The NBA historically has been littered with father/son appearances. This phenomena is not uncommon across the sports world. Baseball has had heavy family roots throughout its history, and football is beginning to see the second and third generations of families come through its game as well.
The children of NBA players have much more opportunity to become great at the game. Some of the greatest basketball players of all-time grew up with a fathers who played professionally. Kobe Bryant, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry are wonderful examples of that. It is easy to see that growing up around NBA coaches and players enables you to understand the game at a different level than most others growing up. When you combine that amount of exposure to the game with the fact that players’ kids inherit their parents genes, it is quite clear how sons go on to become better than their fathers in many cases.
Today, however, we will be giving props to the fathers who were able to hold it down and made it difficult for their sons to ever catch up to them.
The following are 15 fathers who were much better NBA players than their sons. Feel free to leave a comment if we forgot someone that belongs on this list.
15. Doc Rivers
While Doc Rivers never led the NBA in scoring or anything like that, he was a very solid role player for some very good Atlanta Hawks squads. He was the team’s starting point guard for seven years. He aided Dominique Wilkins to several deep playoff runs, often times finding themselves outmatched by Larry Bird’s Celtic teams. Doc made it to an All-Star game in 1988, his only selection. His best season, however, came the year before his All-Star game appearance. In 1987, Rivers averaged a double-double with 12.8 points and 10 assists per game.
Doc’s son Austin has also put together a respectable career in his own right. Now in his fifth season, Austin has yet to eclipse the 10 points per game plateau, but he has found his niche as the back up to Chris Paul in Los Angeles. Of course, the Doc is also the coach there in Los Angeles, making him the first coach to ever have his son on the team.
14. George Karl
George Karl has become much more famous for his incredible coaching ability, but in his time, he was a solid little player. As a career back-up point guard, he was a solid minute filler. George called it a career after only five professional seasons, but he had gained what he needed to gain during that time. It was clear that George was more excited about coaching the game than he was about playing, as he immediately went into coaching after ending his playing career.
George’s son, Coby, was a solid player coming out of Boise State, but he went undrafted in 2007. He was, however, given a chance to earn a spot with the Los Angeles Lakers after the draft. Young Karl made the Lakers roster and made his NBA debut in 2007. His career after that was spent mostly in the D-League trying to earn a call-up, which never ended up happening. Coby took after his father again when he retired at a young age and immediately went to coaching. He is currently the head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers D-League team.
13. Curtis Perry
Curtis Perry was a third round selection in the 1970 draft. At 6’8, 220 pounds, he was a big bodied power forward who had the ability and desire to play both ends of the floor. During his eight seasons in the NBA, Curtis nearly averaged a double-double with 9.5 points, and 8.8 rebounds per game. He joined the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971, the year after they won the championship, and although the Bucks were title contenders during his time there, they were not able to capture a title with Perry.
Perry’s son, Byron Houston, was expected to be a quality NBA player when he left college in 1992. Byron was selected in the first round of the draft that season; however, his career lasted only four seasons before he was relegated to playing overseas.
12. Scott May
Scott May is one of the biggest “what ifs” of the 70s and 80s. He spent his college years dominating the NCAA under legendary coach Bob Knight. May was drafted second overall in the 1976 draft, and went on to be selected to the NBA All-Rookie team while averaging over fourteen points per game. May’s accomplishments were plentiful, including winning the NCAA College Player of the Year in 1976. He also won an Olympic gold medal during his collegiate days.
Scott’s son Sean was also a highly touted collegiate player during his run with the North Carolina Tar Heels during the early 2000s. Sean was lucky enough to avoid the injury bug, unlike his father. However, Sean didn’t seem to have the skills his father did. Sean was only able to stick in the league for four seasons before being forced to take his skills around the world. He has been bouncing around international leagues since his departure from the NBA in 2010.
11. Tim Hardaway
It could easily be argued that Tim Hardaway Sr. should be much higher on this list. He is, after all, a five time all-star, five time All-NBA Team selection, and a Rookie of the Year winner. With that resume, you could easily say he needs to be higher; however, this list is full of great Hall of Fame caliber fathers. Nonetheless, Hardaway was a true superstar during the prime of his career. He was an MVP runner up as well as one of the pioneers of the ankle breaking cross over.
Hardaway Jr. was not even close to as talented as his old man. Jr appeared to become a victim of the 3-point rush. He is a 6’6 shooting guard, but he mainly sticks to spotting up for three-point shots rather than slashing like his father was once so good at doing. Jr has spent the last two seasons looking to earn a spot with an NBA team, while playing in the D-League.
10. Arvydas Sabonis
Although Arvydas joined the NBA later in his career, he is still one of the greatest passing big men the NBA has ever seen. His skills went far beyond his elite passing abilities of course, but he will likely always be remembered for his instinctual ability to find slashers cutting through the paint. Sabonis was a main reason for the Portland Trail Blazers success during the late 90s, but before that, he was a six-time Eurostar Player of the Year, and was likely the greatest international big man of all-time until Dirk Nowitzki came along.
Arvydas’ son, Domantas seems to have a future in the NBA. As a rookie, he has earned himself the back up center role with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Domantas was a highly touted collegiate player when he came out of Gonzaga University last year, and to this point, he is proving to be a hungry youngster. He has an awfully long way to go before he reaches the heights of his father though.
9. Paul Pressey
Coming out of Tulsa in 1982, Pressey was the 20th player selected in the NBA draft. Once he broke into the league, he earned playing time with his defensive intensity and ability to put great pressure on elite ball handlers. Paul spent eleven years in the NBA, but most of his accolades and accomplishments came while playing with the Milwaukee Bucks. His accomplishments include two times being named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team, as well as one second team selection. After his playing days were over, Paul went into coaching and is viewed today as one of the creators of the new “point forward” position we see so predominantly in today’s NBA.
Paul’s son Phil also spent some time in the league; however, his successes were far fewer. Paul came into the league as an underrated free agent. He landed a spot on the Celtics roster but it only lasted about half a season. Since 2015, he has been bouncing around the D-League looking to find shot at the big time again.
8. Glen Rice
One of the greatest shooters to ever play the game, Glen Rice was an elite ball player during the 1990s. Rice spent 15 years in the league, during which he played with six different franchises. One of the more underrated players in history, Rice had success at every lever. He was an NCAA Champion and Final Four Most Outstanding Player in college. An NBA Champion, a three-time All-Star, and a three-point shooting champion, Glen retired in 2004 with a very respectable 18.8 career points per game average.
Rice Jr, did not enter the NBA with as much buzz as his father. In fact, the only real buzz around Jr was that he was Glen Rice’s son. Rice Sr. was the fourth overall selection, Jr. was drafted in the second round. Glen Jr. has had some runs with NBA teams, but the bulk of his four years of pro ball have been spent in the D-League.
7. George Mikan
Pretty much the George Washington of basketball, George Mikan was the original big man. Milan’s career was already underway when the NBA actually became a association back in 1950. George’s career began in 1946, so when the NBA was founded, he was already in his prime and ready to dominate the new league. Dominate he did. Mikan was four of the first five NBA championships and led the NBA in almost all stats that were kept at the time. Many sports historians rank George Mikan’s dominance second to only Babe Ruth in American sports history.
After his playing days, Mikan went to work in the front office of the NBA. He was a leading pusher for the evolution of the game. Mikan is responsible for adopting the ABA shot clock, as well as implementing rules to prohibit big men from staying under the basket for longer than three seconds. Mikan’s son Larry was also a basketball player, but Larry was not as passionate about the game, nor as skilled as his father. After only one season in the NBA, Larry decided to retire, electing to pursue other opportunities for himself.
6. Larry Nance
With the slight emergence of Nance Jr., many younger basketball fans are also becoming aware of Larry Nance Sr. Sr was one of the most explosive players of the 80s. Larry was a top-level defender, thanks in large part due to his length and agility. He was named to the All-NBA Defensive Team three times. He also is famous for his high flying dunks, something his son has apparently inherited. Nance won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1984, a contest that included Clyde Drexler, Julius Erving and Dominque Wilkins.
Nance Jr. has shown some flashes of his old man’s dunking abilities so far in his young career. He is part of the youth movement taking part with the Los Angeles Lakers. If Nance can improve his scoring numbers and his wing defense, he could someday draw true comparisons to his father.
5. Bill Walton
The crazy hippie we all see on TV once in a while was once a superstar NBA player. Bill Walton pretty much did it all in his basketball career. He was part of the greatest dynasty in sports history with the UCLA Bruins basketball team under the legend John Wooden. Walton’s college career highlights include three-time NCAA Player of the Year trophies, two championships, two Final Four Most Outstanding Player awards, and his number being retired by UCLA, just to name a few. Once he reached the NBA, he won two championships, a finals MVP, and a regular season MVP. He was a player who dominated the game on both ends of the court. Ultimately, the only thing that slowed him down was Father Time.
Luke Walton learned from some of the greatest collegiate minds of all time. Being nearly a grandson to John Wooden helped Luke learn the best lessons at an early age. Luke then attended the University of Arizona where Lute Olsen helped get Luke to the NBA. His career was not all that exciting on its own. However, he was part of some NBA championship teams with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
4. Rick Barry
Rick Barry’s career was split between the ABA and the NBA, but there is no denying his place among the elites in the games history. Rick was the kind of player who could do everything. In his career, he averaged 23.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, Those numbers rival almost anyone who have ever played the game. The great thing about Rick was that he not only put up numbers, but he was also a winner. He won an ABA championship and an NBA championship in his career.
Rick had three boys who went on to play professional basketball, so it is hard to just pick one. The funny thing about how much better Rick was than his boys is that he alone recorded more points, rebounds, assists, championships, MVP’s, All-Star Games, and All-NBA selections than all of his kids combined. That pretty much says it all right there.
3. Dell Curry
Dell Curry might not be able to say he is the best ball player in the family anymore, but he still holds bragging rights over one of his sons. Steph has obviously long surpassed his father’s achievements, but Seth on the other hand, still has a lot of work to do. Many people believe Seth has the ability to surpass Dell’s career achievements, but it may be harder than they think.
People forget just how good Dell was during his 16 years in the league. It is often forgotten that Dell is the all-time leading scorer in Charlotte Hornet history. People also overlook the fact that Dell was the NBA Sixth-Man of the year back in 1994. If Seth is to ever catch up to the career of his father, he will have to improve on his eight points per game average this season.
2. Patrick Ewing
Arguably the greatest player to never win an NBA championship, Patrick Ewing did so much during his time in the NBA. He was a collegiate champion, as well as an eleven time All-Star. He was part of the original USA Dream Team with the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. Ewing did it all, except win that title. Since retiring, Ewing has established himself as an elite assistant coach on the verge of becoming a head coach.
Ewing Jr. looked up to his father immensely, maybe too much even. Jr went to Georgetown University, where his father led the team to the NCAA title in 1984. Jr even wore his father’s number, 33, during his time with the Hoyas. As talented as Jr was, he was never able to escape the shadow cast by his Hall of Fame father. Ultimately, Jr was drafted in the second round, but he never latched on with any NBA teams. He spent his eight year professional career bouncing between D-League teams, and playing in other countries.
1. John Stockton
John Stockton came out of Gonzaga University with more skepticism surrounding him than almost any future Hall of Famer. He was too little, too weak, and too slow to be a good NBA player; that is what the pundits said about John back in 1984. Although he was drafted in the first round, it was believed he was a risky pick by the Utah Jazz. John would go on to become statistically the greatest point guard of all time. Once he retired, he was atop the all-time assist leaderboard, as well as atop the career steals leaderboard. He and Karl Malone will forever be remembered as one of the greatest duos in league history, and the greatest one to never win an NBA championship.
When David Stockton was attempting an NBA career, many of the same concerns arose that plagued his father decades earlier. This time, however, the pundits were right. David was two inches shorter, and ten pounds lighter than his father, and David did not possess the natural abilities John had. David went undrafted after his senior season with Gonzaga, but was given a shot by the Sacramento Kings. In three games with he Kings, Stockton averaged three points and three assists, not enough to keep him on the team. David is currently playing professionally in New Zealand.