six he played in. However, he only actually made it to the 2000 Finals and never won a championship. Noted for his frequent taunting of film director Spike Lee, a Knick fan and owner, most notably by flashing him the choke sign. A five-time All-Star, the former league leader in three-pointers, and a Hall of Famer, he spent his entire 18-year career with the Pacers; his #31 jersey was retired by the team. Also notable for being right in the middle of the Basketbrawl between the Pacers and the Pistons; he was suspended for one game. With major suspensions to Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen Jackson and Ron Artest, Miller averaged nearly 20 points per game for stretches of the season, including 39 points at the age of 39 against the Lakers. His final game ever was at Indiana, where he scored 27 points, making 11 out of 16 field goals including four of eight three-pointers. When he was taken out with 15.7 seconds to play, Reggie was given a standing ovation, even by the referees, and more poignantly, the opposing players (namely, the Pistons - yeah, the same "Basketbrawl" team earlier that year).
    • His accomplishments are particularly noteworthy. There was the time he scored 57 points against the Charlotte Hornets in a 134–122 win. During the 1994 playoffs, he scored 39 points (25 in the fourth quarter alone) in a Game 5 win against the Knicks, at Madison Square Garden. During Game 1 of the 1995 playoffs, with the Pacers trailing 105–99 with 18.7 seconds left, he scored a three-pointer, stole the inbounds pass, ran back to the three-point line and hit another three to tie the game in all of 5.4 seconds. After John Starks was fouled in the ensuing possession, Starks uncharacteristically missed both free throws; Ewing grabbed the ball for a shot, but it hit the back rim, leading to Reggie grabbing the rebound, getting fouled and making his free throws to give the Pacers their final victory margin. During the 1998 Conference Finals, Reggie scored two game-winners over Michael Jordan, once in Game 3 and another in Game 4, again by stealing the inbounds pass and scoring the game-winning three pointer. He extended it to a seventh game before bowing out in the final two minutes. During the 2000 Conference Finals, Reggie scored 34 points, with 17 in the fourth quarter, to defeat the Knicks one final time before reaching the Finals, where he defeated the Lakers by 33 points in Game 5.
    • He and his older sister Cheryl, a college basketball legend who played about a decade before the WNBA started, are the only sibling pair inducted as players into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. (The other sibling pair in the Hall, Dick and Al McGuire, were inducted respectively as a player and a coach.)
  • Paul George was the tenth pick of the 2010 Draft. Although he had two solid seasons in his first two years, he would break out in his third season following an injury to Danny Granger. He made the All-Star game, the All-NBA team, and broke Reggie Miller's franchise record for most three-pointers made in a game on his way to win the 2013 Most Improved Player award. However, he suffered a gruesome broken leg while preparing for the 2014 Basketball World Cup, and didn't return until the last month of the 2014–15 regular season. George has since returned to close to his pre-injury self. He was then traded in the 2017 offseason to the Thunder, mainly so the Pacers would get something in return for him, since he was to become a free agent in 2018. Despite George's well-known ties to L.A. (he grew up in the northern L.A. County suburb of Palmdale), he agreed to a four-year deal to stay in OKC. PG would wind up in L.A. after only one season of that deal, being dealt to the Clippers to join fellow L.A.-area native Kawhi Leonard.

    Los Angeles Clippers 
  • Blake Griffin was the first pick of the 2009 draft, but a knee injury kept him out of the ground for a whole season. But then came his first game. And his first dunk. And many others after that, which helped turn his Los Angeles Clippers into a team that actually fills the arena every game. His spectacular dunks earned him an All-Star spot in his first season in the league — even LeBron wasn't one for his rookie season. Griffin has continued to make All-Star teams, regularly in the starting lineup, and become a more versatile player with a reliable jump shot. By his last year in L.A., he had started to become fairly dependable from behind the three-point line. However, the Clips decided to blow up their roster during the 2017–18 season, trading Griffin to the Pistons. After Detroit bought his contract out in 2020, he signed with the Brooklyn Nets. If Durant could be considered Kobe's heir, Griffin is believed by some to be Shaq's. It helped that until recently he had a reliable point guard in...
  • Chris Paul was originally drafted by the New Orleans Hornets (although he began with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets due to the unfortunate event of Hurricane Katrina). His passing, ball-handling, and court vision rank with all-time greats like Magic Johnson and Steve Nash, and he's generally agreed to be one of the best at the position, to the point of the nickname "Point God" catching on. Paul was at one point slated to be traded to the Lakers, but due to "basketball reasons"note , he was sent to the Clippers instead. His arrival, paired with rising star Blake Griffin, created the "Lob City" sensation and catapulted the Clippers from mediocrity to perennial contention. Paul signed an extension and settled in as the Clippers' leader for the long haul but was traded to the Rockets in the 2017 offseason. Reports vary about what led Paul to demand a trade, but all center around coach Doc Rivers' use of his son Austin (immediately below). What is known is that Paul, who had one year left on his contract but also a player option to become a free agent, told the Clips if they didn't trade him, he'd opt out of his deal and leave the team with nothing for his departure. After two seasons in Houston, he was packaged with several future draft picks and traded to Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook in the 2019 offseason. After a bounce-back 2019–20 season that saw him make the All-NBA second team, the Thunder sent him and another player to the Suns, getting four players (including Ricky Rubio) and a future first-round pick. Paul took the Suns to his first ever Finals appearance in 2021 but ultimately came up short; he currently ranks up with Barkley, Nash, and Malone for best players ever to never win a title (two of those three coincidentally also being Suns players themselves). He is currently the only player in NBA history to get both over 20,000 points and 10,000 in an NBA career, which easily made him worthy of a spot for the NBA 75 in 2021. Paul was also once the president of the NBA Players' Union, lasting at his tenure from 2013-2021 before resigning to let C.J. McCollum take over going forward.
  • Austin Rivers is a point guard, son of former NBA player and current Sixers head coach Doc Rivers, drafted 10th by the then-Pelicans out of Duke in 2012. Started out as a bench player, eventually becoming a starter, but is perhaps best known for being the first player in league history to play for his father, which came about during the 2014–15 season when he joined the Clips after a series of two trades within three days. He was dealt to the Wizards after the 2017–18 season, then the Suns (where he was waived), and finally signed with the Rockets in the same season, where he stayed for two years before joining the Knicks in 2020.

    Los Angeles Lakers 
  • George Mikan was the man responsible for making basketball a sport for big men, due to his rebounding, shot blocking, and creating the "Mikan Drill" which is still used by many high school & college teams today. This ended up resulting in some new rules that are still around to this day (i.e., the shot clock). He was considered the original "best ever" and a founding father for the sport, even earning the nickname "Mr. Basketball". In his entire career, he won two championships with the NBL (one of which was from his original team the Chicago American Gears, a team who would've been forgotten in the halls of time otherwise), one for the BAA, and four with the NBA, an All-Star MVP, three scoring titles, and was a part of the first four NBA All-Star games and the last All-BAA and first five All-NBA Teams. After his days of playing were over, he ended up coaching the Minneapolis Lakers, creating the ABA, a league that gave the NBA a scare for their money; and was vital for creating the Minnesota Timberwolves, which is especially notable since a statue of him is found near their home arena.note 
  • Jerry West was one of the superstars of his time, often combining for 70 points a game with fellow Laker Elgin Baylor. A ten-time All-Star, one-time scoring leader, five-time All-NBA Defensive Team member and a one-time NBA Champion, West led the Lakers to nine NBA Finals appearances in the 1960s and 1970s. Known as "Mr. Clutch" for his ability to score buzzer-beating game-winners, and "The Logo" since his likeness is the basis of the NBA's official logo. He's the only player to have ever been awarded the Finals MVP award despite losing in the NBA Finals (against the Celtics). As general manager of the Lakers, he was the one who brought Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal together, leading to a three-peat not seen since Michael Jordan in the 90s. Among his accolades was an all-time scoring total of 25,192 points, 6,238 assists and 5,366 rebounds in 932 games, translating to an average of 27.0 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game. Among retired players, only Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain surpass his 27.0 points per game average. He led the Lakers in scoring in seven seasons, and was universally seen as one of the greatest clutch players in NBA history; only Jordan had a higher career scoring average in the playoffs (33.5 versus 29.1).
  • Elgin Baylor was the first draft pick of the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958, partnered with Jerry West. The forerunner of all the reverse layups, hesitation moves, jump shots and spinning moves you see regularly in any given NBA game, Baylor was a gifted shooter, strong rebounder, and an accomplished passer. Renowned for his acrobatic maneuvers on the court, Baylor regularly dazzled Lakers fans with his trademark hanging jump shots. The NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959, and an 11-time NBA All-Star, he is regarded as one of the game's all-time greatest players. He finished his playing days with 23,149 points, 3,650 assists and 11,463 rebounds over 846 games. His signature running bank shot, which he was able to release quickly and effectively over taller players, led him to numerous NBA scoring records, several of which still stand. The 61 points he scored in game 5 of the NBA Finals in 1962 is still an NBA Finals record. Unfortunately, he retired from basketball just before West won his only championship; Baylor remains one of those ring-less greats.
  • Wilt Chamberlain was nicknamed "The Stilt", which he thought sounded lame, and "The Big Dipper", which he liked. He's a serious entrant into the "best ever" debate, being an offensive juggernaut that took entire teams to contain him. Among his accolades: the only player to average more than 40 or 50 points a game in a season, and he has the only 100-point NBA game to his credit. Cut each of those numbers roughly in half and you'll get some of his similarly-unparalleled rebound records, and he even led the league in assists one year. He has the only "double triple-double" (at least 20 in three statistical categories) in NBA history, and long held the record for most consecutive triple-doubles (9) until Russell Westbrook broke it in 2019. He has four MVP trophies and two rings to his name. He's also infamous for the claim that he slept with over 20,000 women; people close to him note that this is only probably an exaggeration.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is another one of the players in serious contention for "best ever". He has six MVP awards, six championships, and is currently the league's all-time leading scorer. He was born Lew Alcindor, but converted to Islam during his legendary college career at UCLA, and changed his name after his second season in the league with the Milwaukee Bucks. In 1975, he was traded to the L.A. Lakers, and played there for the remaining 13 years of his career. Best known for the "sky hook" shot, being nigh-unto-unstoppable, and playing co-pilot Roger Murdock in Airplane!
  • Earvin "Magic" Johnson was one of the dominant players of the '80s. Played for the Lakers after being selected at #1 in the 1979 Draft. The Rival and a Friendly Enemy to Larry Bird, it's largely his rivalry with Bird that caused the Lakers to be notched as rivals with the Celtics. He won 3 MVP awards and 5 championships and remains the NBA's all-time leader in average assists per game. He retired in the early '90s when he revealed he was HIV positive at a time when many thought such a diagnosis was a death sentence; his subsequent activism and his very survival for nearly three decades helped to dispel the myth that AIDS was exclusively a disease that affected the LGBT community and raise funds and awareness for its treatment. After his retirement, he played on the 1992 All Star Game and the famed Dream Team. He returned to coach for the Lakers for a few games back in 1994 and played one more year for the team in 1996 before officially calling it quits; he would later return to the organization as its president in the late '10s. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
    • Magic is, incidentally, the reason that Michigan State University—his alma mater—is very much a basketball school: before him, it was a typical Midwestern farmboy-football institution, but after him, basketball commands a more fanatical and widespread fandom. He still shows up at important MSU games, which is considered by Spartans to be something poignant—not just in the fact that he remembers them, but that he's still alive to remember them. Also, his rivalry with Bird dates from his time at MSU, back when Bird was at Indiana State (the two teams played for the national title in 1979, with Michigan State winning in the last college game for both players).
  • James Worthy was a small forward, drafted 1st overall by the Lakers; Los Angeles got him from a coin toss. Thriving in the Magic-led fast-break offense, Worthy immediately made an impact as a rookie, averaging 13.4 points per game and shooting a Laker rookie record .579 field goal percentage. Beyond just finishing a fast break with his trademark Statue of Liberty dunks or swooping finger rolls, Worthy was also one of the best baseline post players at the small forward position, with a quick spin move and a deadly turnaround jump shot. His nickname was "Big Game James", he continued to average over 20 points per game, even achieving triple double effort of 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 7, earning the Finals MVP as a result. A three-time champion and seven-time All-Star, Worthy's #42 was retired by Los Angeles, and he was elected into the Hall of Fame.
  • Shaquille O'Neal, drafted 1st overall in 1992, was a center famed for his overwhelming dominance. Started off with the Orlando Magic, then signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in the late '90s, where he won 3 titles alongside Kobe Bryant. He bounced around from team to team after that, but aside from a fourth championship with the Miami Heat, a growing weight problem and the natural deterioration of players his size reduced his effectiveness. He played in 15 All-Star games, and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996 (which some at the time felt was premature, though there's little doubt he's earned the title since). He somehow managed to only win one MVP award, despite coming in seventh in all-time MVP voting (everyone ahead of him on that list won the award at least three times). One of the most popular players in league history, Shaq has had a massive media presence both during and after his career. He's done some acting and released a couple of rap albums (his debut album went platinum and spun off two Top 40 hits!). He retired after the 2010-11 season, after playing a single injury-plagued season with the Boston Celtics. Currently, he's an announcer for the NBA on TNT (where he has developed a comical-to-other-people rivalry with Charles Barkley) as well as a host for Cartoon Network's attempt at an award show for professional sports players. He was elected to the Hall of Fame at his first chance in 2016, and his number was retired by the Lakers in 2017.
  • Kobe Bryant was a very skilled guard who played his entire career for the Lakers, praised for his one-track determination and work ethic. Heralded as the heir to Michael Jordan, Bryant won five championship rings. When he was a rookie after being traded from the Charlotte Hornets, Kobe had a very strained relationship with Shaq, but they managed to achieve three consecutive championships, the first in modern years since Michael Jordan. During the short time where he had to lead the team on his own, he ended up scoring the second-largest amount of points for an NBA player with 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. And some believe that that wasn't even his most impressive performance of the season, with the time he went One-Man Army by singlehandedly outscoring the eventual Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters rivaling it. Nicknamed the Black Mamba, Kobe became the leader and the face of the Lakers, winning two more rings in 2009 and 2010 with Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest. Kobe owned a lot of the league's "youngest-to" records, until LeBron arrived in the league. His final season of 2015–16 marked his 20th with the Lakers, breaking the league record for longest single-team tenure previously held by John Stockton with the Jazz (see below), a record later surpassed by Dirk Nowitzki with the Mavs. While the Lakers went through the franchise's worst season ever, Kobe continued to put on a show, going out in style with a 60-point performance in his final game. Bryant was also the first player in the history of any sport to have two separate numbers retired by the same team—in December 2017, the Lakers retired the #8 he wore for his first 10 seasons and the #24 he wore for his last 10. Post-retirement, Bryant became an advocate for women's and girls' basketball, spurred by his daughter Gianna's interest in the sport. Bryant was tragically killed on January 26, 2020, along with Gianna and seven others, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, a shade more than two months before he was announced as a 2020 Hall of Fame inductee.note  The NBA postponed the Lakers' next game (which would have been the third matchup of that season against the Clippers) in the wake of his death, and the teams that played from the day of his death onwards honored him by deliberately forcing a 24-second shot clock violation or an 8-second back-court violation on their first possession, in reference to his jersey numbers.
  • Ron Artest, who changed his name to Metta World Peace then changed it again to Metta Sandiford-Artest after retirement, is a rather controversial character, infamous for his tendency toward violence, most especially in the infamous Malice at the Palace where as a member of the Pacers he jumped onto the stands and sucker-punched a Pistons fan, leading to a massive fight. In the aftermath, he was suspended for the whole season and became an unapologetic loudmouth while out of action. He became a pariah in Detroit, and was traded to Sacramento shortly thereafter. He eventually got into anger management therapy, and it has largely helped mellow him out, but he still has his temper, leading to him elbowing James Harden in the neck during a regular season game. A Cloud Cuckoolander to the max, he got his start with the Pacers, but went to the Lakers and got a ring with Kobe in 2010, shooting a game-winning three-pointer after Kobe passed him the ball. Amnestied by the Lakers after the 2012–13 season to clear his salary from the books, and then signed by the Knicks. After one season there, he couldn't catch on with an NBA team and left for China; after the 2014–15 Chinese season ended in February, he then went to a short-term stint in Italy's Serie A (no, not ''that'' one). Returned to the Lakers in 2015 for bench depth and mentoring the team's young talent. The team was reportedly considering putting him on its coaching staff in 2016–17, but those plans were put on hold when he made the opening-day roster. He finally retired after that season, but stayed in the Lakers organization as a member of its G League coaching staff. He's also becoming one of the NBA's most vocal advocates of mental health awareness, which might end up being his most lasting legacy in the sport.

    Memphis Grizzlies 
  • Pau and Marc Gasol are Spanishnote  brothers, both 7'1"/2.15 m Barcelona natives, who have become one of the best-known sibling pairs in NBA history.
    • Pau, older by about 4 1/2 years, was developed in the youth system of FC Barcelona's basketball section.note  He played with the Barça senior side for three seasons, leading them to the ACBnote  and Spanish Cup titles in his final season there in 2000–01. Immediately after that season, he left for the NBA and the Grizzlies, winning Rookie of the Year honors. He went on to establish himself as an outrageously skilled player for his size, combining strong inside play, an even stronger midrange game, and very good interior defense. Moved to the Lakers after the 2007–08 season and had even greater success, with two championships. Declined somewhat due to age and the Lakers' collapse in the 2010s; moved to the Bulls after the 2013–14 season and had something of a resurrection there, earning his fifth All-Star and fourth All-NBA selections. Left Chicago for the Spurs after the 2015–16 season, where he partially filled the shoes of the now-retired Tim Duncan until shortly after the 2019 All-Star break. By that time, he was seeing fewer and fewer minutes, and the Spurs bought out his contract (with Gasol himself chipping in a couple of million to help their cap situation) so he could move to the Bucks and make a more serious Finals run with Giannis and company. He would suffer a foot injury shortly after joining the Bucks, and then went to the Blazers, who waived him early in the 2019–20 season while he was rehabbing. Pau returned home during the 2020–21 season, signing with Barça in hopes of one last Olympic appearance for Spain, eventually making the team for the delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021, during which he was elected to a seat on the International Olympic Committee for a term that ends at the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Gasol announced his retirement that October. Also known as one of the more cultured players in the league's history—speaks five languages (two of which he taught himself), deeply enjoys classical music and opera, and in fact wanted to be a doctor, going so far as to start medical studies in Barcelona before basketball got in the way.
    • Marc arrived in the US at the same time as Pau; his parents moved from Barcelona to Memphis, bringing Marc and their younger brothernote  along. Marc graduated from high school in Memphis, after which he returned to Spain to play professionally, first at Barça and later at Girona. After being named ACB MVP in the 2007–08 season, he returned to Memphis at the same time Pau left for the Lakers. Marc has since developed into one of the league's better big men, being named Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 (despite NOT being named to the All-Defensive first team) and first-team All-NBA in 2015. He began his NBA career as more of a pure inside player than Pau, but later developed a decent three-point shot, becoming one of an increasing number of "stretch fives"note  in the league. He remained in Memphis until the 2019 trade deadline, when the Grizzlies decided to blow up their roster and dealt him to the Raptors, then gunning for an NBA Finals spot and trying to persuade Kawhi Leonard to stay with them long-term. Marc got his own championship ring with the Raptors, and followed that up a few months later with a gold medal with Spain in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. He returned to the Lakers in the 2020 offseason as a free-agent signee, and after the 2020–21 season returned to Spain to play for Bàsquet Girona, a successor club to the now-defunct club that he played for before joining the Grizzlies. Marc founded the phoenix club in 2014 and still owns it.
  • Mike Conley is the point guard who was triggerman of the Grizzlies' "Grit and Grind" era, spending his first 12 seasons in Memphis before being traded to the Jazz in the 2019 offseason. The son of Olympic triple jump gold medalist Mike Conley Sr., he was picked #4 overall out of Ohio State in 2007, and established himself as a reliable scorer, passer, and team leader. Unfortunately, he's been a classic example of Overshadowed by Awesome, as he's spent his entire career in the same conference as undeniably great PGs such as Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, just to name a few. It took him 14 seasons to make his first All-Star Game in 2021, the longest wait in league history for a first-time All-Star, and even then, he only made the roster as an alternate for the injured Devin Booker (mentioned below for Phoenix). Conley is also noted as a class act on the court—he's received the NBA Sportsmanship Award three times, was named the league's Teammate of the Year, and has never received a technical foul once.note 
  • Zach Randolph was a power forward and center whose best years came with the Grizzlies from 2009 to 2017. After spending his early years with the turbulent early-2000's Portland Trail Blazers, where he put up 43 points in his last game with the team, he bounced through a series of trades before landing in Memphis, where he made an immediate impact and epitomized the "Grit and Grind" style of aggressive defense that would define the Grizzlies for most of the 2010s and land them seven straight trips to the playoffs, including a stunning first-round upset over the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in 2011. Z-Bo represented Memphis twice at the All-Star Game and was the first Grizzly ever to be named an All-NBA Player, making the Third Team in 2011. After his Memphis contract expired, Randolph headed to the Sacramento Kings, where he played his last full season in the NBA and made his 10,000th career rebound. The Grizzlies informally retired his #50 jersey after he left, making him the first player in team history to receive the honor. Memphis would later make it official in a future ceremony in the 2021-22 season.
  • Ja Morant is a point guard that despite once being teammates with power forward Zion Williamson (mentioned below for New Orleans) was never taken as a serious option for Division I college status, selecting Murray State University over options like Duquesne, South Carolina State, Maryland Eastern Shore, and Wofford. While he remained under the radar in his freshman season, Morant quickly became a high-riser for the NBA in his sophomore season, becoming both the first player ever to get a season average of 20+ points and 10 assists for a season and the first natural mid-major university player to get drafted in the top five since the late 1990s.note  Once he got selected by Memphis, he quickly proved that his success at Murray State was no fluke, proving to be a quick star to help the Grizzlies return to respectability again once they lost their quartet of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen. His consistently good success at Memphis led to them being a playoff contender once again.

    Miami Heat 
  • Alonzo Mourning was a center, and perhaps the only true center for the Heat. His #33 jersey has been retired by Miami, and he entered the Hall of Fame in 2014. Paired with Tim Hardaway, his tenacity on defense twice earned him NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award twice, as well as 7 All-Star appearances. He was the centerpiece of the Pat Riley-coached Miami Heat, averaging close to 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, and dominating the paint with his intimidating shot-blocking. Known for his intensity and standoffish demeanor, Alonzo was disliked by many, and Hardaway kept trying to calm him down during some of his more explosive moments. Was The Rival to Larry Johnson, a member of the New York Knicks and a former teammate in Charlotte. Before the 2000-01 season, Mourning was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a rare kidney disease that leaked protein into the urine, and he had a kidney transplant in December 2003. Nevertheless, he still had his trademark tenacity and defensive prowess, even as he was reduced to a backup role. At the twilight of his career, he won his only ring with the Heat in 2006, and his #33 jersey was the first that the Heat chose to retire (his teammate below was the second).
    • Here's some miscellaneous facts about 'Zo. When Miami faced a 0-3 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals, Alonzo guaranteed a Game 4 victory, which the Heat actually won, even though he ultimately lost the series. During the 1998 playoffs against the Knicks, Alonzo got into a "fight" with former Hornets teammate Larry Johnson, leading to a scuffle that resulted in Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy hanging onto Alonzo's leg. As for some clever trivia, he was drafted 2nd overall by the Charlotte Hornets, just after Shaquille O'Neal was picked first in that same draft. Finished second to Shaq for rookie of the year voting. Both would play together for the Heat during their 2006 championship season.
  • Tim Hardaway was a point guard most famous for playing with the Miami Heat from 1996 to 2001; his #10 jersey has been retired, and it's now hanging on their arena. Originally a member of the Golden State Warriors, Hardaway was responsible for leading the fast break, displaying his excellent passing and one-on-one skills to complement Mitch Richmond's slashing and Chris Mullin's shooting. A five-time All-Star, Hardaway averaged 18 to 23 points and 8 to 10 assists per game; he reached 5,000 points and 2,500 assists faster than any player in NBA history, after Oscar Robertson. Joining Miami in 1996, Hardaway formed a power-duo with Alonzo Mourning, and in many ways, was the Stockton to Mourning's Karl Malone. Hardaway's game-winner versus the Orlando Magic gave the Heat their first playoff series victory. He was the Miami Heat's all-time leader in assists, and together with Alonzo, led the Heat to some of the franchise's best seasons (before the 2003 Draft occurred). In the twilight of his career, he was traded to the Mavericks, then the Nuggets and the Pacers; he never won a ring. His son Tim Jr. was drafted by the Knicks in 2013.
  • Dwyane Wade is perhaps the greatest player in Heat history, a shooting guard who spent most of his career with Miami, starting out by playing there from 2003 to 2016. He then went to his hometown team, the Bulls, in 2016, briefly rejoined LeBron in Cleveland in 2017, and finally returned to the Heat in one of the Cavaliers' 2018 trade-deadline deals, retiring at the end of the 2018–19 season. Selected fifth overall out of Marquette during the 2003 NBA draft, D-Wade instantly propelled the Heat into the playoffs, but he was often overshadowed by Carmelo and LeBron. On the other hand, Wade was the first to deliver a championship to the team that drafted him (unless you count Darko Miličić, but he barely did anything). He was the 2006 Finals MVP for averaging 34 points in the final four games versus the Dallas Mavericks. Since then, he was one of Miami's best players (except, obviously, in his brief stints elsewhere); in 2009, he led the league in scoring and even placed second in MVP voting, behind only to LeBron himself. Recognized as one of the premier veterans of the NBA, Wade was easily considered the face of the Miami Heat (being its official captain certainly didn't hurt), despite publicly endorsing LeBron as the leader during the latter's four years in Miami. His tendency to receive injuries was a constant concern, however, and old age crept along his way, but he could still score in double digits right to the end. The last two games of his career illustrated this—he first lit up the Sixers for 30 in his final regular-season home game, and then ended his career with a triple-double in Brooklyn. Retroactively, he's become known as The Rival to Dirk Nowitzki; both of Dirk's Finals appearances were against Wade, trading wins with each other, and they left the league the same year. He's also one of the few sports players who detailed his Dark and Troubled Past, and he admits that he pretty much went through hell during the 2012 playoffs (almost lost his kids, had his knee drained and so forth). He's lauded for his determination and heart as a player, even though it led to him having a Hair-Trigger Temper on the court. D-Wade is all but certain to enter the Hall of Fame in 2023.
  • Chris Bosh is a power forward and center who last played for the Heat, famous for his resemblance to an ostrich or a Na'avi and his weird on-court antics. He was selected fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors during the 2003 draft, right behind LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, but before Dwyane Wade. Quickly emerging as one of the league's premier players, he emerged as the face and leader of the Raptors; he remains Toronto's all-time leader in points, rebounds, blocks, double-doubles, free throws and minutes. A seven-time NBA All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist (along with Wade and James), Bosh led the Raptors to their first division title during the 2007 season, but they never made it past the first round of the playoffs, even as they overhauled the roster, prompting Bosh to sign with the Heat, with whom he finally won a championship. During his early career with the Heat, Bosh was often viewed as little more than "That Third Guy" (the Big 2 and a half, it was once called), due to people considering him to be "soft". Even the media treated him that way. It took straining an abdominal during the 2012 playoffs versus Indiana that people finally started recognizing how important Bosh was to the Heat. He would later return for the final three games of the Eastern Conference Finals versus Boston and the NBA Finals with the Thunder. As a player, Bosh is particularly noted for his ability to drive to the basket and finish strong or get to the free throw line, but he's especially deadly with his trademark jump shot, thereby forcing opposing players to double-team (while with Toronto) or spread the floor (leaving Wade and James open) in response. Sadly, his career was cut short when he was found to have a blood-clot disorder during the 2015–16 season. After an NBA doctor deemed Bosh's condition career-ending in 2017, the Heat released him in the offseason, though he fought to play again until 2019, the same year they retired his jersey. Also part of the Hall of Fame class of 2021.
  • Bam Adebayo, a power forward picked at #14 in 2017 out of Kentucky, emerged in 2019–20 as what ESPN called "the fiercest, best NBA player you don't know", becoming a consistent double-double threat and adding a decent number of assists before COVID-19 halted the season. He's also emerging as a top-tier defender and something of a younger, larger version of Draymond Green, complete with trash-talk. Adebayo is also a workout maniac; upon learning that Mourning held most of the Heat's weight-room records, he said he'd break them. Coaches said he wouldn't come close for at least 5 years. As of February 2020, Bam holds two of them. His off-court life is a dramatic contrast to his on-court persona—he's largely soft-spoken, a self-confessed momma's boy (buying her a house after signing his rookie extension in 2020), and eschews the high fashion of many NBA players. He's impressed D-Wade to the point that he publicly wants Bam to break as many of his Heat team records as he can.

    Milwaukee Bucks 
  • Oscar Robertson was a 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard, twelve-time All-Star, eleven-time member of the All-NBA Team, and one-time winner of the MVP award in fourteen professional seasons. He was the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double for a season (in 1961–62), a feat that would not be matched for over a half-century (Russell Westbrook, 2016–17).note note  In his late career, he brought the Milwaukee Bucks their only NBA title in the 1970-71 NBA season (with help from Lew Alcindor, whom you know better as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). However, his playing career, especially during high school in Indianapolis and college at the University of Cincinnati, was plagued by racism. He was the lead plaintiff in a 1970 lawsuit that became known as the "Oscar Robertson suit", which led to an extensive reform of the league's strict free agency and draft rules and, subsequently, to higher salaries for all players. Robertson is recognized by the NBA as the first legitimate "big guard", paving the way for other oversized backcourt players like Magic Johnson. Furthermore, he is also credited to have invented the head fake and the fadeaway jump shot, a shot which Michael Jordan later became famous for.
  • Sidney Moncrief was a 6-4 guard out of Arkansas and 2019 Hall of Fame inductee who played all but the last of his 11 NBA seasons with the Bucks (finishing in 1990 with the Hawks). Picked by the Bucks in the first round in 1979, he quickly established himself as a solid scorer and one of the league's best defenders, with none other than Michael Jordan saying, "He'll hound you everywhere you go, both ends of the court." Made five All-Star appearances and five All-NBA teamsnote , and won the first two Defensive Player of the Year awardsnote .
  • Jabari Parker was the second overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, and the main catalyst of the Bucks resurgence in the following season. Sadly, he only played half a season before injuries sidelined him.
  • Giannis Antetokounmponote , the "Greek Freak",note  joined the Bucks in 2013. His flashy style soon made a fan favorite even if the team was losing a lot at the time, and his star continued to rise once they started winning the following year! His game developed to the point that Bucks head coach Jason Kidd announced that the 6'11" (2.11 m) Antetokounmpo would see time at point guard in 2016–17, and just before that season the Bucks signed him to a 4-year, $100 million extension. During the 2016–17 season, he took a quantum leap into the league's elite, becoming the first player in NBA history to finish a season in the league's top 20 in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, and one of only five to lead his team in the same statistics in a single season. He didn't stop there, going on to claim MVP honors in 2019, following it up with being named MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in 2020, joining the rarefied club of NBA players instantly identifiable by their first names. During the 2020 offseason, Giannis signed a 5-year, $228 million "supermax" contract extensionExplanation  that kicks in for 2021–22, agreeing to stay with the small-market team rather than pursue a contract with a super team. This deal barely surpassed James Harden's similar deal in 2017 (6 years for a couple hundred thousand less) as the richest in NBA history, at least as measured by total salary. (For the richest by average per season, see Damian Lillard in the Blazers folder.) This choice paid off for both him and the Bucks: while Giannis did not win season MVP the following season, he did win Finals MVP after leading the Bucks to their first championship title in half a century.
  • Michael Carter-Williams begun on the Sixers, and despite the team being terrible excelled enough to be chosen as Rookie of the Year. The following year, to ensure Philly would get even more draft picks for the rebuild they sent him to the already jump-started Bucks.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, a combo guard out of Virginia, was another key player behind the emergence of the Bucks as a serious title contender in the last part of this decade before being dealt to the Pacers during the 2019 offseason in a salary cap move. Arriving in Milwaukee in 2016 as a second-round pick, he made an immediate impact, averaging double figures in scoring mostly off the bench and claiming Rookie of the Year honors after the heavy favorite, the Sixers' Joel Embiid (see that team's folder), was shut down about halfway through the season to fully recover from an injury. Notably, he was the first second-round pick to become Rookie of the Year since 1966. The following year, he lost about half the season to injury, but was still a double-figure scorer when he did play. Then, in 2018–19, he had an even better season, averaging just over 15 points a game and becoming the newest member of the 50–40–90 club. Although he missed the last few weeks of the season to another injury, he still had enough baskets, 3-pointers, and free throws to officially qualify. Also noted as one of the league's Genius Bruisers (well, more the genius part)–picked UVA over Harvard (to the disappointment of his grandmother), picked up bachelor's and master's degrees while there (he took a redshirt one season due to injury), and has founded an NGO to fund water wells in East Africa. He comes by the "genius" part naturally—his father and brother are attorneys, his mother a PhD psychologist, and another brother was in law school in his 50–40–90 season.
  • Khris Middleton has been Giannis' indispensable running mate through their run of success. A second-round pick out of Texas A&M by the Pistons in 2012, the swingman spent one disappointing season there before being traded to the Bucks right in time to join the newly drafted Giannis. As Giannis developed and the Bucks improved, he developed into a reliable scorer, good three-point shooter, exceptional foul shooter, good passer for his position, and solid defender, eventually becoming an All-Star in 2018 and 2019.

    Minnesota Timberwolves 
  • Kevin Garnett was a famous trash-talker and a versatile power forward who played ten years for the Minnesota Timberwolves, with almost always a defeat in the first round of the playoffs. When younger, he was famous for his huge contract which forbade his General Manager to pay other good players. A 14-time All-Star and one-time Defensive Player of the Year, he was once the 2004 regular season MVP, but he lacked a ring until he went to Boston. Considered The Heart for the Celtics until being traded to the Nets as part of the Celtics' 2013 fire sale, and later returning to Minnesota in a 2015 trade-deadline deal, his emotional leadership and contagious energy has left a very lasting impact on the Celtics and their fans. In fact, when Garnett returned to Boston with the T-Wolves in the 2015–16 season for what proved to be his last visit as a player, Celtics coach Brad Stevens called a timeout with less than a minute left to give Celtics fans a chance to honor him. A standing ovation followed. Garnett is also notable as the one who helped pave the way for talented high school basketball players to enter the NBA draft without going to college (with stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James following in his footsteps.)note  Garnett retired shortly before the start of the 2016–17 season, and received his inevitable Hall of Fame call in 2020.
  • Ricky Rubio is a Spanish star point guard who returned to the Timberwolves in the 2020 offseason after being traded twice in less than a week—first from the Suns to the Thunder, and then from OKC to Minnesota. He had spent his entire NBA career with the T-Wolves before being traded to the Jazz in the 2017 offseason, spending two seasons there before moving to Phoenix in 2019. Rubio formed a power-duo with his captain, Kevin Love, before Love was traded to Cleveland. Rubio first gained international fame in 2005, when his club put him on the main roster and played him in Spain's top pro league days before his 15th birthday. He would then gain more star power by playing in the Euroleague at 16, and then play for Spain's Olympic team at 17, where he would the respect of Dwyane Wade along the way. He was drafted by Minnesota in 2009, but he decided to wait a few years since he thought he could improve in Spain. In spite of returning in a lockout season, it appeared to have been a wise decision since he impressed the league with a style that's similar to that of Steve Nash or Jason Kidd. Internationally, he's led La ÑBA to two Olympic medals (silver in 2008, bronze in 2016), four medals at EuroBasket (including two golds), and a gold medal at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, also being named World Cup MVP. Rubio has one weakness as a player, however—despite his savant-level passing skills and solid defense, he's a somewhat limited shooter by NBA standards.
  • Andrew Wiggins is a shooting guard from the Toronto area by way of U.S. (basketball) prep school and Kansas, drafted #1 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, but was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves two months later alongside fellow Canadian #1 draft pick Anthony Bennett and Philadelphia 76ers power forward Thaddeous Young as a part of giving up Kevin Love. Wiggins was scouted as a player to have an athletic prowess similar to that of LeBron James himself. He comes from a strong athletic pedigree—his father is a former NBA player, and his mother a former Olympic medal-winning sprinter for Canada. While Wiggins was far from a bust in Minnesota, averaging nearly 20 points with the T-Wolves, his career was seen as something of a disappointment until he was traded to the Warriors near the 2020 trade deadline. Cue a Career Resurrection, with Wiggins becoming a key wing defender and secondary scorer on a Warriors team that looks to be contending for another ring.
  • Zach LaVine is a guard drafted #13 in 2014 by the Timberwolves. Played heavy minutes during his rookie season when Ricky Rubio was struggling with injuries and built up his confidence enough to win the 2015 Slam Dunk Contest, and won the Rising Stars MVP the next year, along with putting on a show for the ages in a Slam Dunk Contest duel with Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic reminiscent of Dominique Wilkins vs. Michael Jordan. Dealt to the Bulls in the 2017 offseason in the trade that brought Jimmy Butler to the Twin Cities.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns is a center drafted No. 1 overall in 2015 by the Timberwolves. After a prolific year at Kentucky, Towns was considered one of the best big man prospects in years, but not even the most optimistic fans would've predicted how dominant he would be right off the bat. Towns played every game in his rookie year, becoming a dominant two-way force in the paint and being just the fifth player to a unanimous vote for Rookie of the Year. He went on to make his first All-NBA team in 2018 (third team). Still just 22 years old after three NBA seasons, the sky is the limit for Towns. Though born and raised in New Jersey, he represents his mother's homeland of the Dominican Republic in international ball.

    New Orleans Pelicans 
  • Anthony Davis: Now with the Lakers, this former Kentucky Wildcat led his team to a championship, but is more noted for starting out as a 6'3" point guard at high school and ending up being a 6'10" power forward/center by his college days, as well as his versatility that garnered plenty of awards for him. He was the #1 draft pick in 2012 for the team then known as the New Orleans Hornets, but he did play for the U.S. Olympic team as his big beginning (even though he was initially cut in favor of Blake Griffin). Even though he won the gold for Team USA, it was initially unknown what kind of career he'd make for himself along the way. The answer: he made three All-NBA first teams in a four-season stretch from 2015 to 2018. Known for his lanky athletic prowess and his unibrow. During the 2018–19 season, he became notorious for a different reason, letting the Pelicans know that he wouldn't sign a supermax extension once his current deal expired in 2020. With the Pels being stuck in the middle of a brutal Western Conference, it was pretty much accepted that he wanted to go to a title contender, and widely rumored that he wanted to join LeBron in L.A. If this was his wish, he got it in the 2019 offseason, being traded to the Lakers; he bounced back from that "downer" season in a big way, making the All-NBA first team in 2019–20 and getting his championship ring.
  • Zion Williamson: A power forward from Duke selected by the Pelicans with the first pick of the 2019 draft, and described by Kevin Durant as a "once-in-a-generation-type athlete." He first drew national attention as a high schooler for his slam dunks that were compiled into "basketball mixtape" videos, and he led his small college preparatory school to multiple regional championships. As a college freshman, Williamson became known for his multiple 30-point games, but was injured for part of a season after he sprained his knee when his foot ripped through his shoe during a game. He declared for the NBA draft after his first college season, and was expected to become the new face of Pelicans franchise. However, he was injured again in a pre-season game and had to sit out until early 2020. When he finally got to play professional basketball, Williamson put up impressive numbers even in games the Pels ended up losing, but only played 33 games before the season was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    New York Knicks 
  • Willis Reed, simply known as "Captain", was the leader of the Knicks that won two titles in 1970 and 1973. Although undersized for a center, Reed regularly battled Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindor on a nightly basis. The shining moment of his career came in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. After sitting out Game 6 with a torn thigh muscle, Willis hobbled out on an injured leg onto the Madison Square Garden court to a standing ovation moments before Game 7. He scored two baskets - only four points, but with jump shots (meaning, he was willing to harm his leg even worse than it already had been just to continue playing). It inspired his team to win the game and the Championship against Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain.
  • Patrick Ewing was the 1st pick in the 1985 draft, taken as the starting center by the New York Knicks. He was the first player ever to be chosen under the NBA draft lottery. An 11-time All-Star and a Rookie of the Year, Ewing led the Knicks through several vicious playoff series against Miami, Chicago and Indiana (many of those matchups went to the full seven game format), even taking the Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1994 against Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets (once again setting it to the full seven games). Hakeem outscored Ewing in every game of the series, while Ewing out-blocked and out-rebounded him. Despite his accolades, however, he remains one of those ring-less greats, in the same vein as Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley. Now the head coach at his alma mater of Georgetown.
    • Ewing's selection is the subject of one of the most enduring conspiracy theories in sports. Many fans claim to this day, with no evidence backing them up, that the NBA rigged the lottery to give the Knicks the first pick that enabled them to select Ewing. The most popular theory is the "frozen envelope", claiming that the envelope containing the Knicks logo had been frozen shortly before it was placed in the hopper, allowing league commissioner David Stern to distinguish it from the others when he reached into the hopper to pull out the first one.
  • John Starks went undrafted and started out at Golden State before being cut and making his way back to the NBA via the Continental Basketball Association, and spent the best years of his career as part of the 90's-era Knicks. A passionate - though at times hot-headed - competitor on offense and defense, he was the arch-nemesis of Reggie Miller during the Knicks vs. Pacers rivalry in the 90's.
  • Anthony Mason was a point forward drafted by Portland in 1988, cut afterward, and ended up playing on various international teams and leagues until signing a deal with the Knicks in 1991. He quickly made himself known as a sixth man and later made the starting lineup of the Knicks due to his blue-collar play and ball handling. After being traded to Charlotte he ended up on several teams before finishing his career with Milwaukee, and unfortunately passed away in February 2015 due to congestive heart failure.
  • Amar'e Stoudemire was until very recently one of the co-captains of the New York Knicks, along with Carmelo Anthony; many have cited chemistry issues between the two. Stoudemire started his career with the Phoenix Suns as a power duo with Steve Nash, though he made a very bad habit out of getting injured while playing, often leading to critical losses in the playoffs. Nevertheless, he won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in 2003, made six appearances in the NBA All-Star Game, was a first-team All-NBA selection in 2007, and won a bronze medal with the United States men's national basketball team at the 2004 Olympic Games. He joined with the Knicks in 2010, bolstering them in such a way that people finally started talking about them as much as their rivals in the east. Now infamous for slicing his hand by slapping a fire extinguisher after falling behind 0-2 in the 2012 playoffs. In February 2015, when the Knicks had the league's worst record, he asked for and got a buyout of his contract, hoping to catch on with a title contender; he wound up with the Mavericks. He then played the 2015–16 season with the Heat before signing a ceremonial contract to retire from the NBA as a Knick. Stoudemire, however, would continue his playing career in Israel, leading Hapoel Jerusalem to that country's title in his first season there. He moved from there to China for 2019–20, left in midseason, and returned to Israel to play the rest of that season for Maccabi Tel Aviv, helping them to a league title and being named the Israeli Finals MVP. Stoudemire then retired from play for good and returned to NYC later in the year, this time as an assistant for the Nets.
  • Carmelo Anthony is a native New Yorker, though raised in Baltimore, who plays small forward. After spending one season at Syracuse, where he led the then-Orangemennote  to their first national title, he went third in the 2003 Draft to the Nuggets. While he has actually spent more of his career with the Nuggets than the Knicks (8 seasons to 6), he had most of his best years in the Big Apple, the pinnacle of which was earning a scoring title in 2013 over perennial scoring champ Kevin Durant. Largely seen as The Rival to LeBron James, and not just for their frequent, physical on-court duels during game. They parallel one another rather eerily - both were drafted (among the top three) in the same year; both were the go-to All-Star rookies of their time; both garnered controversy regarding trade deals; and both propelled their rookie-year mediocre teams into playoff contenders, short of actually winning championships. However, Melo's far from a carbon copy of LeBron - they differ in their style of play, the time of their inception to the NBA, the fallout of their trades (Denver just wanted him to make a decision already), and the overall perception of their characters by the NBA, with Melo as a ball-hog. He immediately became co-leader of the Knicks on his arrival, and after Stoudemire's departure from the team became the undisputed leader until the 2017 offseason, when the team wanted to unload him and attempt to rebuild around a younger core. His move was hampered by a big contract and a no-trade clause, but the Knicks eventually made a deal to send him to OKC. After the 2017–18 season, the Thunder's surprising re-signing of Paul George meant that keeping Melo would have cost the team tens of millions in luxury tax (charged to teams that exceed the league's salary cap). The Thunder then sent him to the Hawks in a three-way deal, and after the Hawks waived him, he signed on with the Rockets, where he didn't really fit in and barely played. He was then moved to the Bulls shortly before the 2019 All-Star break, but was let go without playing in a game. After nearly a year away from in-game action, he was signed by the Blazers early in the 2019–20 season, then signed with the Lakers two years later, uniting him with LeBron. Despite all of his individual accolades (10x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, the aforementioned scoring title), however, he's never been successful in the playoffs, only winning three postseason series and getting out of the first round twice, which has inflated his image as a ballhog. On a more positive note, Anthony was named the NBA's inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion in 2021 for his activism in that sphere.
  • Jeremy Lin, a point guard who has been with eight NBA teams and is now in the G League, is listed with the Knicks because that's where he took the national stage—even though he spent only the 2010–11 season in Manhattan. The first Harvard graduate to play in the NBA in 60 years, and also the first Chinese American ever in the league, Lin was cut from two NBA teams (one of which he didn't even play for during the regular season) and eventually landed with New York. Once injuries to Carmelo and Amar'e allowed him to play, Lin unexpectedly dominated on offense, scoring a combined 136 points in his first five career starts, the most by any player since the NBA-ABA merger. Led the Knicks to a seven game winning streak, sparking a huge cultural phenomenon known as "Linsanity", when he became the focus of the American sports media. Famous for scoring the game-winner against the Toronto Raptors, before the Miami Heat held him down to eight points and eight turnovers. Just prior to the playoffs, Lin suffered a small meniscus tear in his left knee, and the resulting surgery forced him to miss out on the postseason. As a restricted free agent, Lin signed an offer sheet from the Houston Rockets (the same team that cut him before he landed on New York). It was a three-year, $25 million deal, which the Knicks chose not to match. Most likely, they did it because they didn't want to risk paying $15,000,000 for him in his final year... which would have cost them more than $25 million on top of that due to new salary cap/luxury tax rules that took effect in 2013–14. After the 2013–14 season, the Rockets dealt him to the Lakers, which were interested mainly in his expiring contract (which "only" cost them about $8 million or so in cap space) and the 2015 first-round draft pick that came with the deal. His marketing potential among Asian fans, especially in China, didn't hurt either. He didn't break into the rotation in L.A., despite having become a good finisher at the rim, and went to Charlotte after the 2014–15 season, spending one season there before heading back to the city where he first achieved fame, though with the Nets instead of the Knicks. He had one productive season in Brooklyn, but missed almost the entire 2017–18 season with a ruptured patellar tendon, and was traded to the Hawks after that season. The Hawks bought Lin out of his contract during the 2018–19 season in a salary cap move, and he almost immediately signed with the Raptors, where he mainly played off the bench but did get a championship ring. He became a free agent at the end of that season, drew no interest from NBA teams, and ended up signing with the Beijing Ducks of the Chinese Basketball Association. After a very strong season in China, he decided to pass on an offer to stay there, signing with the Warriors' G League side.
  • Kristaps Porziņģis was emerging as the Knicks' star of the future until an untimely injury in 2018. The 7'3" Latvian, who had been playing for Sevilla in the Spanish league, was the #4 pick in 2015, which drew boos from Knicks fans. He soon turned the boos to cheers with a style of play reminiscent of a more athletic Dirk Nowitzki, complete with legitimate three-point range. His combination of height and skills soon earned him the nickname "The Unicorn". While he lost out on Rookie of the Year honors to Karl-Anthony Towns, he became the first NBA player ever with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 100 blocks, and 75 threes as a rookie. After improving in most key stats in his second season, the sky looks to be the limit for Porziņģis (pun not intended)... though we'll now have to see how well he recovers from a torn ACL he suffered just before the 2018 All-Star break. With the Knicks apparently in full-on tank mode in 2018–19, Porziņģis did not play that season before being traded to the Mavericks just before the All-Star break as part of a salary-cap move. Porziņģis didn't play during the rest of the season, although his healing was apparently on schedule. The Mavs also believed that the presence of rising star Luka Dončić and the retiring Nowitzki, one of Porziņģis' idols, would be enough to persuade him to stay in the Metroplex; it apparently worked, as he signed a new deal with the team in the 2019 offseason.

    Oklahoma City Thunder 
  • Russell Westbrook was The Lancer to Kevin Durant and the second wheel of the Thunder's former Big 3 (Durant, Westbrook, and Harden), playing at point guard. He then became the undisputed team leader after Durant left for Golden State—though in 2017–18, he had to share at least some of the spotlight with Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, and shared some of it with PG until the latter's departure in the 2019 offseason. He reunited with Harden in Houston in 2019, having been dealt to the Rockets for Chris Paul and several future draft picks. A year later, he was traded to Washington for John Wall and a first-round pick. Since 2011, he's often been the beacon of criticism due to his unconventional playing as a point guard. Namely, he focuses on a lot of jump shots and he tends to dribble the ball to run down the clock, which often backfires if his shot misses. While Durant and Westbrook are very close friends, Westbrook was not happy considering himself as the second best in the Thunder, leading to Westbrook garnering the image of a ball-hog during the 2011 season. Surprisingly, Durant let him try to lead the scoring, but when it became clear that Westbrook's streaky jump shots weren't gonna cut it, they eventually got into a power struggle, and ended up losing to the Mavericks in the 2011 Western Conference Finals. However, he started growing out of both traits by the time of the 2012 playoffs, dishing out a few more assists and driving the paint much more often. Although renowned for being exceptionally durable (he had not missed a game since high school), a freak injury in the playoffs against the Rockets left Westbrook sidelined with a torn meniscus, after which the Thunder sputtered their way to an early playoff exit. In 2016–17, he became a triple-double machine, becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double for a season, and also passing The Big O for triple-doubles in a single season on his way to league MVP honors. And then he averaged a triple-double again in 2017–18. And 2018–19. And 2020–21. Also in 2019, he broke Wilt Chamberlain's longstanding record for consecutive triple-doubles, taking that record literally Up to Eleven. He's moved on to the Wizards in 2020, then hopped to the Lakers the next year.
  • Serge Ibaka, a Congolese/Spanish power forward, made his name as the fourth-wheel-turned-third for the Thunder before being traded to the Orlando Magic in the 2016 offseason, and is now with the Los Angeles Clippers. He's most famous for his frequent shot blocks (of which he's the all-time league leader on a per-minute basis). In the first round of the 2010 playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers, he became the youngest player to have 7 blocks in playoff game. Ibaka is often used for his energy in the paint, whether on defense or rebounding. While his offense tends to be rather lackluster, he's shown that he can improve on that; he scored 14 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and snatched a career-high 11 blocks against the Denver Nuggets in February 2012, recording his first career triple-double. Furthermore, in the 2012 Western Conference Finals, Ibaka scored a perfect 11 for 11 shots against the San Antonio Spurs. With the great Hakeem Olajuwon taking interest in training him, Ibaka has the potential to become as well-rounded (offensively and defensively) as any other great power forward. The Thunder even signed him to a four-year, $48 million contract, to make sure that he develops further. With Ibaka becoming a restricted free agent in 2016, and with the possibility of losing Durant (which in the end happened), the Thunder decided to trade him to the Magic to help restock their roster. The Magic would ultimately trade him to the Toronto Raptors, where he became an integral part of the team off the bench in 2019, winning his first championship. He signed with the Clippers as a free agent in the 2020 offseason.

    Orlando Magic 
  • Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway is one of the more notable instances of What Could Have Been in the league. A point guard drafted in 1993 out of his hometown school, Memphis,note  Penny quickly became one of the league's best players, making the All-Star team four times in his first five years. Penny was the first of Shaquille O'Neal's many superstar partners, so much in fact that the Magic decided to make him the focus of their franchise instead of Shaq, who felt ousted by the team and left for the Lakers in free agency. In hindsight, this was a bad move, as injuries began to plague Hardaway, who was eventually traded to the Suns, bouncing around the league thereafter before reuniting with Shaq in Miami in one final stop. He's now the head coach at his alma mater.
  • Dwight Howard is a 6'11" (2.11 m) center, reputed as the best in the business before injuries and (allegedly) attitude caught up with him. Drafted 1st overall by the Orlando Magic in 2004; he played with them for eight seasons, before being traded to the Lakers. Heir apparent to Shaquille O'Neal (other than Blake Griffin; they are both tall, prominent centers who dominates the paint at will, started their careers with the Orlando Magic and continued onward with the L.A. Lakers, are large goofballs off the court, and had this peculiar knack of bricking free throws). The most profound common characteristic between the two is their association with the moniker of being the NBA's Man of Steel. Howard capitalized on the association during the 2008 and 2009 All-Star slam dunk contest when he donned a Superman costume, but Shaq did not take it too lightly, accusing Howard of "stealing" his nickname and identity. Although there were arguments whether the league has enough room for two Supermen, it isn't much of an issue nowadays, as Shaq retired in 2011. Was the talk of many possible trades for the 2011-12 NBA season, but he decided to stay in Orlando for at least one more season... which was dubbed the "Dwightmare", as Howard sustaining an injury that needed back surgery (e.g. he missed out on the playoffs), and became a Prima-donna who acted unsportsmanlike (sitting out on a huddle during a game despite being the captain) and had a feud with coach Stan Van Gundy as he again felt like he should leave. Even after Van Gundy and the GM were fired, Howard still wanted out, so they dealt him to the Lakers after months of trade rumors. The underwhelming season - his recovery from back surgery plus an injured shoulder hindered his game, and most Lakers got injured to make the team even more underperforming - led Howard to play shop again in 2013. He eventually signed with the Rockets on a 4-year, $88 million deal, becoming the first star player to leave the Lakers in his prime through free agency. Afterwards, he bounced around the league, playing few games due to persistent injuries, before returning to LA as a bench player and experiencing a "less is more" career resurrection. After finally getting a championship ring in LA, he signed with the Sixers as a free agent to back up Joel Embiid and (hopefully) provide a strong locker-room presence. In the following year, he returned to the Lakers.

    Philadelphia 76ers 
  • Julius Erving, nicknamed Dr. J, was the dominant player in the ABA before the merger (giving the league much of its legitimacy; it's been suggested that getting him into the NBA was the primary reason for the merger) and went on to become one of the most dominant players in the NBA during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was the only player to win the MVP award in both leagues and the only player to win a championship in both leagues. Erving averaged 24.2 points per game throughout his career, and had nine 40-point or better games. Famous for the 'Rock That Baby' dunk over the head of Laker Michael Cooper in 1983 (one of the greatest dunks of all time) and the Baseline Move, a behind-the-board reverse layup executed against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1980 NBA Finals. Remained active in basketball after retirement, joining the front office of the Orlando Magic in 1997. Notably, Erving (a longtime NASCAR fan) held an ownership stake in the first all-minority-owned NASCAR racing team.
  • Moses Malone, center-forward, was the first great "prep-to-pro" player, having been drafted out of Petersburg High by the ABA's Utah Stars in 1974 and going on to a 21-year pro career with more than 29000 points and 17000 rebounds. He bounced around a lot, winning the MVP award twice with the Houston Rockets and once more with the 76ers in 1983, when they won the championship. Nicknamed The Chairman of the Boards, he still holds the records for offensive rebounds in both a single season (587) and career (7382 total, 6731 NBA).note  By the time he retired he was the last former ABA player still active in the NBA. Also famous for his Badass Boast before the 1983 Playoffs: when prompted by local reporters, he responded "fo', fo', fo'", predicting that Sixers would sweep every opponent 4-0. Malone's prediction turned out to be only off by one as Philly swept the Knicks, closed out Milwaukee in five gamesnote  and swept the Lakers in the finals.
  • Allen Iverson was a shooting guard drafted first in the 1996 draft by the Sixers as the shortest first overall pick ever, and played with the Sixers for ten seasons before being traded to Denver on his eleventh. Despite his lack of height (he was listed as 6-foot-0), he was a tough and fearless scorer, winning the 2001 MVP and taking the Sixers to the NBA Finals against the Lakers where they lost in five games. He was also a very volatile personality off the court, but in a way became a trendsetter for the 2000's era via his no-nonsense attitude and fashion sense (corn rows, shooting sleeve, tattoos). Elected to the Hall of Fame alongside Shaq and Yao in 2016.
  • Joel Embiid was the Sixers doing again what happened with Noel: a player who did great in college (Kansas) but would sit out from his supposed debut year due to surgery (foot surgery in his case). The 7'0" Cameroonian wound up missing a second year due to another surgery on the same foot, and didn't make his debut until the 2016–17 season. He made an immediate impact, and looked to have Rookie of the Year honors locked up... until getting hurt again (this time a torn meniscus) in January 2017; the Sixers shut him down for the rest of the season after 31 games. (He ultimately lost out on Rookie of the Year honors to the Bucks' Malcolm Brogdon.) Also known for his larger-than-life social media presence (including hitting on Rihanna and Kim Kardashian on Twitter) and generally being a huge goofball while's he not on the court.
  • Ben Simmons is a slightly smaller version of Embiid in that he also did great in college, though in his case it was wasted on a mediocre LSU team, and also sat out his intended rookie year of 2016–17 due to a foot injury. The similarities, however, end there. The Australian, the son of an African-American player who settled in the country, is a point guard in a stretch four's body (6'10"), and was the top overall pick in his year to Embiid's #3. When Simmons finally got to play in 2017–18, he had by some advanced statistical measures the best rookie season by any player in the '10s, and was named Rookie of the Year. Simmons has since established himself as a taller (though lighter) version of Draymond Green on the defensive end, often defending multiple positions in a single possession. Yet another reason why the Sixers are showing hope of becoming a future power.

    Phoenix Suns 
  • Connie Hawkins was a New York City high school star and playground legend playing on the University of Iowa's freshman teamnote  when he became implicated in a point-shaving scandal. Despite no evidence being found against him, he was expelled from the school and banned from the NBA. He played for a year with the short-lived American Basketball League, winning the MVP award for that season. He then played with the Harlem Globetrotters for several years before joining the fledgling ABA with the Pittsburgh Pipers. He became the league's first MVP and playoff MVP when he led the team to the ABA championship in 1968. When the NBA lifted its ban on him in 1969, he joined the one-year-old Phoenix Suns at the age of 27; the team improved by 23 wins over the previous season and almost upset the Lakers (who had Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor) in the playoffs. He was the original "palm the ball" guy, even before Dr. J, able to move the ball anywhere he wanted one-handed and throw defenders off their game before passing, shooting, or driving to the hoop. He played with the Suns for four years, making the All-Star team each year, before being traded to the Lakers and playing a few more years there and with the Hawks. Despite losing what many felt could have been some of his best years to the ban, he made it to the Hall of Fame, and the Suns retired his number. He went on to work for the Suns for decades after his retirement, and continued to live in the Phoenix area until his passing in 2017.
  • "Sir" Charles Barkley was a power forward noted for his Stout Strength. Nicknamed "The Round Mound of Rebound", Barkley was noticeably chubbier than most basketball players, but his strength and aggressiveness made him one of the NBA's most dominant rebounders (hence the nickname). A prolific scorer, Barkley had the ability to score from the perimeter and the post, using an array of spin moves and fadeaways, or finishing a fast break with a powerful dunk. A masterful rebounder, Barkley averaged 11 boards in the regular season and 12 boards for the playoffs, totaling 12,546 rebounds for his career and leading in offensive boards for three straight years. One of his Signature Moves was to grab a defensive rebound, dribble the length of the court and finish at the rim with a powerful dunk. His aggressive, fast-break defensive prowess led to Barkley finishing his career as one of the all-time leaders in blocks and steals. Furthermore, his surprisingly impressive court vision led to Barkley becoming a playmaker who could rack up several assists per night (and giving him a respectable 20 triple-doubles in regular-season play for his career). An eleven-time All-Star, he started off with Philadelphia, but went to Phoenix, where he became the MVP in the same year that he faced Michael Jordan in the 1993 NBA Finals. He was often a beacon of controversy, from fights (on/off the court) to various statements and unintentionally abrasive behavior towards fans (e.g. spat on a young girl by mistake). Probably best known for a Nike commercial that he made back when he was in Phoenix, in which he claimed he was not a role model. This created a ton of debate as to whether athletes should be considered role models. He now mostly does basketball analysis/commentary, generally NBA on TNT; on that show, he also has something of a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis in another former Suns player, Shaquille O'Neal.
  • Tom Chambers was an athletic white forward (no, not an oxymoron) who started off with the (then) San Diego Clippers and Seattle SuperSonics before joining the Phoenix Suns as the first ever unrestricted free agent signing in league history. A high flyer with a nice shooting touch, he is most known for his mullet and using Mark Jackson as a springboard for a near free-throw line two-handed dunk (this dunk is also a Game-Breaker in Lakers vs. Celtics). However, he's also had a respected career outside of those moments, previously scoring 60 points in a game with the Suns and being a star bench power forward for the team's 1993 NBA Finals run. He is currently the only eligible player to have scored over 20,000 points throughout his career that has never been entered in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Despite this, his number is currently retired in the Phoenix Suns' Ring of Honor alongside other star Suns players from their history and he is currently a part of the team's local pre-game and post-game broadcasting shows for the team alongside Tom Leander.
  • Steve Nash was an extremely skilled veteran point guard out of Canadanote  best known for his astounding "no look" passes, his 50-40-90 status (has made 50% of his shooting, 40% from the three-point line, and 90% from the free throw line more times than Larry Bird, the former leader) and ability to carry the entirety of the Phoenix Suns through games, as shown by his 2 MVP awards. Although drafted by the Suns, and having played the majority of his career there, it was at Dallas where his ball-handling skills were discovered — he was paired with Dirk Nowitzki in a Malone-Stockton fashion. Was sometimes criticized for a lack of talent on the defensive end of the floor, but remained one half perhaps of the top scoring+passing duo threats in the league (with Nowitzki in Dallas; with Amar'e Stoudemire and Shaq in Phoenix) even at the age when most players would be showing strong signs of decline, which places him as a legit comparison to John Stockton. Hell, he doesn't even need the other half to win an assist title! (Although the same probably can't be said for success in the playoffs...) As an unrestricted free agent, Nash decided to join forces with Kobe Bryant's Lakers in the summer of 2012 in exchange for 4 of the Lakers' picks (two in the first round for 2013 & 2015 (which eventually turned to 2018, thankfully enough for them), two in the second round for 2013 & 2014). However, during his first season in L.A., he broke his leg in a freak collision with Portland's Damian Lillard (see below), which in turn aggravated long-standing back, nerve, and muscle issues. Nash only played a total of 65 games in his first two seasons with the Lakers, and was unable to play at all in 2014–15, officially retiring near the end of that season. Yet another member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2018. He is now the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.
  • Devin Booker is a very skilled shooting guard that oddly started out collegiately as the Sixth Man of the Year winner for the Kentucky Wildcats in his only season there. Despite being considered a Sixth Man for them, Booker was one of the key players from the team in a season that also featured Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson, and twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison each being key members of their near-undefeated season at Kentucky. While he was expected to continue being a good shooting guard for the Suns, almost immediately after being drafted by Phoenix, he made his presence be known immediately to Suns fans clamoring for an escape of the Dork Age that was the 2010's for them. Due to his prominent scoring presence (being the youngest player to score even 60 points in the NBA, never mind 70 points at 20 years old; being the youngest player to compete in the Three-Point Shootout and one of the youngest to win that event) combined with improvements in both passing and defense, he's been known as their main star going forward from the late 2010's onward, in spite of serious Executive Meddling going on in that era. However, due to the team's poor records during that period of time, Booker was not receiving as much attention to his craft, even after the Suns started getting serious with finding better players from both the NBA Draft and by trades and free agency by the time former Suns player James Jones was hired as the team's general manager. However, when the Suns traded for superstar point guard Chris Paul (which helped Jones win the Executive of the Year Award in 2021), Booker's presence became much more well-known to the public eye going forward, to the point of being one of the key players of an NBA Finals team after previously struggling to even make the Playoffs throughout the 2010's.

    Portland Trail Blazers 
  • Bill Walton, a Hall of Fame center, arrived in Portland in 1974 as the top overall draft pick after a storied career at UCLA. His first two years were marked by injuries, but his third, in 1976–77, saw him lead the Blazers to their first (and so far only) NBA title, winning the Finals MVP award in the process. The following season, the Blazers were 50–10 when he broke his foot; he tried to come back for the playoffs, but got hurt again. He was still named the league MVP that season. Disgruntled with his treatment by the Blazers' front office, he sat out the 1978–79 season and signed with the Clippers, where he missed far more games to injury than he played. After one last healthy season as sixth man for the champion Celtics of 1986 (and being named Sixth Man of the Year), he got hurt again the next year and finally retired. Although he only played four seasons in Portland, the Blazers still retired his number. Since 1990, he has been a color commentator for NBC and ESPN, and has gained the reputation of being a cloudcuckoolander. Outside of basketball, Walton is well known for being a devoted fan of The Grateful Dead — he attended over 850 of their concerts and often peppers his interviews and game commentary with references to their songs. Also, despite the Blazers being the team Walton is most identified with as a player, he is personally a Celtics fan, and has kept up a considerable relationship with that team instead of the Portland squad that jilted him in the 1970s.
    • His son Luke played 10 seasons in the league, mostly with the Lakers. He then went into coaching, landing with the Warriors as an assistant for their 2015 championship and record-setting 2016 team. Right after the Dubs' loss to the Cavs in the 2016 Finals, he became the Lakers' head coach, lasting three seasons before being canned in 2019 after failing to make the playoffs in LeBron's first season in L.A. He landed on his feet, with the Kings soon hiring him as their new head coach.
  • Clyde Drexler, a ten-time All-Star, a member of the Dream Team, a five-time All-NBA Team member, and a Hall of Famer, was the Trail Blazers' go-to superstar for the late 1980s and early 1990s, leading Portland to two NBA Finals, but losing both times against the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls; he averaged 24.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game versus Chicago. In 1992, Drexler finished second in MVP voting, which was won by Michael Jordan. Frustrated with all the times he came up short, including the time his team had the best record (which was 1991; they lost in the conference finals), Drexler was traded to the Houston Rockets, who he helped win their second consecutive championship in 1995. Playing alongside Hakeem Olajuwon, his college teammate at the University of Houston and friend, Drexler averaged 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game during the 1995 finals.
    • He twice came within an inch of a quadruple-double, missing by a rebound in one game and an assist in the other. He got ten steals in each of those games.
  • Arvydas Sabonis, a Lithuanian great who is also in the Hall of Fame, is another example of What Could Have Been (though infinitely less tragic than Dražen Petrović in that Sabas is very much alive). During the last half of the 1980s, he was arguably the best center in the world, notably leading the Soviet national team to Olympic gold in 1988. However, he suffered numerous Achilles and knee injuries, and by the time he finally arrived in Portland in 1995, he had lost virtually all of his mobility.note  Nonetheless, he remained an effective scorer, rebounder, and (for a big man) passer for seven seasons in Portland before he returned to Lithuania to finish his career. His son Domantas played two seasons of college basketball at Gonzaga before declaring for the 2016 NBA draft, and is now a rising star with the Pacers.
  • Brandon Roy was drafted by the Trail Blazers, who made history by coming off the bench (with an injury) to score 16 fourth quarter points in Game 4 versus the Mavericks in 2011, coming right back from a 23-point deficit. Though young, his injuries sidelined him throughout much of his career, prompting an early retirement, followed by a failed comeback attempt with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
  • Damian Lillard is a point guard, drafted 6th during the 2012 Draft and the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013. During his first professional game with the NBA, Lillard scored 23 points and dished out 11 assists (becoming only the third player to record 20 or more points and 10 or more assists in his debut, after Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas), even though he had 7 turnovers, so they may have a point. At any rate, Portland is hoping against all hope that Lillard doesn't get injured like some of their other unfortunate players - so far, he's stayed healthy, playing all 82 games and leading the league in total minutes played in his rookie season, and helping the Blazers to the playoffs in his sophomore season (and making the All-NBA third team). He's since made four more All-NBA teams, most notably making the first team in 2018. Also became the first player in NBA history to hit two series-winning buzzer beaters after sending the Thunder home in the first round of the 2019 playoffs (the previous one was sending Houston home in 2014). In the 2019 offseason, he signed a supermax extension for four years and $196 million that takes him through 2024–25, the richest contract in NBA history by average salary (though not the richest by total amount).

    Sacramento Kings 
  • Jack Twyman & Maurice Stokes — Two Hall of Fame forwards, one black (Stokes) and one white (Twyman), both Pittsburgh natives who began their careers in 1955 when the team was known as the Rochester Royals and ended them as Cincinnati Royals. Stokes, an inside force and one of the league's top rebounders (and also a surprisingly good passer for his position), was an All-Star in each of his three NBA seasons. Twyman, a better scorer than Stokes, was an All-Star six times. In the last game of the 1957–58 regular season, Stokes suffered a serious head injury from a fall; several days later, he suffered a seizure that left him permanently paralyzed. Twyman stepped in, becoming Stokes' legal guardian and raising funds for his care through an annual exhibition basketball game featuring NBA players. Stokes died in 1970 (Twyman stayed around until 2012), but the fundraiser (which became a pro-am golf event after 1999) continued to benefit other needy ex-NBA players until the early 2000snote . Since 2013, the NBA has an end-of-season award for the league's "best teammate" that bears their names.
  • Chris Webber, a five-time All-Star power forward, was the face of the Kings for nearly a decade (1996–2005). Although he played for four other teams,note  he had his best years in "Sacto". Also known as one of the University of Michigan's Fab Five of the early 90s, and also for being the central figure in a pay-for-play scandal at Michigan that led to the school wiping his accomplishments from their record books.
  • Peja Stojaković, a three-time All-Star, arrived in Sacramento from Europe in 1998 and stayed there through 2006. An ethnic Serb born in what is now Croatia, he holds both Serbian and Greek citizenship; he played in both countries before coming to the NBA. The 6'10" (2.08 m) Stojaković was one of the league's deadliest three-point shooters throughout his career, and won the All-Star Weekend Three-Point Shootout twice. After leaving Sacto, he played with four other teams. Despite back problems that led him to retire a few months later, he signed with the Dallas Mavericks in January 2011, ending his career with a championship ring as one of Dirk Nowitzki's running mates.
  • Vlade Divac,note  a Serbian center, was drafted by the Lakers in 1989 out of Partizan Belgrade and arrived in L.A. that year. He became one of the first European players to make a significant impact in the league. On the positive side, he was a remarkably skilled player for his size, noted especially for his passing skills, and also won many friends around the league with his infectious personality. On the negative side, he earned a reputation for flopping to draw fouls, years before Manu Ginóbili (see San Antonio Spurs) became notorious for it. While the bulk of his NBA career was actually with the Lakers, he's more identified with the Kings, having arrived in Sacto in 1998 (at the same time as Stojaković) and becoming one of the key players during their peak era around the turn of the century. The Kings retired his #21, and he was their general manager from 2015 to 2020. Also a member of the Hall of Fame class of 2019.
  • Jason Williams was a point guard drafted in 1998 by the Kings and quickly made his name known due to flashy but at times inefficient play. Was later traded to Memphis and matured under Coach Hubie Brown, and was part of the 2006 Miami Heat championship team. A reliable point guard later in his career, but was most known for his streetball style of play early in his career, most notably throwing a pass off his elbow in the 2000 Rookie Game. Amusingly, a lot of footage has been taken of him returning to his flashy style of play during exhibition games and at the Orlando Pro-Am. Has a son named Jaxon who seems to have inherited his handles.

    San Antonio Spurs 
  • George Gervin was a shooting guard most known for his prolific scoring, trademark finger roll, and stoic demeanor (his nickname was "The Iceman"). Also known for his trademark poster, seated on a throne carved from ice. Coincidentally, he is also Gary Payton's childhood idol.
  • David Robinson is widely regarded as one of the greatest centers in the league. He's a one-time MVP, 10-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA player and eight-time Defensive Team member, as well as a Rookie of the Year and a two-time NBA champion with Tim Duncan; the pair was known as the "Twin Towers". He's also notable for having been drafted out of Annapolis and serving two years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy before beginning his basketball career. That two-year gap meant he was still an "amateur" in 1988, allowing him to play for the bronze medal-winning Olympic team that year, which made his membership in the Dream Team in 1992 My Greatest Second Chance.
  • Tim Duncan played for the San Antonio Spurs for 19 seasons: many-time All-Star, 10-time first-team and 15-time overall All-NBA, eight-time first-team and 15-time overall Defensive Team member, two-time MVP, five-time champion and three-time Finals MVP - about the only thing missing is Defensive Player of the Year, which he surprisingly never won. Duncan has been said by many to be the greatest power forward in NBA history and is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the Spurs in 1997, a season in which Duncan not only won the Rookie of the Year award, but also teamed up with Hall of Famer David Robinson to create a legendary basketball duo – the so-called 'twin towers'. Duncan won his fifth ring in the 2014 NBA Finals, having claimed a championship in three different decades; he has carved his niche into NBA history by lifting his team into one of the Western elites: the only time in his career that the Spurs won fewer than 50 regular-season games was in 1999, where due to a lockout there only were 50 games played. Because of his calm and unassuming style of basketball – even in his younger years when he was quicker and stronger than most other players he was as likely to dominate with footwork and intelligence as with his natural talent, and he rarely showboated or let his emotions show while playing - Shaquille O'Neal nicknamed Duncan "The Big Fundamental". Also because his personality off the court is also quiet and unassuming, he was a frequent target of The Onion. Wanted to be a pro swimmer as a child, but Hurricane Hugo destroyed the only Olympic-sized swimming pool of the Virgin Islands. He could have continued to swim in the sea, but was afraid of sharks. So he began playing basketball at age fourteen. One of Us at times, as he's a D&D fan. His retirement during the 2016 offseason matched his personality—no farewell tour, no hype, just a statement to the press. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Duncan was a member of the Hall of Fame induction class of 2020. While he's occasionally worked with the Spurs' bigs since his retirement, he returned to the team in 2019–20 as a full-time assistant.
  • Tony Parker spent 17 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs before leaving for the Charlotte Hornets as a free agent in the 2018 offseason, retiring during the 2019 offseason. Originally more into soccer, Parker grew an interest in basketball after seeing Michael Jordan in action (sensing a pattern here). Moreover, Parker's two younger brothers, T.J. and Pierre, would go on to play basketball at college and professional levels. When he first joined the Spurs, he trained with ex-player Lance Blanks, but he was overwhelmed by Blanks' tough physical defense that coach Gregg Popovich almost gave up on him - the only thing that kept him from cutting him was by seeing a highlight reel of Parker's best plays. Deciding that Parker was worth the gamble, the Spurs drafted Parker as the 28th overall; his relative no-name kept him from being mentioned that much in pre-draft predictions, allowing the Spurs to take him under the radar. Parker then grew into one of the most skilled players in the league, slowly replacing Duncan as The Hero for the Spurs and then becoming the team's sole captain after Duncan's retirement. He's also one of the relatively few European NBA players - he was born in Belgium, but he was raised in France; his father was African-American, and his mother was a Dutch model. While he's waiting for a likely Hall of Fame call in 2023, he's staying busy as owner of ASVEL, a team in France's top pro league playing in Lyon, where he was raised. Parker opened a basketball academy in Lyon in fall 2019, and has publicly expressed hopes of owning an NBA team in the future. He's yet another example of non-soccer sportspeople who own shares in pro soccer teams; during the 2019–20 American soccer offseason, Parker bought a small stake in the Seattle-area team in the National Women's Soccer League, then known as Reign FC and now as OL Reign.note 
  • Manu Ginóbili is known as one of the greatest draft day steals in the history of the league, being picked 57th overall (which back then was second-to-last) in the 1999 draft. At the time, he was playing in Italy with Reggio Calabria, moving to traditional power Virtus Bologna in 2000, where he led them to a EuroLeague title in his first season in Bologna and was also MVP of the competition's Final Four. Breaking into the NBA in 2002, Ginóbili quickly earned a reputation of being one of the best sixth men in the league. He also has an accomplished international record, leading Argentina to victories over the USA's dream team in the FIBA championships in 2002, and again in the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 on the way to a gold medal. One of the few players with a decidedly unique Signature Move, the pass between the legs of an opponent, and also known for popularizing the Euro step in the league. Also known negatively for his use of flopping in order to try to draw a foul. He retired during the 2018 offseason, and is now awaiting the inevitable Hall of Fame call in 2022. Though his NBA-only numbers are marginal at best for the Hall, helping the Spurs to four titles won't hurt... and keep in mind that it's NOT the "NBA Hall of Fame". Throw in his international success, and you have a no-brainer Hall of Famer.
    • One tidbit easily sums up just how influential Manu has been in the sport: He's one of only two players to have won an NBA title, the EuroLeaguenote  and an Olympic gold medal in his career. The other is Hall of Famer Bill Bradley.
  • Robert Horrynote  was a solid but otherwise unremarkable player who is best known for having 7 championship rings - the only player not of the '60s Celtics to have that honor . Was fairly athletic early in his career, but as he got older he became well-known for being invisible for most of a game and then hitting a big three-pointer in the final seconds to win the game or force overtime. For this, he got the nickname Big Shot Bob.
  • Kawhi Leonard note  became the most recent big Spurs star in the last part of the '10s before being dealt to the Raptors in the 2018 offseason, and then going to the Clippers as a free agent after leading the Raptors to the 2019 title. A slashing small forward with a decent three-point stroke out of San Diego State, he started his NBA career in 2011–12 off the bench, and became a starter the next season. Also noted as a defensive stopper, hailed for his defense on LeBron in the 2014 Finals, in which he was named MVP. His offensive game dramatically improved in later years. Apart from his style of play (for which he gained back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards), he is known for his extremely quiet demeanor, his enormous hands (though not as big as those of Giannis), his thriftiness (despite a big contract, he drives a 1997 SUV he's owned since his high school days and has an endorsement deal with a restaurant chain that gives him discount coupons), and his name, which has proven to be a magnet for puns and nicknames. He missed almost the entire 2017–18 season to a quadriceps injury he initially suffered in the 2017 Western Conference finals, and became alienated from the team late in that season. With free agency looming after the 2018–19 season, the Spurs dealt him to the Raptors, getting DeMar DeRozan (see below) as part of the trade. Leonard ended up not only getting his second ring, but also claiming Finals MVP honors, becoming the third player to win Finals MVP with two different teams after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James, and the first to win it in both conferences.note 

    Seattle SuperSonics (1967-2008) 
  • Jack Sikma, a 6'11" forward/center who played the first nine seasons of his 14-season career with the Sonics, followed by five with the Bucks, was one of the most underappreciated players in NBA history until he got what many felt was a long-overdue Hall of Fame induction in 2019. He went in the top 10 of the 1977 draft despite playing for NAIA school Illinois Wesleyan,note  and went on to make seven straight All-Star Games (1979–1985). During this time, he also was a key (alongside future Celtics great Dennis Johnson) to the Sonics' only NBA title in 1979. In some ways, he was an American precursor to Dirk Nowitzki, with unusually good shooting ability for a big man and his own signature shot, a behind-the-head jumper. Also like Nowitzki, he was a very good free throw shooter, even leading the NBA in free-throw percentage one season (the only center in NBA history to accomplish this). Despite his strong Hall of Fame credentials, both in traditional numbers and in more advanced metrics, he was long unable to gain any momentum for induction to Springfield; he never made the list of finalists before 2019.
  • Shawn Kemp was a power forward known for his athleticism and dunking ability; most notable was the infamous "Lister Blister", where he jumped on a defender and pointed to him after the dunk. Also had a potent mid-range jump shot to go with his dunks; was traded to Cleveland in the 1997 season and quickly faded away due to personal problems.
  • Gary Payton was a point guard with the Sonics, known for mocking his direct opponent (whom he almost always beat). The 6’4” point guard averaged more than 20 points per game in seven different seasons with the Sonics, and he was always a reliable facilitator, having finished his career with a 6.7 assist-per-game average despite fading numbers in his final years. The defensive end is where Payton earned his nickname, "The Glove". He was about as tenacious a defender as the league has ever seen (in Game 6 of the 1996 Finals, he held Michael Jordan to 22 points on 5 of 19 shooting, arguably Jordan's worst Finals game ever), and his willingness to talk trash and get inside his opponent's head was unmatched. Oh, in addition, in 13 seasons, Payton missed a total of five regular season games. In the twilight of his career, he won his only ring with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in 2006.

    Toronto Raptors 
  • Vince Carter is a shooting guard / small forward drafted by the Raptors out of the University of North Carolina in 1998. He quickly made a name for himself due to his awe-inspiring and borderline superhuman dunks, gaining the nicknames "Vinsanity" and "Half-Man, Half Amazing". His athleticism took him to the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest where he wowed the crowd with a dazzling array of finishes, and even further into the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where he actually jumped over a seven-foot player in-game for a dunk. In his twilight years with the Raptors, he became a pariah to the franchise, sandbagging games due to his falling out with the front office. He was traded to the New Jersey Nets after a few years of inefficient play, then became a journeyman, finishing his career with the Atlanta Hawks. Carter's 22 years in the league are the most of any player, and he is the only NBA player to have played in four different decades (the 1990s through the 2020s). Carter announced plans to retire at the end of the 2019–20 season, and with the Hawks not qualifying to participate in the final phase of the COVID-19-disrupted season, he made it official shortly before play resumed. To put in perspective just how long Carter was in the league, on the opening night of his final NBA season...
  • DeMar DeRozan is a shooting guard who spent his first nine NBA seasons in Toronto before going to the Spurs in the Kawhi Leonard trade. Drafted out of USC in 2009, he made his name in much the same way as Carter, with slashing drives and acrobatic dunks (though nothing like Carter's in Sydney, at least as far as we know). He also went on to make four All-Star Games and two All-NBA teams before being dealt to San Antonio. That said, DeRozan may be even more notable for having embraced a city that isn't among the most popular playing destinations for NBA stars (at least non-Canadians), going so far as to re-up with the Raptors in 2016 instead of returning to his native L.A. as a free agent. After the re-signing, he told media, "I am Toronto. Outside of where I’m from, I represent this city harder than anybody." His departure had a major impact on Raptors fans, falling roughly between LeBron's first and second departures from Cleveland. Another face of the league's ongoing push for mental health awareness, having opened up about his struggles with depression. After spending three seasons in San Antonio, he joined Chicago in a sign-and-trade deal that saw the latter ship out Thaddeus Young and three picks.
  • Kyle Lowry was the heart and soul of the Raptors following the DeRozan trade. Drafted by the Grizzlies out of Villanova in 2006, he spent his first three seasons in Memphis before being displaced by the arrival of Mike Conley and then being traded to the Rockets. In Houston, he played reasonably well, but the combination of a poorly timed illness and clashes with then-coach Kevin McHale led to him being dealt to the Raptors in 2012 in a salary dump. Lowry flipped the script on his career when Masai Ujiri arrived as the new GM in the 2013–14 offseason. Ujiri told Lowry that he had the potential to be a much better player than he had shown, but needed to improve his attitude and fitness. Lowry took it to heart, emerging as one of the better point guards in the league over the last few years and a perennial All-Star selection (though admittedly, he benefited from most of the league's best PGs being in the West). Frequently compared to a pit bull for his on-court tenacity, highlighted by the fact that he played with a broken hand during the 2019 NBA Playoffs in which he was a key contributor in helping the franchise to their first NBA championship title. In 2021, he joined the Miami Heat in a sign-and-trade deal that involved Goran Dragić and Precious Achiuwa.
  • Pascal Siakam is a Cameroonian power forward drafted by the Raptors in 2016 out of New Mexico State. At the start of the 2016-17 season, he was named as a starter in the season opener. Despite putting up decent numbers, his performance was considered to be lackluster and he was sent down to Raptors 905. There, he helped them to a D League (now G League) title along with the finals MVP. He would return in the 2017-18 season, again with decent numbers. 2018-19 would prove to be his breakout season, landing him the Most Improved Player award. During the 2019 NBA playoffs, he would help the Raptors reach the NBA Finals, where he would record team highs in points during Game 1 and Game 6, en route to the team's first championship. With the departure of Kawhi Leonard, many Raptors fans are looking to Siakam to fill the void. So far, he looks to be succeeding, evidenced by second-team All-NBA honors in 2020.
  • Fred VanVleet is an up-and-coming point guard out of Wichita State who is the heir apparent to Kyle Lowry. As such, when Kyle is the Point Guard position, VanVleet plays the shooting guard position and has gotten really good throwing 3s behind the arc. What makes VanVleet's story so special is that he actually was passed over in the 2016 NBA Draft. That setback clearly didn't faze him as he stuck by his slogan of Bet on Yourselfnote  (and there is a video circulating where Fred declares that he had gone undrafted as his own Draft Party). The Toronto Raptors clearly saw something in him, and they signed him on, despite that they already had not only locked in Lowry, but also drafted Siakam and Jakob Pöltl in the same draft. Like Siakam, VanVleet played some time in the D-League before breaking out during the 2018-2019 season. During the 2019 playoffs, VanVleet entered a significant slump, possibly distracted by the impending birth of his son Fred Jr. Once said child was born, VanVleet was able to refocus and break out in a big way, as he helped the Raptors eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks in six games. During the 2019 Finals against the Golden State Warriors, VanVleet was the primary defender against Stephen Curry, and caused some amount of frustration in Curry himself. That and his decent performance during the finals earned him a single vote in the Finals MVP ranking, which is significant considering the rest of the Finals MVP votes went to Kawhi Leonard.note  After significant improvements during the shortened 2019-2020 season in which VanVleet was made the de facto shooting guard, the Raptors rewarded VanVleet with a nice 4-year contract worth $85 million, which at the time was the largest contract ever signed by an undrafted player note .

    Utah Jazz 
  • "Pistol" Pete Maravich played during the seventies, mostly for the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans/Utah Jazz. He still holds the record for college scoring (and will likely continue to, given that top players almost never stay in college for four years anymore) with 3,667 points. (And note that this does not include 741 points he scored as a junior-varsity freshman, and that there was no three-point line at the time. Maravich was an exceptional outside shooter, and someone eventually calculated that, had there been a three-point line, his scoring average would have risen from 44 to 57 points a game.) Sadly, his other claim to fame was his early death from an undiagnosed heart condition at the age of 40, which happened while he was playing a casual game of basketball at a church. When the 50 greatest players were selected in 1996, he was the only one who was deceased, despite being born decades later than some of the others. His two sons attended the ceremony in his place.
  • John Stockton was a point guard most famous for playing with his longtime partner, Karl Malone. Played for 19 seasons with the Jazz, the longest single-team tenure ever seen in the league before Kobe made it 20 in his final season. Short, but fast, Stockton was a playmaking genius (he leads the league in career total assists), who could switch to perimeter shooting (i.e. three pointers) while also staying tough (only missing 23 games in 19 seasons of play) defensively (he leads the league in career total steals). Stockton and Malone popularized the "pick and roll" play, which was soon copied across the league. His #12 was retired by the Jazz. Also associated with short shorts, which he continued to wear even as the whole league adopted baggier ones.
  • Karl Malone was a power forward most famous for playing with his longtime partner, John Stockton. A huge, but relatively slow man, Malone is a two-time MVP, a 14-time All-Star and holds the second-highest record in points (36,928). Nicknamed "The Mailman" for his remarkable consistency. Having averaged 25 points and 10.1 rebounds in his 19 seasons, he virtually never had a down year. His #32 jersey was retired by the Jazz. The same year Stockton retired Malone went to the Lakers to try winning a title... only to lose in the finals to the Pistons.
  • Andrei Kirilenko, one of the most versatile forwards of the early 21st century, arrived in the NBA from his homeland of Russia in 2001 and played 13 seasons in the league, the first 10 of them for the Jazz. Throughout his career, he was a threat on both offense and defense, and three times he even accomplished the rare feat of a "5x5"—at least five of all the major statistical categories of points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals in a game. During the lockout season of 2011–12, he returned to Russia to play for his former club of CSKA Moscow; he then came back with the Timberwolves and Nets. Then, during the 2014–15 season, he was traded to the Sixers, but refused to report for the blatantly tanking team; he was first suspended and then released. He played the last months of that season in Russia with CSKA before announcing his retirement. He's also known for his love of puns—throughout his pro career, he wore the number 47, inevitably leading to the nickname "AK-47".note  Shortly after his retirement, he became head of the Russian Basketball Federation.
  • Gordon Hayward, a 6-8 (white) small forward, became the face of the Jazz in the mid-10s before opting out of the final year of his contract in 2017 and jumping ship to the Celtics (where he was reunited with his college coach, Brad Stevens). Hayward first entered the national consciousness as a college player at Butler, where he led the Bulldogs to within an eyelash of a national title in 2010. He then declared for the NBA draft that spring, going to the Jazz as a lottery pick, and has steadily gone from good player to All-Star level. Notably, he improved his scoring average in each season he had been in the league... until suffering a gruesome leg injury in the Celtics' 2017–18 season opener in Cleveland, dislocating an ankle and breaking the tibia in the same leg. Hayward missed all of that season, and didn't recover completely until late in the 2019–20 season; afterwards, he again opted out of the final year of his contract and signed with the Hornets. Also One of Us, as he's a gaming enthusiast, even dabbling in professional e-sports.
  • Rudy Gobert, a 7-1 center out of France, has become one of the league's most dominant defenders, especially at the rim (earning him the Fan Nickname "Stifle Tower"). Noted for his ridiculous length, even for his size—when he was measured for the 2013 NBA draft combine, his wingspan of 7-8.5 (2.35 m) and standing reach of 9-7 (2.92 m)note  were then all-time records for the combine. The Jazz picked him at #27, which was lower than he thought he would go—he wears 27 to remind him of the "snub". Gobert truly emerged in the 2016–17 season, in which he set career highs in scoring, rebounding, blocks, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. He would be named Defensive Player of the Year the next two seasons, and a third time in 2021. However, he may wind up more remembered as the first NBA player to test positive for the COVID-19 virus that soon swept the world. Gobert's diagnosis caused the league to suspend its 2019-20 season immediately in March 2020, and required the teams he played against that week to quarantine themselves.note 
  • Donovan Mitchell is a 6-1 shooting guard who became one of the league's most explosive young players in the last part of the Tens. Picked 13th overall out of Louisville in 2017 by the Nuggets but traded to the Jazz on draft day, he immediately emerged as a future star, averaging over 20 points and finishing runner-up to Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year. Mitchell, who won the Slam Dunk Contest during that season's All-Star weekend, also became the first rookie since Carmelo Anthony more than a decade earlier to be the scoring leader for a playoff team with a winning record. He increased his scoring average in each of the next two seasons, making his first All-Star appearance in 2020. And, his playoff scoring average so far has been better than his regular-season numbers. Notably, Mitchell had two 50-point games in the Jazz's losing effort against the Nuggets in the first round of the 2020 NBA playoffs. Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson are the only other players who have done so in a single playoff series. Incidentally, he was the second NBA player to test positive for COVID-19, after his teammate Gobert.

    Washington Wizards 
  • Wes Unseld, a Hall of Fame center who spent his entire NBA career with the Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets, arrived in the NBA in 1968 out of his hometown school of Louisville, and made an immediate impact. He helped bring the Bullets from last place to first in their division in his rookie season, and became only the second player (after Chamberlain) to be Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. At 6'7", Unseld was short for his position even in his era, but made up for it with brute strength (his playing weight was 245 lb/111 kg) and determination. He was especially noted for his rebounding skills, outlet passes, and picks. Passed away in 2020; his son Wes Jr. became the Wizards' head coach during the 2021 offseason. Helped lead the Bullets to three NBA finals in the second half of the 70s, including a championship in 1978, alongside...
  • Elvin Hayes, a Hall of Fame power forward who started his career at the same time as Unseld, but with the then-San Diego Rockets. In his rookie season, he led the NBA in scoring, and he's the last rookie to have done so. Stayed with the Rockets through their move to Houston (where he had played college ball) until being traded to the Bullets in 1972, where he and Unseld became one of the most feared frontcourt combos of their day. A better scorer than Unseld, especially famous for his turnaround jumper, and roughly equal to Unseld as a rebounder, he went on to make 12 All-Star teams, eight with the Bullets, before being traded back to the Rockets, where he finished his career.
  • John Wall, selected first in the 2010 draft, is an excellent point guard now with the Houston Rockets who made his name with the Wizards, gaining national recognition when he became the second rookie to record a triple-double with six steals in his first six games. The first? Magic Johnson. He was named 2011 Rookie Game MVP during the 2011 All-Star Weekend, as well as the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, from January–April. Furthermore, he finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting behind unanimous selection Blake Griffin and he was named to the NBA All-Rookie 1st Team. Unfortunately, the Wizards finished near the bottom of the standings in Wall's first two years in the league; some fans were getting worried he may be getting ready to bolt to a winning franchise when he hits the free market agency in 2014. Those worries were eased when he signed a five-year "max" deal with the Wizards for a total of $80 million in the 2013 offseason. He then signed a four-year, $170 million supermax extension in the 2017 offseason that took effect in 2019–20. Unfortunately, he became a poster child for the risks teams take in giving a supermax deal—Wall tore an Achilles late in the 2018–19 season in a fall at his home, and missed the entire 2019–20 season. In the 2020 offseason, the Wizards dealt him along with a first-round pick to Houston for Russell Westbrook. While it's still early, he's showing signs of returning to something approaching his pre-injury form.
    • When he was with the Kentucky Wildcats, despite some controversy regarding his eligibility and recruitment, Wall made his college debut by hitting a game-winning jumper as time expired to take home his first victory. From then on, he would blossom into a college superstar, leading Kentucky to a 35-3 record and an SEC regular season and tournament championship. He was one of the nation's top point guards, averaging 6.5 dimes per contest, and he led the Wildcats to the NCAA Elite Eight. As a testament to his character, he admits that he's haunted about not winning a title at Kentucky ("I will think about it until I am off this earth"). Moreover, just before he joined the NBA, the future #1 overall pick in the NBA draft, the future millionaire, and the superstar of college basketball went to class and earned a 3.5 GPA in his final semester.
  • Bradley Beal originally was the second-in-command to John Wall back when they first teammates with each other due to Beal being selected third in the 2012 draft. He is now their leader and scoring general after Wall (and Russell Westbrook) left Washington, which he accepted when Wall dealt with his serious injuries in his career. As a result, similar to Devin Booker, Beal has had his moments where he felt underappreciated by media pundits early on before he proved himself to become a natural, respected All-Star going forward into his career.
  • God Shammgod was a second-round selection for the Wizards, and played one season for them before going overseas for his basketball career, and is currently an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks. Despite this, he has become a street ball and college ball legend in his own right, due to his eponymous crossover dribble. Current point guards in the NBA and international basketball have since adopted his moves to the pro game with much success.

Alternative Title(s): Notable Players Of The National Basketball Association