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 1,757 Basketball Players, 891 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 (b. 1963)

With an HPI of 70.75, Michael Jordan is the most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 107 different languages on wikipedia.

Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17, 1963), also known by his initials MJ, is an American businessman and former professional basketball player. He played fifteen seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) between 1984 and 2003, winning six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls. He was integral in popularizing basketball and the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming a global cultural icon. His profile on the NBA website states "By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time." The NBA Most Valuable Player Award trophy is named the Michael Jordan Trophy. Jordan played college basketball 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 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. Following the murder of his father, Jordan abruptly retired from basketball before the 1993–94 NBA season to play Minor League Baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization, 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, returning for two more NBA seasons from 2001 to 2003 as a member of the Washington Wizards. During his professional career, he was 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 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 (30.1 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. Jordan was named to the NBA 50th Anniversary Team in 1996 and to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in 2021.One of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation, Jordan made many product endorsements. He fueled the success of Nike's Air Jordan sneakers, which were introduced in 1984 and remain popular. He starred as himself in the live-action/animation hybrid film Space Jam (1996) and was the central focus of the Emmy-winning documentary series The Last Dance (2020). He became part-owner and head of basketball operations for the Charlotte Hornets (then named the Bobcats) in 2006 and bought a controlling interest in 2010, before selling his majority stake in 2023. He is also the owner of 23XI Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. In 2016, he became the first billionaire player in NBA history. That year, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As of 2023, his net worth is estimated at $3 billion by Forbes.

Photo of Shaquille O'Neal

2. Shaquille O'Neal (b. 1972)

With an HPI of 69.12, Shaquille O'Neal is the 2nd 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. 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. O'Neal is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players and centers of all time.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 a feud between O'Neal and his teammate 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 9th 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.

Photo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (b. 1947)

With an HPI of 68.11, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the 3rd most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 78 different languages.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ( kə-REEM ab-DOOL jə-BAR; born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. ( al-SIN-dər); 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, 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 broke the NBA's career scoring record in 1984 with 38,387 points, and held it until LeBron James surpassed him in 2023. Abdul-Jabbar was known as Lew Alcindor 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 Milwaukee Bucks franchise in the 1969 NBA draft, he spent six seasons with the team. After leading the Bucks to their 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, during which time the team 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 regular season career 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 minutes played and field goals made. He ranks second in career points and field goal attempts, and is third all-time in both total rebounds (17,440) 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

4. Wilt Chamberlain (1936 - 1999)

With an HPI of 67.59, Wilt Chamberlain is the 4th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 62 different languages.

Wilton Norman Chamberlain ( CHAYM-bər-lin; August 21, 1936 – October 12, 1999) was an American professional basketball player. Standing 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall, he played center in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 14 seasons. Widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Chamberlain was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978 and elected to the NBA's 35th, 50th, and 75th anniversary teams. Following his professional basketball career, Chamberlain played volleyball in the short-lived International Volleyball Association (IVA). He served one term as league president and is enshrined in the IVA Hall of Fame. Renowned for his strength, he played the antagonist in the 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Conan the Destroyer. According to former teammate Billy Cunningham, "The NBA Guide reads like Wilt's personal diary." Chamberlain holds 72 NBA records, including several regular season records in scoring, rebounding, and durability; blocks were not counted during his career. He is best-remembered as the only player to score 100 points in a single game. He also once gathered 55 rebounds, and never fouled out. Chamberlain is the only player to average 30 points and 20 rebounds per game in a season, a feat he accomplished seven times. He once averaged 50 points per game, as well as 48 minutes per game. Chamberlain ultimately won two NBA championships, four regular-season Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, the Rookie of the Year, one Finals MVP, and one All-Star Game MVP; 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; he is the only center to lead the league in total assists. While in college, Chamberlain played for the Kansas Jayhawks, and lost the national championship game to the North Carolina Tar Heels in triple overtime his sophomore year. He also played for the Harlem Globetrotters before joining the NBA, where he played for the Philadelphia / San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, and Los Angeles Lakers. Chamberlain had an on-court rivalry with Boston Celtics' center Bill Russell, suffering a long string of losses before 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. Sportswriters knew Chamberlain by several nicknames during his playing career, calling attention to his height since his high school days. He disliked the ones that negatively portrayed his height, such as "Wilt the Stilt" and "Goliath", preferring "the Big Dipper", 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 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 the banning of inbounds passes over the backboard. Chamberlain, always a poor free throw shooter, had the ability to leap from the foul line, which led to the ruling that a free-throw shooter must keep his feet behind the line.

Photo of Bill Russell

5. Bill Russell (1934 - 2022)

With an HPI of 64.06, Bill Russell is the 5th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.

William Felton Russell (February 12, 1934 – July 31, 2022) was an American professional basketball player who played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1956 to 1969. He was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won 11 NBA championships during his 13-year career. Russell is widely considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time. At the University of San Francisco, Russell led the San Francisco Dons to consecutive NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956. He was named NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, and captained the gold medal-winning U.S. national basketball team at the 1956 Summer Olympics.After being chosen by the St. Louis Hawks with the second overall pick in the 1956 NBA draft, Russell was traded to the Boston Celtics for Celtics center Ed Macauley and small forward Cliff Hagan. With Russell as their starting center and defensive anchor, the Celtics went on to win their first NBA championship in 1957 and won an NBA record eight consecutive championships from 1959 to 1966. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) and a 12-time NBA All-Star, Russell's 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 also 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. 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. During the final three seasons of his career (1966–1969), he served as player-coach of the Celtics, becoming the first black NBA coach and the first black NBA coach to win a championship. Russell ended his playing career and left his position as Celtics coach after helping the Celtics win the 1969 NBA championship. Russell served as head coach and general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973 to 1977. He also coached the Sacramento Kings from 1987 to 1988. Russell worked as a color commentator and authored several books. 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, was named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996 (being one of only four players to receive all three honors), and was selected to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in 2021. In 2009, the NBA renamed the NBA Finals MVP Award in his honor. In 2011, Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments on the court and in the civil rights movement. In 2021, Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame a second time in recognition of 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 that honor, as well as the third person in North American major professional sports to have their jersey number retired league-wide, behind Jackie Robinson and Wayne Gretzky.

Photo of Magic Johnson

6. Magic Johnson (b. 1959)

With an HPI of 63.40, Magic Johnson is the 6th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 69 different languages.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. (born August 14, 1959) is an American businessman and former professional basketball player. Often regarded as the greatest point guard of all time, Johnson spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers 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 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 against his return 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. Known for his extraordinary court vision, passing abilities, and leadership on the court, Johnson was one of the most dominant players of his era. His career achievements include three NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, three NBA Finals MVPs, nine All-NBA First Team designations, and twelve All-Star games 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 records for most career playoff assists and most career playoff triple-doubles. Johnson was the co-captain 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, he 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. Johnson is a former part-owner of the Lakers and was the team's president of basketball operations in the late 2010s. He is a founding member of Guggenheim Baseball Management, managing entity of the MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers, and also partly owns the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, the MLS' Los Angeles FC, and the NFL's Washington Commanders. Johnson has won 14 total championships during his career, one in college, five as an NBA player and eight as an owner.

Photo of Kobe Bryant

7. Kobe Bryant (1978 - 2020)

With an HPI of 63.04, Kobe Bryant is the 7th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 103 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 players in the history of the sport, Bryant won five NBA championships and 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. He 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, he 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, the alleged victim being a 19-year-old hotel employee. 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. The accusation briefly tarnished his 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, and was 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 third most all time, and he has the second most consecutive appearances as a starter. His 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).In 2020, Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. A number of tributes and memorials were issued, and the All-Star MVP Award was renamed in Bryant's honor.

Photo of Dennis Rodman

8. Dennis Rodman (b. 1961)

With an HPI of 61.63, 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. Renowned for his 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 often described as 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.

Photo of Jerry West

9. Jerry West (b. 1938)

With an HPI of 61.62, Jerry West is the 9th most famous American Basketball Player.  His biography has been translated into 47 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 "the Logo", in reference to his silhouette being the basis for the NBA logo; "Mr. Clutch", for his ability to make a big play in a key situation such as his famous buzzer-beating 60-foot shot that tied Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks; "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: 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 in the championship. 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. In 2024, he will be inducted to the Hall of Fame as a contributor to the sport as an executive and consultant.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). In 1980, West was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and named to the NBA 35th Anniversary Team. West was named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history in 1996, and to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in 2021.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.

Photo of Clyde Drexler

10. Clyde Drexler (b. 1962)

With an HPI of 61.60, 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 who currently works as 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.

People

Pantheon has 1,053 people classified as American basketball players born between 1907 and 2003. Of these 1,053, 931 (88.41%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living American basketball players include Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The most famous deceased American basketball players include Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Kobe Bryant. As of April 2024, 161 new American basketball players have been added to Pantheon including Joe Fulks, George McGinnis, and Andy Phillip.

Living American Basketball Players

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Deceased American Basketball Players

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Newly Added American Basketball Players (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Basketball Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Basketball Players since 1700.