The Most Famous

BASKETBALL PLAYERS from United States

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This page contains a list of the greatest American Basketball Players. The pantheon dataset contains 1,264 Basketball Players, 769 of which were born in United States. This makes United States the birth place of the most number of Basketball Players.

Top 10

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.

Photo of Michael Jordan

1. Michael Jordan (1963 - )

With an HPI of 76.97, Michael Jordan is the most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 99 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 was integral in helping to popularize the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming a global cultural icon in the process. Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA, winning six championships with the Chicago Bulls. He is the principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA and of 23XI Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. 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 championship 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. Jordan's individual accolades and accomplishments include six NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, ten scoring titles (both all-time records), five MVP Awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors (joint record), fourteen NBA All-Star Game selections, three All-Star Game MVP Awards, three 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 (33.45 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 FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015. One of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation, Jordan is also 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 animated 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 2014, Jordan became the first billionaire player in NBA history. With a net worth of $1.6 billion, he is the fifth-richest African American, behind Robert F. Smith, David Steward, Oprah Winfrey, and Kanye West.

Photo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1947 - )

With an HPI of 76.69, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the 2nd most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 71 different languages.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (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), a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member. A member of six NBA championship teams as a player and two more as an assistant coach, Abdul-Jabbar twice was voted NBA Finals MVP. In 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. NBA coach Pat Riley and players Isiah Thomas and Julius Erving called him the greatest basketball player of all time.With him on the team, parochial high school Power Memorial, in New York City, won 71 consecutive basketball games. He was recruited by Jerry Norman, the assistant coach at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he played for coach John Wooden on three consecutive national championship teams. He was a record three-time MVP of the NCAA Tournament. Drafted with the first overall pick by the one-season-old Bucks franchise in the 1969 NBA draft, Alcindor 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 10 occasions. At the time of his retirement at age 42 in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar was the NBA's all-time leader in points scored (38,387), games played (1,560), minutes played (57,446), field goals made (15,837), field goal attempts (28,307), blocked shots (3,189), defensive rebounds (9,394), career wins (1,074), and personal fouls (4,657). He remains the all-time leader in points scored, field goals made, and career wins. 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.

Photo of Wilt Chamberlain

3. Wilt Chamberlain (1936 - 1999)

With an HPI of 76.28, Wilt Chamberlain is the 3rd most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.

Wilton Norman Chamberlain (; August 21, 1936 – October 12, 1999) was an American professional basketball player who played as a center, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the sport's history. He played for the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played for the University of Kansas and for the Harlem Globetrotters before playing in the NBA. Chamberlain stood 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall.Chamberlain holds numerous NBA regular season records in scoring, rebounding, and durability categories. He is the only player to score 100 points in a single NBA game or average more than 40 and 50 points in a season. He won seven scoring, eleven rebounding, nine durability, and nine field goal percentage titles, and led the league in assists once. Chamberlain is the only player in NBA history to average at least 30 points and 20 rebounds per game in a season, which he accomplished seven times. He is also the only player to average at least 30 points and 20 rebounds per game over the entire course of his NBA career. Although Chamberlain suffered a long string of NBA Finals losses during his career, he had a successful career, winning two NBA championships, earning four regular-season NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, the NBA Rookie of the Year award, one NBA Finals MVP award, and was selected to 13 NBA All-Star Game and ten All-NBA First and Second teams. Chamberlain was subsequently enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978, elected into the NBA's 35th Anniversary Team of 1980, and was chosen as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996. In October 2021, Chamberlain named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.Chamberlain was known by several nicknames during his basketball playing career. He disliked the ones that called attention to his height, such as "Goliath" and "Wilt the Stilt". A Philadelphia sportswriter coined the nicknames during Chamberlain's high school days. He preferred "The Big Dipper", which was inspired by his friends who saw him dip his head as he walked through doorways. After his professional basketball career ended, Chamberlain played volleyball in the short-lived International Volleyball Association, was president of that organization, and is enshrined in the IVA Hall of Fame for his contributions. He was a successful businessman, authored several books, and appeared in the movie 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.

Photo of Shaquille O'Neal

4. Shaquille O'Neal (1972 - )

With an HPI of 75.68, Shaquille O'Neal is the 4th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 62 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. 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%). 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 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 became a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings in 2013 and is the general manager of Kings Guard Gaming of the NBA 2K League.

Photo of Bill Russell

5. Bill Russell (1934 - )

With an HPI of 73.50, Bill Russell is the 5th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 50 different languages.

William Felton Russell (born February 12, 1934) is an American former 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 and a 12-time All-Star, he was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won eleven 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 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.Although Russell never averaged more than 19.0 points per game in any season, many regard him to be among the greatest basketball players of all time for his dominating defensive play. He is 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) tall, with a 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) wingspan. His shot-blocking and man-to-man defense were major reasons for the Celtics' domination of the NBA during his career. Russell was equally notable for his rebounding abilities. 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 (1966–69) stint as player-coach for the Celtics, becoming the first black coach in North American professional sports 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.He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He was selected into the NBA 25th Anniversary Team in 1971 and the NBA 35th Anniversary Team in 1980, and named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996, one of only four players to receive all three honors. In 2007, he was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame. In Russell's honor, the NBA renamed the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy in 2009: it is now the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award. In 2021, Russell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame for his coaching career.

Photo of Magic Johnson

6. Magic Johnson (1959 - )

With an HPI of 73.08, Magic Johnson is the 6th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 65 different languages.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. (born August 14, 1959) is an American former professional basketball player and former president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Often regarded as the best point guard of all time, Johnson played 13 seasons for the Lakers and was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996. After winning championships in high school and college, Johnson was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA draft by the Lakers. He won a championship and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season, and won four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s. 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, nine NBA Finals appearances, twelve All-Star games, and ten All-NBA First and Second Team nominations. He led the league in regular season assists four times, and is the NBA's all-time leader in average assists per game, at 11.2. Johnson was a member of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team ("The Dream Team"), which won the Olympic gold medal in 1992. After leaving the NBA in 1992, Johnson formed the Magic Johnson All-Stars, a barnstorming team that traveled around the world playing exhibition games.Johnson 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 in 1991 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. Johnson also is part of a group of investors that purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2014. During Johnson's ownership of both teams, the Sparks won the 2016 WNBA championship, and the Dodgers won the 2020 World Series championship. 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.

Photo of Dennis Rodman

7. Dennis Rodman (1961 - )

With an HPI of 71.86, Dennis Rodman is the 7th 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. Nicknamed "the Worm", he is known for his fierce defensive and rebounding abilities. Rodman 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. His biography at NBA.com states that he is "arguably the best rebounding forward in NBA history". 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.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 is a former part-time professional wrestler and actor. 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.

Photo of Larry Bird

8. Larry Bird (1956 - )

With an HPI of 71.17, Larry Bird is the 8th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 58 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. Growing up in French Lick, Indiana, he was a local basketball phenom. Highly recruited, he initially signed to play for coach Bobby Knight of the Indiana Hoosiers, but 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, playing ultimately for 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 play one more season. He then led his team to an undefeated regular season in 1978-1979. The season finished with a memorable national championship game matchup against Michigan State, a team that featured Magic Johnson, beginning a career-long rivalry that the two shared for more than 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 United States men's Olympic basketball team known as "The Dream Team". He was voted to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame again in 2010 as a member of "The Dream Team". In October 2021, as part of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary, Bird was honored as one of the 75 greatest players of all time, by being named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.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.Bird is the only person in NBA history to be named Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, NBA Finals MVP, All-Star MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.

Photo of Kobe Bryant

9. Kobe Bryant (1978 - 2020)

With an HPI of 71.05, Kobe Bryant is the 9th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 94 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 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. Born in Philadelphia and partly raised in Italy, Bryant was recognized as the top American high-school basketball player while at Lower Merion. The son of former NBA player Joe Bryant, he 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; criminal charges were dropped after the accuser refused 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. After the Lakers lost the 2004 NBA Finals, O'Neal was traded and Bryant became the cornerstone of the Lakers. He led the NBA in scoring in the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons. On January 22, 2006, he scored a career-high 81 points; the second most points scored in a single game in league history, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962. Bryant led the team to consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010, both times being named NBA Finals MVP. He continued to be among the top players in the league through the 2012–13 season, when he suffered a torn achilles tendon at age 34. Season-ending knee and shoulder injuries followed in the next two seasons. Citing physical decline, Bryant retired after the 2015–16 season. 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, while it is the record for 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. At the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won two gold medals as a member of the U.S. national team. 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 at Calabasas, California in January 2020. A number of tributes and memorials were subsequently issued, including renaming the All-Star MVP Award in his honor.

Photo of Jerry West

10. Jerry West (1938 - )

With an HPI of 70.63, Jerry West is the 10th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.

Jerome Alan West (born May 28, 1938) is an American basketball executive and former player. He played professionally for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). His nicknames included "Mr. Clutch", for his ability to make a big play in a clutch situation, such as his famous buzzer-beating 60-foot shot that tied Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks; "the Logo", in reference to his silhouette being incorporated into the NBA logo; "Mr. Outside", in reference to his perimeter play with the Los Angeles Lakers; and "Zeke from Cabin Creek", for the creek near his birthplace of Chelyan, West Virginia. West played the small forward position early in his career, and he was a standout at East Bank High School and at West Virginia University, where he led the Mountaineers to the 1959 NCAA championship game. He earned the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player honor despite the loss. He then embarked on a 14-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and was the co-captain of the 1960 U.S. Olympic gold medal team, a squad that was inducted as a unit into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. West's NBA career was highly successful. Playing the guard position, he was voted 12 times into the All-NBA First and Second Teams, was elected into the NBA All-Star Team 14 times, and was chosen as the All-Star MVP in 1972, the same year that he won the only title of his career. West holds the NBA record for the highest points per game average in a playoff series with 46.3. He was also a member of the first five NBA All-Defensive Teams (one second, followed by four firsts), which were introduced when he was 32 years old. Having played in nine NBA Finals, he is also the only player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP despite being on the losing team (1969). West was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980 and voted as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history in 1996. After his playing career ended, West took over as head coach of the Lakers for three years. He led Los Angeles into the playoffs each year and earned a Western Conference Finals berth once. Working as a player-scout for three years, West was named general manager of the Lakers before the 1982–83 NBA season. Under his reign, Los Angeles won six championship rings. In 2002, West became general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies and helped the franchise win their first-ever playoff berths. For his contributions, West won the NBA Executive of the Year Award twice, once as a Lakers manager (1995) and then as a Grizzlies manager (2004). West's son, Jonnie, also played college basketball for West Virginia.

Pantheon has 769 people classified as basketball players born between 1907 and 2000. Of these 769, 690 (89.73%) 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, Kobe Bryant, and John Havlicek. As of October 2020, 161 new basketball players have been added to Pantheon including Joe Bryant, Chuck Cooper, and Ron Harper.

Living Basketball Players

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Deceased Basketball Players

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Newly Added Basketball Players (2020)

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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.