Wednesday 24th January 2018,
The Hoop Doctors

Top 10 Best Basketball Players All-time in California

September 12, 2009 – R.S. De France

R.S. De France is a College and University instructor of English Composition. He has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing. One of his life-long pursuits has been writing and covering anything related to sports, specifically the NBA. Recently, De France, his wife, and another colleague started an internationally read magazine at

This month marks the anniversary of the discovery of California by Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. As a California native myself, I started recalling the best NBA players to have been born, discovered, played college ball, and/or played for the NBA in California (CA). To be considered, a player must have: won, set records, and still be popular.

10. Reggie Miller—Miller was born in Riverside, CA. He was a UCLA product. In 2000, he made his only trip to the NBA Finals. He is the NBA’s all-time leader in three point field goals made with 2,560. When the pressure was on him, it became known as “Miller Time.” He finished 2nd in UCLA scoring behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was an Olympic gold medalist 1996. Career 18.2 ppg.

9. Paul Pierce—The truth is he was born in Oakland, CA and attended Inglewood High School near Los Angeles before being drafted by the Boston Celtics where he would eventually win his first title in ’08. He holds records for most consecutive free throws made in the playoffs (21) and most free throws made in one quarter of the NBA Finals (10). Career 22.9 ppg.

8. Rick Barry—Barry played for the San Francisco Warriors, the Oakland Oaks (ABA), and eventually returned to the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA crown in ’75. For a short time, he held the record for most consecutive free throws made. Career 24.8 ppg.

7. Jason Kidd—Born in San Francisco, Kidd went to school in the bay area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He had two failed trips to the NBA Finals (losing to the Lakers and Spurs in consecutive years while playing for the New Jersey Nets). Kidd was an Olympic gold medalist in 2000 and 2008. As a pro, Kidd is 56-0 in USA Basketball (including exhibition games). He is 3rd all-time in triple-doubles (103). He is 2nd all-time in playoff triple-doubles (to Larry Bird). Also, Kidd is 3rd all-time in Assists. Career 13.8 ppg, 9.2 apg, and 6.7 rpg.

6. Bill Walton—Born in La Mesa, California, Walton attended UCLA where he helped win two consecutive national titles for Coach John Wooden. He was also part of the fabled UCLA team that won 88 games in a row, going 30-0 in two seasons. In the NBA, the “Big Red” won the title with Portland in ’77 as the star, and won again with Boston in ’85 as the sixth man. Career 13.3 ppg and 10.5 rpg.

5. Jerry West—West played his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning his only title in 1972. He still holds the record for most points averaged during a playoff series, 46.3. And, only recent Hall of Fame inductee Michael Jordan managed to average more points in the post-season. West was also Co-captain of the 1960 Olympic gold medal team. Career 27 ppg.

4. Kobe Bryant—Although drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, the Lakers nabbed Bryant in a draft-day trade for center Vlade Divac. Since then, he has played his entire career in Los Angeles. He holds the record for the second-most points ever scored in an NBA game with 81. By the end of his ridiculous 2006 season that included the 81, Bryant finished with the most points scored by a Laker in a single season. In 2008, he won an Olympic gold medal. Bryant has 4 titles, a three-peat from 00’ to ’02 and another ring in ’09. Career 25.1 ppg.

3. Wilt Chamberlain—Chamberlain only won 1 title with Los Angeles in 1972 with teammate Jerry West (his only other title coming as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers). Chamberlain was the NBA Finals MVP for the Lakers that season. In a single season (‘61-’62) he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds. He was the only player to average 40 and 50 ppg in a season, and he scored a record 100 points in a single game. He also holds the record for most rebounds in a game with 55. Career 30.1 ppg and 22.9 rpg.

2. Magic Johnson—As a rookie, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he played his entire career. That season, he blended with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on their way to his Magic’s first NBA title. In game 6, Magic memorably filled in for Jabbar at center, finishing with 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists. In his career, Magic won 5 titles in 8 trips to the NBA Finals. Magic, despite retiring after contracting HIV in 1991, won an Olympic gold medal in 1992 with fellow Hall of Fame players Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, John Stockton, and David Robinson on the fabled USA “Dream Team.” He still holds a tied record for most assists in a playoff game (24). Additionally, he holds the All-star assist records, both for most assists in a game (22) and most total assists (127). Magic is 2nd all-time in triple-doubles and 4th all-time in total assists. Career 19.5 ppg and 11.2 apg.

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—He won three consecutive NCAA championships at UCLA under Coach John Wooden, finishing with an 88-2 college record. Jabbar still holds numerous all-time records at UCLA, including all-time points and scoring average. In his NBA career, Jabbar won 6 titles, one with Milwaukee in ’76, and 5 with the L.A. Lakers. He played 14 of his 20 seasons with the Lakers. He holds six all-time records, including most total points. Career 24.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg, and 2.6 bpg.

Raymond Lewis—L.A. street ball legend; regarded as one of the best basketball products from Los Angeles never to go to the NBA. Although he never played in NBA, Lewis dropped 56 points (in 3 quarters) on the Showtime Lakers’ defensive specialist Michael Cooper in a 1983 summer pro league. Later, he also scored 81 points in another game where he competed against NBA players. His legend lives on as he died at 48 from complications after his leg was amputated (
Tayshuan Prince—good defender and NBA champion in 2004.
Gilbert Arenas—good clutch shooter.

Not to be Forgotten: Other NBA Players Born in California
Tyson Chandler
Andre Miller
Richard Jefferson
Drew Gooden
Bruce Bowen (3 NBA championships)
Kyle Korver
Jordan Farmer (1 NBA championship)

Other UCLA Greats
Gail Goodrich (1 NBA championship)
Baron Davis

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  • Craig

    What about Kevin Johnson?

  • JT

    You forgot Gary Payton, who easily makes that top 10 list. He’s a top 5 PG of all time without doubt. GP is from Oakland.

    • Ivan Renko

      I agree with your assessment of GP as a top PG historically. I wouldn’t go as far as top -5 PG unless you are talking strictly California. Even then, Jason Kidd still beats him out for a spot on the top-10 list of players. As good as GP was, he’s not top-10, but certainly deserves to be mentioned.

      How can anyone list “Top 10 Best Basketball Players All-time in California” and not list Cheryl Miller and Lisa Leslie? There are really only eight spots availablvailable for the men.

      • AronRi

        GP is better than Kidd. And yes HE IS a top 5 point guard.

      • AronRi

        ”deserves to be mentioned” lol, the nerve some people have it never stops to amaze me…

  • Damper

    BILL RUSSELL. Feel free to look him up.

  • mookie

    Fair call, Bill Russell did play at USF, in Cali.

    It does get to be a pretty tenuous list though, with the naming of anyone who played in Cali — maybe would have been best to keep it to those born and/or raised in the state?

  • Glad to see Tayshaun & Tyson on there. I saw them play quite a few times in high school. My team almost went against Tyson in CIF, but lost the round before.

  • Corey

    Gary Payton not being on this list is unacceptable. 3rd all-time in steals, 7th all-time in assists, 9 straight all-NBA teams, 9 straight all-defensive teams, 9 straight all-star teams, 1996 Defensive Player of the Year (only PG to win the award) 3 NBA Finals appearances, 1 NBA title, only player in NBA history with 20,000 points, 8,000 assists, 4,000 rebounds, and 2,000 steals. This list is a joke without him on it, didnt even get a mention

  • Myron Tompkins

    Chick Hearn must be rolling over in his resting place…


    Elgin Baylor…

  • Dainius

    The best basketball player in all time is Arvydas Sabonis iš LIETUVOS (from LITHUANIA).

  • meme

    I love Kobe. He is the best ever.

    • Bob

      Your wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lakers stink! Kevin Garnett is the best!

      • gffgfgfgfg

        You got that right!!!!

  • Brian

    Abdul-Jabbar won his title in Milwaukee in 1971, not 1976. The Celtics won in 1976. And I would add Gary Payton, Elgin Baylor, and Bill Russell in place of Reggie Miller, Paul Pierce, and Jason Kidd.

  • Dan

    Bill Sharman. USC star. Led Lakers to first NBA title in LA, 33-game win streak. Top 50 forward, multiple championships with Russell’s Celtics.

  • snadra

    yoyu are the oldest basketball player to ever live!

  • Kyle

    How in the World could YOU leave out both BYRON SCOTT AND BARON DAVIS!?

    • Ivan Renko

      Baron Davis is an honorable mention. Byron Scott should be the same…but i agree that his total omission is wrong.

  • Ivan Renko

    This guy! His list is a joke. The title doesn’t exclude females. His top-10 list would surely not include Reggie Miller (whose own sister Cheryl would obviously displace him), Bill Walton (one of the most overrated [pro] players in basketball history), or Paul Pierce.

    Let’s see: Bill Russell, Cheryl Miller and Lisa Leslie belong in the top-10…PERIOD! (excuse the pun).

    Other names that would warrant serious honerable mention:

    1) Kevin Johnson;

    2) Gary Payton (remember, we can only inlcude 10 players, and Jason Kidd edges him out);

    3) Marques Johnson

    4) Ed O’Bannon – widely regarded as one of the top California prep players ever – might have gone on to become one of the greatest players of all-time if not for a bum leg, so he deserves mention. regardless of his weak pro career.