Basketball is one of the most aesthetically pleasing sports on Earth, with its fast-paced action and colorful uniforms in a large stadium. However, basketball has also gained a reputation for being a game based mainly on athleticism, where players are expected to score points at will — much like baseball.
The best white basketball players of all time are both skilled and successful. To make a list, they had to be excellent in their own right but also groundbreaking in terms of what they could do on the court compared to other white or minority players. Some of these legends or pioneers played in an era when it was just unthinkable for a black man to compete with whites on the same court.
Table of Contents
- 1. Larry Bird
- 2. Jerry West
- 3. Bob Pettit
- 4. Kent Benson
- 5. Rick Barry
- 6. Jerry Lucas
- 7. Dolph Schayes
- 8. Bill Sharman
- 9. George Mikan
- 10. Clyde Lovellette
- 11. Bill Walton
- 12. Phil Jackson
- 13. Pete Maravich
- 14. John Havlicek
- 15. Dave Cowens
- 16. Dirk Nowitzki
- 17. John Stockton
- 18. Mark Madsen
- 19. Mitch McGary
- 20. Pau Gasol
- 21. Kevin Love
- 22. Yao Ming
- 24. Steve Nash
- 25. Kevin McHale
- 26. Dražen Petrović
- 27. Paul Arizin
- 28. Toni Kukoč
- 29. John Havlicek
- 30. Nikola Jokić
1. Larry Bird
Bird, a 3-time champion with the Boston Celtics, was one of the league’s premier players in the 1980s and 1990s. He played for 14 seasons, winning 3 NBA Finals MVP awards, three regular-season MVP awards, 1 All-Star Game MVP award.
2. Jerry West
The ” Logo,” as he is often called, was a 14 time NBA All-Star and the 1971 NBA MVP. Jerry West helped the L.A. The Lakers won the 1972 championship.
3. Bob Pettit
A 2 time MVP and 11 time NBA All-Star, Pettit played for 14 seasons and averaged 22.4 points and 16.2 rebounds per game during his career.
4. Kent Benson
A productive 6th man on championship teams with the Boston Celtics, Benson averaged 13.8 points per game during his career.
5. Rick Barry
Barry was a member of 4 championship teams as a player for the San Francisco Warriors and three for the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.
6. Jerry Lucas
Lucas is one of only four players currently in the Basketball Hall of Fame who have ever won an NCAA Championship. After his collegiate career, Lucas spent 12 seasons in the NBA with the Lakers, winning three championships.
7. Dolph Schayes
Schayes is the member of the 1955 NBA Champion Syracuse Nationals, Schayes was a 13-time All-Star who averaged 17.2 points per game during his career.
8. Bill Sharman
A member of 2 championship teams with the Boston Celtics in the 1950s, Sharman is a former NBA player, coach, and G.M. who started throwing an NBA Championship ring.
9. George Mikan
Known as “Mr. Basketball,” Mikan was a dominant force during his time as a center in the NBA. He won 4 championships and led the league in scoring four times.
10. Clyde Lovellette
A member of two NBA Championship teams with the Lakers, Lovellette was teammates with Jerry West, who was already on the list. Lovellette averaged 16.8 points per game in his eight seasons in the NBA.
11. Bill Walton
One of the most important centers in collegiate history, Walton won 2 NCAA titles at UCLA before joining the Portland Trailblazers, who won an NBA Championship during his rookie season.
12. Phil Jackson
Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls to back-to-back NBA Championships in 1996 and 1997. The greatest coach in league history, Jackson has won 11 titles, including 5 with the Bulls and 6 with the Lakers. He also holds the record for most titles won as a player/coach.
13. Pete Maravich
The Pistol played in only 4 All-Star games but still managed to average 24.2 points per game over his career and is considered one of the best pure scorers in NBA history.
14. John Havlicek
Havlicek won 2 NBA championships while playing for the Boston Celtics, along with Bill Russell as a player and coach.
15. Dave Cowens
Cowens is a member of what is widely regarded as one of the best teams ever, four-time champion Boston Celtics from 1969 to 1974.
16. Dirk Nowitzki
The most successful player in the history of European or Australian basketball. The German-born Dirk Nowitzki is a power forward for the Dallas Mavericks and a big part of their success. He has been selected to 15 All-Star teams so far in his NBA career, and he was named Euroscar Player of the Year three times. In 2007, he won an Olympic gold medal with Germany.
17. John Stockton
Considered by people to be the most excellent point guard ever to play professional basketball. Earning 14 All-Star nods in his 19-year career, Stockton won two MVP awards and was selected to 10 All-NBA First Teams.
18. Mark Madsen
The 2003 Pac-10 Player of the Year, Madsen, was a force for the 2003 NCAA champions with 14 points and 11 rebounds per game.
19. Mitch McGary
A 2013 first-round draft pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Mitch McGary averaged 11 points and six rebounds in his sophomore season before being injured.
20. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol is a two-time NBA All-Star and eight-time NBA champion with both the Lakers and Bulls.
21. Kevin Love
Kevin Love has led his teams to four straight appearances in the NBA playoffs, including two appearances in the conference finals. In addition, he has had a breakout season in 2017 where he averaged 18.5 points and eight rebounds per game and scored 25 points in a win against the Warriors.
22. Yao Ming
The NBA’s all-time leading shot-blocker during his playing days, Yao Ming also won three NBA championships with the Rockets.
24. Steve Nash
Steve Nash played for the Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, and Los Angeles Lakers.
25. Kevin McHale
Kevin McHale is a retired American professional basketball player and is mainly known for his time with the Boston Celtics.
26. Dražen Petrović
The first European-born player to win an NBA championship – he led Houston to the title in 1975 – Petrović averaged 17.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.4 steals during his seven seasons.
27. Paul Arizin
One of the first great forwards, Arizin averaged more than 20 points per game for his career and led Philadelphia to an NBA title during his sixth season in 1956-57.
28. Toni Kukoč
Kukoč scored nearly 14,000 points during his 12 year NBA career with the Bulls, Hawks, and Celtics. He also won three titles over five years with Chicago in the mid-1990s.
29. John Havlicek
The league’s all-time leader in games played (1,270), Havlicek was a 13-time All-Star and eight-time champion during his 16 years with Boston. A two-time MVP, Havlicek once posted 40 points, 20 rebounds, and eight steals in a playoff game against the Lakers in 1968.
30. Nikola Jokić
Jokić helped lead the Spurs to their fifth NBA championship in the past decade and third in the last four seasons. He is the first player ever to be named MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge.