This page contains a list of the greatest American Basketball Players. The pantheon dataset contains 1,268 Basketball Players, 883 of which were born in United States. This makes United States the birth place of the most number of Basketball Players.
The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Basketball Players of all time. This list of famous American Basketball Players is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Basketball Players.
With an HPI of 70.83, Michael Jordan is the most famous American Basketball Player. His biography has been translated into 103 different languages on wikipedia.
Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17, 1963), also known by his initials MJ, is an American former professional basketball player and businessman. His biography on the official National Basketball Association (NBA) website states: "By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time." He played fifteen seasons in the NBA, winning six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan is the principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA and of 23XI Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. He was integral in popularizing the basketball sport and the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming a global cultural icon.Jordan played college basketball for three seasons under coach Dean Smith with the North Carolina Tar Heels. As a freshman, he was a member of the Tar Heels' national championship team in 1982. Jordan joined the Bulls in 1984 as the third overall draft pick, and quickly emerged as a league star, entertaining crowds with his prolific scoring while gaining a reputation as one of the game's best defensive players. His leaping ability, demonstrated by performing slam dunks from the free-throw line in Slam Dunk Contests, earned him the nicknames "Air Jordan" and "His Airness". Jordan won his first NBA title with the Bulls in 1991, and followed that achievement with titles in 1992 and 1993, securing a three-peat. Jordan abruptly retired from basketball before the 1993–94 NBA season to play Minor League Baseball but returned to the Bulls in March 1995 and led them to three more championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998, as well as a then-record 72 regular season wins in the 1995–96 NBA season. He retired for the second time in January 1999 but returned for two more NBA seasons from 2001 to 2003 as a member of the Washington Wizards. During the course of his professional career he was also selected to play for the United States national team, winning four gold medals (at the 1983 Pan American Games, 1984 Summer Olympics, 1992 Tournament of the Americas and 1992 Summer Olympics), while also being undefeated.Jordan's individual accolades and accomplishments include six NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, ten NBA scoring titles (both all-time records), five NBA MVP awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Game selections, three NBA All-Star Game MVP awards, three NBA steals titles, and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. He holds the NBA records for career regular season scoring average (30.12 points per game) and career playoff scoring average (33.4 points per game). In 1999, he was named the 20th century's greatest North American athlete by ESPN, and was second to Babe Ruth on the Associated Press' list of athletes of the century. Jordan was twice inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, once in 2009 for his individual career, and again in 2010 as part of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team ("The Dream Team"). He became a member of the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 2009, a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2010, and an individual member of the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015 and a "Dream Team" member in 2017. In 2021, Jordan was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.One of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation, Jordan is known for his product endorsements. He fueled the success of Nike's Air Jordan sneakers, which were introduced in 1984 and remain popular today. Jordan also starred as himself in the 1996 live-action animation hybrid film Space Jam and is the central focus of the Emmy Award-winning documentary miniseries The Last Dance (2020). He became part-owner and head of basketball operations for the Charlotte Bobcats (now named the Hornets) in 2006, and bought a controlling interest in 2010. In 2016, Jordan became the first billionaire player in NBA history. That year, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As of 2023, Jordan's net worth is estimated at $1.7 billion.
With an HPI of 69.18, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the 2nd most famous American Basketball Player. His biography has been translated into 74 different languages.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ( kə-REEM ab-DOOL jə-BAR; born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr.; April 16, 1947) is an American former professional basketball player who played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. During his career as a center, Abdul-Jabbar was a record six-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP). He was a 19-time NBA All-Star—tied for the most ever—a 15-time All-NBA Team member, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection. He was a member of six NBA championship teams as a player and two more as an assistant coach, and was twice voted the NBA Finals MVP. He was named to three NBA anniversary teams (35th, 50th, and 75th). Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he was called the greatest basketball player of all time by Pat Riley, Isiah Thomas, and Julius Erving. Abdul-Jabbar was the NBA's career scoring leader from 1984 to 2023. Abdul-Jabbar was known as Lew Alcindor ( LOO al-SIN-dər) when he played at parochial high school Power Memorial in New York City, where he led their team to 71 consecutive wins. He played college basketball for the UCLA Bruins, winning three consecutive national championships under head coach John Wooden. Alcindor was a record three-time most outstanding player of the NCAA tournament. Drafted with the first overall pick by the one-season-old Bucks franchise in the 1969 NBA draft, he spent six seasons in Milwaukee. After leading the Bucks to its first NBA championship at age 24 in 1971, he took the Muslim name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Using his trademark skyhook shot, he established himself as one of the league's top scorers. In 1975, he was traded to the Lakers, with whom he played the final 14 seasons of his career in which they won five additional NBA championships. Abdul-Jabbar's contributions were a key component in the Showtime era of Lakers basketball. Over his 20-year NBA career, his teams succeeded in making the playoffs 18 times and got past the first round 14 times; his teams reached the NBA Finals on ten occasions.At the time of his retirement at age 42 in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar was the NBA's all-time leader in points (38,387), games played (1,560), minutes (57,446), field goals made (15,837), field goal attempts (28,307), blocked shots (3,189), defensive rebounds (9,394), and personal fouls (4,657). He remains the all-time leader in field goals made and field goal attempts. He is ranked third all-time in both rebounds and blocked shots. ESPN named him the greatest center of all time in 2007, the greatest player in college basketball history in 2008, and the second best player in NBA history (behind Michael Jordan) in 2016. Abdul-Jabbar has also been an actor, a basketball coach, a best-selling author, and a martial artist, having trained in Jeet Kune Do under Bruce Lee and appeared in his film Game of Death (1972). In 2012, Abdul-Jabbar was selected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be a U.S. global cultural ambassador. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
With an HPI of 68.63, Shaquille O'Neal is the 3rd most famous American Basketball Player. His biography has been translated into 65 different languages.
Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal ( shə-KEEL; born March 6, 1972), known commonly as "Shaq" ( SHAK), is an American former professional basketball player who is a sports analyst on the television program Inside the NBA. O'Neal is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players and centers of all time. He is a 7-foot-1-inch (2.16 m) and 325-pound (147 kg) center who played for six teams over his 19-year career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and is a four-time NBA champion. After playing college basketball for the LSU Tigers, O'Neal was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft. He quickly became one of the best centers in the league, winning Rookie of the Year in 1992–93 and leading his team to the 1995 NBA Finals. After four years with the Magic, O'Neal signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers. They won three consecutive championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Amid tension between O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, and his fourth NBA championship followed in 2006. Midway through the 2007–2008 season he was traded to the Phoenix Suns. After a season-and-a-half with the Suns, O'Neal was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009–10 season. O'Neal played for the Boston Celtics in the 2010–11 season before retiring.O'Neal's individual accolades include the 1999–2000 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award; the 1992–93 NBA Rookie of the Year award; 15 All-Star Game selections, three All-Star Game MVP awards; three Finals MVP awards; two scoring titles; 14 All-NBA team selections, and three NBA All-Defensive Team selections. He is one of only three players to win NBA MVP, All-Star Game MVP and Finals MVP awards in the same year (2000); the other players are Willis Reed in 1970 and Michael Jordan in 1996 and 1998. He ranks 8th all-time in points scored, 6th in field goals, 15th in rebounds, and 8th in blocks. O'Neal was honored as one of the league's greatest players of all-time by being named to the NBA 50th Anniversary Team in 1996. Due to his ability to dunk the basketball and score from close range, O'Neal also ranks third all-time in field goal percentage (58.2%) and led the league in field goal percentage ten times. O'Neal was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016. He was elected to the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2017. In October 2021, O'Neal was again honored as one of the league's greatest players of all-time by being named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.In addition to his basketball career, O'Neal has released four rap albums, with his first, Shaq Diesel, going platinum. O'Neal is also an electronic music producer, and touring DJ, known as DIESEL. He has appeared in numerous films and has starred in his own reality shows, Shaq's Big Challenge and Shaq Vs. He hosts The Big Podcast with Shaq. He was a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings from 2013 to 2022 and is the general manager of Kings Guard Gaming of the NBA 2K League.
With an HPI of 66.93, Wilt Chamberlain is the 4th most famous American Basketball Player. His biography has been translated into 59 different languages.
Wilton Norman Chamberlain (; August 21, 1936 – October 12, 1999) was an American professional basketball player who played at the center position. Standing at 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall, he played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 14 years and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the sport's history. Several players and publications have argued that Chamberlain is the greatest of all time. He holds numerous NBA regular season records in scoring, rebounding, and durability categories; blocks were not counted during his career. He was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978, and elected to the NBA's 35th, 50th, and 75th anniversary teams. After his professional basketball career ended, Chamberlain played volleyball in the short-lived International Volleyball Association (IVA). He was also once league president, and is enshrined in the IVA Hall of Fame for his contributions. Renowned for his strength, he appeared as the antagonist in the 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Conan the Destroyer. Chamberlain was also a lifelong bachelor and became notorious for his statement of having had sexual relations with as many as 20,000 women. Chamberlain holds 72 NBA records, so many that it led former teammate Billy Cunningham to remark “The NBA Guide reads like Wilt's personal diary." He is best remembered as the only player to score 100 points in a single NBA game. He is also the only one to average 50 points in a season, or to gather 55 rebounds in a game. He also never fouled out of a game; and is the only player in NBA history to average at least 30 points and 20 rebounds per game in a season, a feat he accomplished seven times. Chamberlain ultimately won two NBA championships, four regular-season Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, the Rookie of the Year award, one Finals MVP award, and one All-Star Game MVP award, and he was selected to thirteen All-Star Games and ten All-NBA Teams (seven First and three Second teams). He won seven scoring, eleven rebounding, nine durability, and nine field goal percentage titles; and he once led the league in assists. Chamberlain played in college for the Kansas Jayhawks, and led Kansas to the national championship game, but lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels in triple overtime. He also played for the Harlem Globetrotters before joining the NBA, where he played for the Philadelphia / San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Chamberlain had an on-court rivalry with Boston Celtics' center Bill Russell, suffering a long string of losses. Chamberlain, always a poor free throw shooter, battled the "loser" label, before finally breaking through and winning the 1967 NBA Finals as a member of the 76ers. Chamberlain won his second championship as a member of the 1972 Lakers, a team which set a record with a 33-game winning streak. Chamberlain was known to sportswriters by several nicknames during his playing career, calling attention to his great height since his high school days. He disliked the ones that portrayed his height negatively, such as "Wilt the Stilt" and "Goliath". He personally preferred "The Big Dipper", which was inspired by his friends who saw him dip his head as he walked through doorways. The name was retained in one of Chamberlain's signature moves, the "dipper dunk". He was also one of the first players to make prominent use of shots like the fade away jump shot and the finger roll. His success near the basket led to the widening of the lane, offensive goaltending rules, and it being illegal to inbound over the backboard. His ability to leap from the foul line led to the rule that a free throw shooter must keep his feet behind the line.
With an HPI of 63.91, Bill Russell is the 5th most famous American Basketball Player. His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.
William Felton "Bill" Russell (February 12, 1934 – July 31, 2022) was an American professional basketball player who played as a center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1956 to 1969. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) and a 12-time NBA All-Star, he was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won 11 NBA championships during his 13-year career. Russell and Henri Richard of the National Hockey League are tied for the record of the most championships won by an athlete in a North American sports league. Russell is widely considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He led the San Francisco Dons to two consecutive NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956, and he captained the gold-medal winning U.S. national basketball team at the 1956 Summer Olympics.Despite his limitations on offense, as Russell averaged 15.1 points per game, his rebounding, defense, and leadership made him one of the dominant players of his era. Standing at 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) tall, with a 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) arm span, his shot-blocking and man-to-man defense were major reasons for the Celtics' dominance during his career. Russell was equally notable for his rebounding abilities, and he led the NBA in rebounds four times, had a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds, and remains second all time in both total rebounds and rebounds per game. He is one of just two NBA players (the other being prominent rival Wilt Chamberlain) to have grabbed more than 50 rebounds in a game.Russell played in the wake of black pioneers Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, and Sweetwater Clifton, and he was the first black player to achieve superstar status in the NBA. He also served a three-season (1966–1969) stint as player-coach for the Celtics, becoming the first black coach in the NBA and the first to win a championship. In 2011, Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments on the court and in the civil rights movement.Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975, was one of the founding inductees into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2007. He was selected into the NBA 25th Anniversary Team in 1971 and the NBA 35th Anniversary Team in 1980, named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996, one of only four players to receive all three honors, and selected into the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in 2021. In 2009, the NBA renamed the NBA Finals MVP Award in his honor. In 2021, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame a second time for his coaching career. Shortly after his death in 2022, the NBA retired Russell's #6 jersey league-wide, making him the only player in NBA history to receive the honor.
With an HPI of 62.64, Magic Johnson is the 6th most famous American Basketball Player. His biography has been translated into 68 different languages.
Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. (born August 14, 1959) is an American former professional basketball player. He is often regarded as the greatest point guard of all-time. Johnson played 13 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA). After winning a national championship with Michigan State in 1979, Johnson was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, leading the team to five NBA championships during their Showtime era. Johnson retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had contracted HIV, but returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, winning the All-Star MVP Award. After protests from his fellow players, he retired again for four years, but returned in 1996, at age 36, to play 32 games for the Lakers before retiring for the third and final time. Johnson's career achievements include three NBA MVP Awards, three NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, 12 All-Star games, and nine All-NBA First Team selections. He led the league in regular season assists four times, and is the NBA's all-time leader in average assists per game in both the regular season (11.19 assists per game) and the playoffs (12.35 assists per game). He also holds the record for most career assists in the playoffs. Johnson was a member of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team ("The Dream Team"), which won the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona. After leaving the NBA in 1991, Johnson formed the Magic Johnson All-Stars, a barnstorming team that traveled around the world playing exhibition games.Johnson was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996 and selected to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in 2021, and became a two-time inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame—being enshrined in 2002 for his individual career, and again in 2010 as a member of the "Dream Team". His friendship and rivalry with Boston Celtics star Larry Bird, whom he faced in the 1979 NCAA finals and three NBA championship series, are well documented. Since his retirement, Johnson has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex, as well as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, broadcaster and motivational speaker. His public announcement of his HIV-positive status helped dispel the stereotype, still widely held at the time, that HIV was a "gay disease" that heterosexuals need not worry about; his bravery in making this announcement was widely commended. Named by Ebony magazine as one of America's most influential black businessmen in 2009, Johnson has numerous business interests, and was a part-owner of the Lakers for several years, as well as being the team's president of basketball operations from 2017 to 2019. He is also part of a group of investors that purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2014, and was part of the ownership group that established Los Angeles F.C. (LAFC) of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2017. During Johnson's ownership of these teams, the Sparks won the 2016 WNBA championship, the Dodgers won the 2020 World Series, and LAFC won the 2022 MLS Cup. Combining his playing career and sports ownership career, Johnson has 10 NBA championships, five each as a player and later as a minority owner of the Lakers.
With an HPI of 62.16, Kobe Bryant is the 7th most famous American Basketball Player. His biography has been translated into 98 different languages.
Kobe Bean Bryant ( KOH-bee; August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020) was an American professional basketball player. A shooting guard, he spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players and scorers of all time, Bryant won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star, a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, a 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), and a two-time NBA Finals MVP. Bryant also led the NBA in scoring twice, and ranks fourth in league all-time regular season and postseason scoring. He was posthumously voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020 and named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in 2021. The son of former NBA player Joe Bryant, he was born in Philadelphia and partly raised in Italy. Recognized as the top American high-school basketball player while at Philadelphia suburb Lower Merion, Bryant declared for the 1996 NBA draft and was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick; he was then traded to the Lakers. As a rookie, Bryant earned a reputation as a high-flyer by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest, and was named an All-Star by his second season. Despite a feud with teammate Shaquille O'Neal, the pair led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. In 2003, Bryant was charged with sexual assault; with the alleged victim being a 19-year-old hotel employee. Criminal charges were later dropped after the accuser failed to testify, and a lawsuit was settled out of court, with Bryant issuing a public apology and admitting to a sexual encounter he maintained was consensual. The accusation briefly tarnished Bryant's reputation, resulting in the loss of several of his endorsement contracts.After the Lakers lost the 2004 NBA Finals, O'Neal was traded and Bryant became the cornerstone of the franchise. He led the NBA in scoring in the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons and was named league MVP in 2008. On January 22, 2006, he scored a career-high 81 points; the second most points scored in a single NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game. Bryant led the team to consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010, being named NBA Finals MVP on both occasions. He continued to be among the premier players in the league through the 2012–13 season, when he suffered a torn achilles tendon at age 34. His next two seasons were cut short by injuries to his knee and shoulder, respectively. Citing physical decline, Bryant retired after the 2015–16 season. In 2017, the Lakers retired both his Nos. 8 and 24, making him the only player in NBA history to have multiple numbers retired by the same franchise. The all-time leading scorer in Lakers history, Bryant was the first guard in NBA history to play 20 seasons. His 18 All-Star designations are the second most all time, and he has the second most consecutive appearances as a starter. Bryant's four NBA All-Star Game MVP Awards are tied with Bob Pettit for the most in NBA history. He gave himself the nickname "Black Mamba" in the mid-2000s, and the epithet became widely adopted by the general public. He won gold medals on the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams. In 2018, he won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for the film Dear Basketball (2017).Bryant died, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, in 2020. A number of tributes and memorials were subsequently issued, including renaming the All-Star MVP Award in his honor.
With an HPI of 61.76, Dennis Rodman is the 8th most famous American Basketball Player. His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.
Dennis Keith Rodman (born May 13, 1961) is an American former professional basketball player. Known for his fierce defensive and rebounding abilities, his biography on the official NBA website states that he is "arguably the best rebounding forward in NBA history". Nicknamed "the Worm", he played for the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Rodman played at the small forward position in his early years before becoming a power forward. He earned NBA All-Defensive First Team honors seven times and won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award twice. He also led the NBA in rebounds per game for a record seven consecutive years and won five NBA championships. On April 1, 2011, the Pistons retired Rodman's No. 10 jersey, and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame later that year. In October 2021, Rodman was honored as one of the league’s greatest players of all-time by being named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.Rodman experienced an unhappy childhood and was shy and introverted in his early years. After aborting a suicide attempt in 1993, he reinvented himself as a "bad boy" and became notorious for numerous controversial antics. He repeatedly dyed his hair in artificial colors, had many piercings and tattoos, and regularly disrupted games by clashing with opposing players and officials. He famously wore a wedding dress to promote his 1996 autobiography Bad as I Wanna Be. Rodman pursued a high-profile affair with singer Madonna and was briefly married to actress Carmen Electra. Rodman also attracted international attention for his visits to North Korea and his subsequent befriending of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2013. In addition to being a former professional basketball player, Rodman has appeared in professional wrestling. He was a member of the nWo and fought alongside Hulk Hogan in the main event of two Bash at the Beach pay-per-views. In professional wrestling, Rodman was the first-ever winner of the Celebrity Championship Wrestling tournament. He had his own TV show, The Rodman World Tour, and had lead roles in the action films Double Team (1997) and Simon Sez (1999). Both films were critically panned, with the former earning Rodman a triple Razzie Award. He appeared in several reality TV series and was the winner of the $222,000 main prize of the 2004 edition of Celebrity Mole.
With an HPI of 60.35, Larry Bird is the 9th most famous American Basketball Player. His biography has been translated into 62 different languages.
Larry Joe Bird (born December 7, 1956) is an American former professional basketball player, coach, and executive in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Nicknamed "the Hick from French Lick" and "Larry Legend", Bird is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He is the only person in NBA history to be named Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, Finals MVP, All-Star MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.Growing up in French Lick, Indiana, he was a local basketball star. Highly recruited, he initially signed to play college basketball for coach Bob Knight of the Indiana Hoosiers, but Bird dropped out after one month and returned to French Lick to attend a local community college. The next year he attended the smaller Indiana State University, ultimately playing three years for the Sycamores. Drafted by the Boston Celtics with the sixth overall pick in the 1978 NBA draft after his second year at Indiana State, Bird elected to stay in college and returned for the 1978–1979 season. He then led his team to an undefeated regular season. The season finished with a national championship game match-up of Indiana State against Michigan State and featured a highly anticipated match-up of Bird against Michigan State great Magic Johnson, thus beginning a career-long rivalry that the two shared for over a decade. Bird entered the NBA for the 1979–1980 season, where he made an immediate impact, starting at power forward and leading the Celtics to a 32-win improvement over the previous season before being eliminated from the playoffs in the Conference Finals. He played for the Celtics during his entire professional career (13 seasons), leading them to five NBA finals appearances and three NBA championships. He played most of his career with forward Kevin McHale and center Robert Parish, considered by some to be the greatest front court in NBA history. Bird was a 12-time NBA All-Star, won two NBA Finals MVP awards and received the NBA Most Valuable Player Award three consecutive times (1984–1986), making him the only forward in league history to do so. Bird was also a member of the gold medal-winning 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team, known as the "Dream Team". He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame twice as a player—first in 1998 as an individual, and again in 2010 as a member of the "Dream Team". He was voted onto the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in NBA History list in 1996, and consequently the 75th Anniversary Team list in 2021.A versatile player at both forward positions, he could play both inside and outside, being one of the first players in the league to take advantage of the newly adopted three-point line. Bird was rated the greatest NBA small forward of all time by Fox Sports in 2016. After retiring as a player, Bird served as head coach of the Indiana Pacers from 1997 to 2000. He was named NBA Coach of the Year for the 1997–1998 season and later led the Pacers to a berth in the 2000 NBA Finals. In 2003, Bird was named president of basketball operations for the Pacers, holding the position until retiring in 2012. He was named NBA Executive of the Year for the 2012 season. Bird returned to the Pacers as president of basketball operations in 2013, and remained in that role until 2017.
With an HPI of 60.14, Clyde Drexler is the 10th most famous American Basketball Player. His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.
Clyde Austin Drexler (born June 22, 1962) is an American former professional basketball player and the commissioner of the Big3 3-on-3 basketball league. Nicknamed "Clyde the Glide", he played 15 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA), spending a majority of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers before finishing with the Houston Rockets. He was a ten-time NBA All-Star and named to the NBA's 50th and 75th anniversary teams. Drexler won an NBA championship with Houston in 1995, and earned a gold medal on the 1992 United States Olympic team known as "The Dream Team". He was inducted twice into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, in 2004 for his individual career and in 2010 as a member of the "Dream Team". Drexler is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players and greatest shooting guards of all time.
Pantheon has 883 people classified as basketball players born between 1907 and 2002. Of these 883, 785 (88.90%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living basketball players include Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O'Neal. The most famous deceased basketball players include Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Kobe Bryant. As of April 2022, 115 new basketball players have been added to Pantheon including Artis Gilmore, Bob Kenney, and Cliff Hagan.
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Which Basketball Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Basketball Players since 1700.