It's not hard to see that the NBA is comprised of a majority of African American players. With roughly 75% of players being African-American, the NBA of today has become arguably the most explosive and athletic sport in the entire world, and frankly, it can be a tough place for a white player to excel.
Things weren't always this way, however. Formed in 1949, the NBA had no black players at first, but within a few years, they did start getting signed. Still looking like the rest of America in the '50s, the NBA was filled with white players who could really shoot and play some serious defense.
Fans from today would say...boring! The league has since developed into an extremely entertaining game of high flyers who play above the rim, with dunks and ally oops that seem to defy gravity --areas where very few white players can venture. The outstanding white player has become more and more of an uncommon sight. If it were not for the European players who have increased in recent years, the sightings would be even fewer.
Throughout the years, there have been many incredibly talented white players in the storied history of the National Basketball Association. From "Pistol Pete" to Larry Bird and beyond, there will be white basketballers that excel in this game. Greatness is measured in different ways and playing above the rim is one measure, but there are other things that factor into greatness such as poise, leadership and the ability to perform under extreme pressure.
In this article, we will be looking at the greatest American-raised white players in NBA history. Now, this title comes with a few factors that need to be addressed before we can begin. This list is excluding all foreign born players such as Dirk Nowitzki, The player must be North American-raised. Although the stereotype may feel very real at times, some of the players on this list defied the rule that says "white men can't jump!"
Here is the top 15 greatest white players in NBA history. As always, feel free to let us know any players we missed that could have been included in this list.
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15 "Pistol" Pete Maravich
Pete Maravich was one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. Stemming from his incredible work ethic, which was started at a young age by his father, the dedication to the game of basketball paid off, as Pistol Pete averaged 44.2 ppg during his college career with LSU. Yes, that number is somehow correct. His NBA career was very impressive as well, as he averaged over 24 points a game during his five-time NBA All-Star career.
14 Billy Cunningham
This is one of the guys I was talking about who proved that some white men can jump. Billy Cunningham had some serious hops, as he was even given the nickname "Kangaroo Kid." Cunningham was one of the lone players who played above the rim during his era, which was a time where most players were not dunking and jumping like Cunningham did. As a player, he won the NBA championship in 1967 with the Philadelphia 76ers, and then went on to coach the team to another championship in 1983.
13 Kevin McHale
Kevin McHale was part of one of the most historic big threes of all time, which included him, Robert Parish and Larry Bird. A great post scorer, McHale was a huge spark off the Celtics bench, as he is even regarded as one of the best 6th man in all of basketball history. He was a three-time NBA champion with Boston, and he is undoubtedly one of the greatest Celtics players ever. Now that is really saying something!
12 Bill Walton
Even with his continuous injuries, Bill Walton went on to have one of the greatest NBA careers of all time, even being named to the NBA's 50 Greatest Players of All-Time list in 1996. The center was drafted with the 1st pick to the Trail Blazers in 1974, and the expectations were high for Walton from the start. Leading the Blazers to a title in 1977, Bill Walton lived up to the hype as he continued his dominance the next season, winning MVP in 1978.
11 Dolph Schayes
Dolph Schayes was a man among boys with his lengthy 6'7" build during the early years of the NBA. With an incredibly long list of accolades, Schayes won the 1955 NBA championship with the Syracuse Nationals and went on to be a 12-time NBA all-star. Additionally, Schayes was a 12-time All-NBA selection. Born in the Bronx, New York, Dolph Schayes is considered to be the best Jewish basketball player of all time.
10 Dave Cowens
Even though he was just 6'9 as a center, Dave Cowens worked harder than anyone on the court, which is why his NBA career was so successful. His combination of scoring and rebounding earned him the MVP award in 1973. Leading the Celtics to two titles, Cowens has cemented himself as not just one of the greatest white players in history but one of the best players of his time. In 1991, he was elected to the Hall of Fame.
9 Rick Barry
Many people may just know Rick Barry for his underhanded free throw, which was incredibly effective by the way, but Barry was so much more than this. He was had such an impact that he was named one to the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, which placed his name alongside legends. An impressive scorer, Barry averaged just over 23 points per game over the course of his amazing 15 year NBA career. He is also the only player to lead the NCAA, the ABA and the NBA in scoring for a season.
8 Bob Cousy
Bob Cousy is considered one of the first players to bring the pizzazz of New York street ball to the hardwood of the NBA. His unorthodox playing style for the era was a sight to behold, as he weaved in and out of defenders easily and was very adept at making flashy passes. Once the Celtics drafted Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn, Cousy and the Celtics went on to win six rings. Cousy would win the MVP award in 1957.
7 John Stockton
Possibly the greatest point guard ever, it's a shame Stockton was never able to win an NBA championship. He holds the record for most assists and steals in NBA history, which just shows how much of a two-way player he was. The dangerous duo which consisted of him and Karl Malone was incredibly successful as they ran the pick and roll to absolute perfection. He played for the Jazz for 19 years, as he has become one of the most cherished figures in all of Utah's basketball history.
6 Steve Nash
One of the more recent players to be included on this list, Steve Nash was an exciting player to watch. The point guard was one of the best passers in NBA history, as he is one of the only players to win multiple MVP awards. Possibly the greatest Phoenix Suns player ever, Steve Nash is destined to be enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame some day. Nash's legacy also includes growing the game of basketball in Canada, as we've seen more and more young Canadian players rise through the ranks of the NBA.
5 George Mikan
Much like Dolph Schayes, George Mikan's 6'10 build was just too much for most of the smaller players in the league at the time. He won four NBA championships with the Minneapolis Lakers in only five seasons. He was unstoppable on both ends of the court due to his athleticism and quickness. Averaging over 23 points and 13 rebounds a game for his career, his stats speak for themselves.
4 John Havlicek
John Havlicek had one of the most successful NBA careers to date. An eight-time NBA champion with the Celtics, he and Bill Russell were an unstoppable force. He was a rookie towards the end of Cousy's time on the Celtics, and the team needed a player to fill the void after Cousy's departure. With a smooth mid-range game that translated into many clutch shots, Havlicek was one of the best to ever do it. Havlicek would win an astounding eight NBA titles.
3 Bob Pettit
Bob Pettit was a force in the early days of the NBA. Winning the league's first MVP honors in 1956 with the St. Louis Hawks made him one of the more historic players in the league. He also led the Hawks franchise to their lone championship win in 1958, as he scored 50 points in the deciding game of the final against Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. Pettit is no doubt one of the most underrated players in the league because his name should come into conversations more when discussing some of the greatest.
2 Jerry West
Jerry West's legacy will live on for all of the NBA's existence, as his incredible career compelled the NBA to make him the logo of the league. Possibly the best pure scorer in all of the history of basketball, West could shoot lights out and also bring it inside, as he was very athletic as well. Along with Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, the three went on to the NBA Finals nine times, but surprisingly only won the title once. So how good was Jerry West? Well he was even named the finals MVP in 1969...when his team lost.
1 Larry Bird
The "Hick from French Lick" is one of the biggest names in basketball history. Even though he didn't have the athleticism like many other players in the league, Larry Bird put his heart on the court every night, doing whatever he could to bring the Celtics to another win. Whether it be knocking down the last shot, passing it to the open man, grabbing a rebound, or getting an important steal, if it had to be done, Larry was the man for it. He won three NBA championships with the Celtics, as he battled the Lakers and Magic Johnson in one of the best rivalries in sports history. His career accolades could fill an entire book, and he did it while being an unathletic white guy. Now that's impressive.
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