Perhaps more than any of the other mainstream American sports, basketball has embraced its standing as an international game. Unlike the NFL, which is still almost entirely packed with American players, and the NHL and MLB, which see their foreign-born stars come from a handful of countries in specific areas, the NBA’s stars come from all corners of the globe.
But let’s take a look at the best basketball players to come from the United States. Some states offered obvious answers while others are ripe for debate, but here are our picks for the best NBA player to come from every state.
Alabama — Charles Barkley
While some great athletes use their skill to immediately catapult to the nation’s most exciting states, some stay close to home as long as they can. That was the case with Charles Barkley, whose roots in Alabama run deep. The NBA’s most valuable player for the 1993 season and 11-time All-Star was born in Leeds and stayed in Alabama to play college basketball at Auburn, where he was named SEC player of the year in 1984. His Hall-of-Fame NBA career took him from Philadelphia to Phoenix to Houston but Barkley still loves his home state, even considering a run for governor in years past.
Alaska — Mario Chalmers
According to the exhaustive database of player birthplaces compiled at Basketball Reference, Mario Chalmers is the only player in NBA history to come from Alaska. While the northernmost state might not be a haven for hoops talent, it has given us a very good player in Chalmers. The native of Anchorage eventually played high school ball there before departing for a warmer climate at the University of Kansas, where he’d lead the Jayhawks to an NCAA championship in 2008. After that, Chalmers spent 10 seasons in the NBA, winning two titles with the Miami Heat and posting five seasons where he averaged at least 9.8 points per game.
Arizona — Sean Elliott
Like Alabama’s Charles Barkley, Arizona’s Sean Elliott stayed close to home for college and wound up having his jersey number retired by both his school and an NBA team. He was born in Tucson and eventually played college hoops at the University of Arizona, where he was twice named the Pac-10’s player of the year and was named the best player in the nation in 1989. Later that year, Elliott was drafted third overall by the San Antonio Spurs, the team he’d win a championship with in 1999. He was a two-time All-Star and averaged 14.2 points per game for his 12-season NBA career.
Arkansas — Scottie Pippen
Of all the great players on this list, Scottie Pippen has to have come from one of the smallest towns. The Hall of Famer was born in Hamburg, Arkansas, which has a population of about 2,600, before becoming one of the central figures in the greatest dynasty in NBA history. Pippen played college ball at Central Arkansas before an NBA career that would span 17 seasons and include six championships with the Chicago Bulls. One of the greatest defenders in history, he was named to the league’s prestigious All-Defensive first team eight times.
California — Gary Payton
According to Basketball Reference, California has produced more NBA players than any state, with 416 so far. Of all the great ones to come from the Golden State — including current icons like James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook — it’s tough to top Gary Payton’s legacy. After being born in Oakland, “The Glove” spent 17 seasons in the NBA, making the All-Star team, All-NBA first team and All-Defensive first team nine times each. No other point guard has won the league’s defensive player of the year award and that’s on top of his career average of 16.3 points per game.
Colorado — Chauncey Billups
While Chauncey Billups spent a couple of seasons with his hometown Nuggets during his long NBA career, his best years were spent with the Detroit Pistons. Before “Mr. Big Shot” had his jersey number retired by that franchise for his starring role on the 2004 championship team, he was born and raised in Denver. He stayed home and played college ball at Colorado, where his number has also since been put in the rafters. In more than 1,000 career NBA games, Billups averaged 15.2 points and was a five-time All-Star.
Connecticut — Calvin Murphy
A few dozen NBA players have come from Connecticut but there’s only been one Hall of Famer so far. Calvin Murphy was born and raised in Norwalk, which is in the New York City metro area. The former All-Star has the distinction of being the shortest player ever inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as he stands at just 5 feet 9 inches. Murphy spent at 13 of his NBA seasons with the Rockets organization, rarely missing games and averaging 17.9 points per game.
Delaware — Walt Hazzard
The late Walt Hazzard started his route to basketball stardom in Wilmington, Delaware, which makes him pretty unique among NBA players. According to Basketball Reference, only nine players in the league have ever come from that state. He went across the country to UCLA for college ball, where he was the best player on the 1964 national championship team that went 30-0. After that, Hazzard spent 10 seasons playing guard in the NBA, averaging 12.6 points per game and making the All-Star Game with the Seattle SuperSonics during the 1967-68 season.
Florida — David Robinson
Before he earned his nickname, “The Admiral,” for his service with the U.S. Navy, David Robinson was a kid from Key West. He was a military brat because of his own father’s military service, which led to frequent moving and likely made the nomadic life of a professional athlete easier on him. Robinson had a Hall-of-Fame career with the San Antonio Spurs that lasted 14 seasons and included two championships. The former league MVP’s list of on-court accomplishments is exhausting to behold, including 10 All-Star Games, 10 first-team All-NBA selections and eight first-team All-Defensive selections.
Georgia — Walt Frazier
A battle between two dominant defenders made Georgia a tough call but we ultimately sided with Walt “Clyde” Frazier over Dwight Howard for the honor of being the state’s best baller. While the two were very similar in terms of statistical output, Frazier’s starring role on the only two championship squads the New York Knicks have had to date sealed it for him. The Atlanta native was a seven-time All-Star in 13 NBA seasons, as well as a seven-time member of the first-team All-Defensive squad.
Hawaii — Cedric Ceballos
Only two NBA players have come from Hawaii so far and both were All-Stars at some point. Cedric Ceballos gets the nod over his fellow islander, Red Rocha, because he had a longer career and better stats. Ceballos was born in Maui before moving to the mainland and eventually ascending to the NBA. Following a college career in California, his only All-Star season would happen there as well, while he was playing with the Lakers in 1995. Ceballos bounced around with five teams over his lengthy career, averaging 14.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a small forward.
Idaho — Luke Ridnour
Point guard Luke Ridnour is the only Idahoan to last more than five years in the NBA, according to Basketball Reference. Before retiring in 2015, he spent 12 seasons in the league, splitting his time with five different franchises but in Seattle for the majority of them. The Coeur d’Alene native had a standout college career at Oregon before being drafted in the first round by the SuperSonics in 2003. He averaged at least 10 points per game in seven of his seasons at the game’s top level.
Illinois — Dwyane Wade
Anthony Davis is making a legitimate push to steal this title away but fellow Chicago native Dwyane Wade holds it for now. Before he became synonymous with South Florida hoops, Wade was a star high school player in the suburb of Oak Lawn. He eventually won three NBA championships and was a 13-time All-Star, all with the Miami Heat. At his peak, from 2004-2014, Wade was scoring 25.1 points per game to go with 6.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds, making him one of the most valuable players of his generation.
Indiana — Larry Bird
Who else could represent Indiana but “The Hick from French Lick?” Larry Bird was born in West Baden Springs (population: 475), in Indiana’s French Lick Township and would make his home state proud by taking Indiana State to the NCAA championship game in 1979. His entire Hall-of-Fame NBA career was spent with the Boston Celtics and he’s now regarded as something close to a saint in that city. He led the Celtics to three championships in the 1980s, which is the same number of times he was named NBA MVP.
Iowa — Harrison Barnes
The race for the best NBA player from Iowa came down to a couple of guys whose careers overlapped in recent years: Kirk Hinrich and Harrison Barnes. While Hinrich had the longer career, Barnes is still working on his and has produced slightly better numbers so far. The native of Ames was named Iowa’s Mr. Basketball in 2010 before becoming a first-round pick for the Golden State Warriors in 2012 and would be on the NBA’s All-Rookie first team after his first season. He won a title with the Warriors in 2015 and has averaged 17.3 points per game since the 2016-17 season.
Kansas — Alvan Adams
The NBA had three very good players from Kansas all playing at the same time starting in the mid-1970s. Alvan Adams, Scott Wedman and Lionel Hollins all hailed from the Sunflower State but it was Adams who had the best individual career. The big man was born in Lawrence before spending his college career in Oklahoma and his entire NBA tenure with the Phoenix Suns. Adams was named rookie of the year in 1976 and eventually had his jersey number retired by the Suns after walking away in 1988. He averaged 14.1 points and 7 rebounds per game during his time in the league.
Kentucky — Dave Cowens
The commonwealth of Kentucky has given the NBA some truly great players, with Dave Cowens at the forefront. The Hall of Famer edged out Wes Unseld and Rajon Rondo as the best from the Bluegrass State because of his lengthy list of accolades from the league. A Celtics icon in the 1970s, the Newport native helped that franchise win two championships as one of the best defenders of his era. He was rookie of the year in 1971, league MVP in 1973, a three-time member of the All-Defensive first team and an eight-time All-Star.
Louisiana — Karl Malone
There must be something in the water in Louisiana that turns kids into great basketball players because this might have been the toughest state from which to pick a GOAT. Hall of Famers Bob Pettit, Elvin Hayes, Clyde Drexler and Bill Russell all came from the Bayou State but none of them could match Karl Malone’s superhuman production and longevity in the league. “The Mailman” may not have won a ring but he ranks right near the top of many of the NBA’s all-time records.
After coming from tiny Summerfield, Malone played college ball at Louisiana Tech before spending all but one season of his career with the Utah Jazz and finishing second in career points and minutes played in NBA history.
Maine — Duncan Robinson
There have only been two players from Maine to suit up in the NBA and while his legacy is still being built, we gave the nod to Duncan Robinson over Jeff Turner. Robinson, who was born in York, is currently in his third year as a pro and has spent it all in Miami, which is as far down the East Coast from his home state that he could possibly go. He’s averaged better than 13 points per game over the past two seasons and was a key starter during the Heat’s trip to the NBA Finals in 2020.
Maryland — Steve Francis
Silver Spring native Victor Oladipo might have something to say about this in a few years but, for now, the title of Maryland’s best goes to Steve Francis. He was born in Takoma Park before eventually playing college ball at Maryland, where his No. 23 jersey is now honored by the program. “Stevie Franchise” was a three-time All-Star with the Houston Rockets in the early 2000s, where he was a consistent 20-point scorer from the point guard position.
Massachusetts — Bill Laimbeer
Our pick for the best baller from Massachusetts never spent any time playing with the Celtics, instead making his name with the Pistons. Bill Laimbeer was born in Boston and the toughness associated with that town would follow him to Detroit, where he became one of the most feared defenders in the NBA for his rough style of play in the 1980s. He was a four-time All-Star and two-time champion and he missed just nine games from 1980-1993, which is remarkable when you consider how many guys he hammered to the floor during his career.
Michigan — Magic Johnson
Speaking of Michigan basketball icons, it doesn’t get any more legendary than Magic Johnson. While his entire pro career was spent in Los Angeles, Johnson’s brilliant career started up north. He was born in Lansing and had an outstanding high school hoops career there before staying very close to home and playing at Michigan State, a program that he led to a national championship in 1979. In the NBA, Johnson was a three-time MVP who led the Lakers to five championships in the 1980s as one of the most versatile players in history.
Minnesota — Kevin McHale
Minnesota’s Kevin McHale did plenty of battle with Michigan’s Magic Johnson as a Celtics star in the 1980s. McHale was born in Hibbing — the same town that gave us Bob Dylan — and was named Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball as a high school senior in 1976 before playing at the University of Minnesota. Along with teammate Larry Bird, McHale helped lead the Celtics to three NBA championships in his 13 seasons there, averaging 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game for his career. He typified the power forward position and was named to seven All-Star teams.
Mississippi — Spencer Haywood
Hall of Famer Chet “The Jet” Walker, who came from Bethlehem, made this a tough choice but we had to give Mississippi’s crown to fellow inductee Spencer Haywood. Haywood was born in Silver City (population: 288) before eventually becoming an NBA champion with the Lakers in 1980. Before the two leagues merged in 1976, Haywood was a star with the ABA’s Denver Rockets and Seattle SuperSonics, winning MVP honors as a rookie in 1970. He averaged a double double for his career, with 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game over 13 seasons.
Missouri — Jo Jo White
This one was a total toss-up between two St. Louis natives in Hall of Famers Jo Jo White and Ed Macauley, whose careers and stats were remarkably similar. We gave the nod to White because of his multiple rings and his starring role on some stacked Celtics teams in the 1970s. After being born and raised in St. Louis, he crossed the border to play college hoops at Kansas before being taken in the first round in 1969 by Boston. White, seen on the right here with teammate John Havlicek, was an All-Star in seven consecutive seasons while playing there, winning two championships and being named NBA Finals MVP in 1976 after averaging nearly 22 points per game during the series.
Montana — Phil Jackson
While he’s much more famous for his career as a coach, Phil Jackson had a great career as an NBA player before leading Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to multiple championships. In the 1960s and ’70s, “The Zen Master” spent 12 seasons with the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets, far from the quaint town of Deer Lodge, Montana that he came from. Jackson was part of the NBA’s All-Rookie first team in 1968 and came off the bench to help the Knicks win a title in 1973.
Nebraska — Bob Boozer
It’s about time another great NBA player came out of Nebraska because we had to go all the way back to the late 1950s for the state’s best. “Bullet” Bob Boozer came from Omaha and remained a major part of that community until his death in 2012. He was the first overall pick in the 1959 draft, taken by the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings). Boozer was a workhorse who rarely missed a game during his 11-season career, which saw him average 14.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He was an All-Star in 1968 with the Chicago Bulls and won a championship in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks, in what would be his final season.
Nevada — Ricky Davis
Nevada has not exactly been a hotbed for basketball talent over the years, so the pickings here were pretty slim, but Ricky Davis enjoyed a long career in the NBA as a journeyman shooting guard and small forward. He was born in Las Vegas but played high school and college hoops in Iowa before being drafted by the Hornets in the first round in 1998. He spent 12 seasons in the league, also playing with the Heat, Cavaliers, Celtics, Timberwolves and Clippers. Davis was a career 13.5-point scorer but had his best season with Cleveland in 2002-03, when he started 76 games and averaged 20.6 points per game.
New Hampshire — Matt Bonner
It may or may not surprise you to know that Matt Bonner is apparently the only player in NBA history to have been born in New Hampshire. He was born and raised in Concord before seeking warmer weather at the University of Florida, where he had a great college basketball career. In the NBA, Bonner spent most of his 12 seasons as a backup power forward, playing behind Tim Duncan in San Antonio. He won two championships with the Spurs before retiring in 2016.
New Jersey — Shaquille O’Neal
New Mexico — Bill Bridges
New Mexico’s all-time hoops hero, Bill Bridges, spent 13 seasons in the NBA during the 1960s and ’70s. He was born in Hobbs and eventually played high school basketball there before going to college at Kansas. He spent most of his career with the Hawks, spanning time between the franchise’s eras in St. Louis and Atlanta. Bridges was a three-time All-Star with that team and a two-time member of the All-Defensive squad who averaged a double double of 11.9 points and rebounds per game for his career. He won a championship with the Warriors during his final season in 1975.
New York — Michael Jordan
In terms of producing basketball greats, New York City tops all other locations on the planet — and the state itself is second only to California in the number of NBA players it has given the world. That’s why it’s a good thing for us that Michael Jordan was born there because it takes all the work out of sorting through those hundreds of options to find the best one. Before he became forever linked to hoops in North Carolina and Chicago, Jordan was born in Brooklyn and lived there for a few years of his early childhood. His accomplishments in the NBA are unmatched and include six championships, five MVP awards and 10 league scoring titles.
North Carolina — Chris Paul
While Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo makes a very strong case as the best player to ever come out of North Carolina, we had to give the crown to future Hall of Famer Chris Paul. “The Point God” was born in Winston-Salem and would be named the state’s Mr. Basketball before staying in his hometown to become a college hoops star at Wake Forest. His roots in the Tar Heel State obviously run deep but his long NBA career has unfortunately never included a stint in Charlotte. He’s led the league four times in assists and six times in steals, making him undoubtedly one of the best pure point guards to ever play the position.
North Dakota — Tyler Johnson
Speaking of guards who are still in the league as of this writing, Tyler Johnson represents his home state of North Dakota, which hasn’t exactly cranked out the ballers so far. He was born in Grand Forks, which is one of the biggest cities in the state, but spent his high school and college careers in California. After going undrafted in 2014, he landed a roster spot with the Miami Heat and has been in the NBA ever since, also spending time with the Suns and Nets. Since the 2016-17 season, he’s averaged 11 points per game, typically coming off the bench.
Ohio — LeBron James
Ohio is right up there among the most prolific states in terms of producing NBA talent but none have left the impact of LeBron James. Akron’s most beloved son has gone out of his way to remain an integral part of that city’s fabric even long after becoming the most famous basketball player on the planet. During his historic high school career, he was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball a remarkable three times before skipping college and being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers first overall in 2003.
He’s accomplished more in the NBA than nearly any other player, including four championships with three different franchises, but his 2016 title with the Cavs further made him an icon in the Buckeye State.
Oklahoma — Blake Griffin
All due respect to Mark Price and John Starks but Blake Griffin is the best Oklahoman to ever lace up in the NBA. He was born in Oklahoma City and delighted the basketball fans in his home state when he stayed home to play college ball at the University of Oklahoma. Griffin was the first overall pick in the 2009 draft and, after sitting out his first season with an injury, made an impact right away with the Los Angeles Clippers, being named rookie of the year in 2011. He’s been a six-time All-Star and has put up some massive figures in his career so far, averaging 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
Oregon — Terrell Brandon
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Before he was a two-time All-Star with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Terrell Brandon was born and raised in Portland. He went on to play college hoops at the University of Oregon, where he was named the Pac-10’s player of the year in 1991. The Cavs took him in the first round later that year and he had six good seasons with the franchise before playing for the Bucks and Timberwolves. Brandon, a sub-6-foot point guard, averaged solid numbers for his career, including 13.8 points and 6.1 assists per game. Current star Domantas Sabonis could take the honor of Oregon’s best in years to come but for now it belongs to Brandon.
Pennsylvania — Kobe Bryant
While the late Kobe Bryant would seem like the obvious choice to represent his home state, there was a lot of great competition representing Pennsylvania. The state is behind only California, New York and Illinois in terms of producing NBA players, and has given us all-time legends like Wilt Chamberlain and “Pistol” Pete Maravich. But Bryant’s career and impact on the league were indelible and his signature toughness partly came from learning to play ball in his native Philadelphia.
“Mamba” came to the NBA straight out of high school there and spent his entire Hall-of-Fame career with the Lakers, winning five titles and making 18 All-Star Game appearances, which is one off of the all-time record.
Rhode Island — Marvin Barnes
While this list honors NBA greats from every state, Rhode Island’s best player was more known for his brilliant-but-brief career in the ABA. Marvin “Bad News” Barnes was born in Providence and stayed right in his hometown into early adulthood, earning consensus All-American honors as a senior at Providence College in 1974. He was a first-round draft pick by the ABA’s Spirits of St. Louis and wound up with the Pistons after the merger in 1976. In his two seasons in the ABA, Barnes averaged more than 24 points per game, which landed on the league’s All-Time Team in 1997.
South Carolina — Kevin Garnett
Before he was “The Big Ticket,” Kevin Garnett was a kid growing up in upstate South Carolina. He was born in Greenville and spent most of his high school career there before finishing it in Illinois. He was drafted by the Timberwolves straight out of high school in 1995 and spent more than 13 seasons of his 21-year NBA tenure there. Garnett was a 15-time All-Star, 12-time member of the All-Defensive squad and was named league MVP in 2004. The Hall of Famer averaged a career double double of 17.8 points and 10 rebounds per game.
South Dakota — Mike Miller
Former rookie of the year Mike Miller is one of just five players from South Dakota in NBA history and he had the best career of any of them by far. He was born and raised in the city of Mitchell, which is in the southeastern part of the state. After playing college ball at Florida, Miller was a first-round pick by the Orlando Magic in 2000 and would spend time with seven different franchises during his 17-season career. From 2000-2010, he averaged 13.7 points per game, which was the best stretch of his time in the league, and was named sixth man of the year while playing with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2006.
Tennessee — Oscar Robertson
Before he became perhaps the all-time icon of hoops in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio, Oscar Robertson was born in the small town of Charlotte, Tennessee. He only lived there as an infant but no other player born in the Volunteer State has demonstrated the kind of all-around skill he did during his years in the NBA. Robertson was the first player in league history to average a triple double for an entire season, which he did in 1962 with the Cincinnati Royals, and his career averages ended up being 25.7 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game. The Hall of Famer was a 12-time All-Star in 14 seasons and won a championship with the Bucks in 1971.
Texas — Bill Sharman
While LaMarcus Aldridge has deeper ties to Texas basketball in general, Hall of Famer Bill Sharman had the best career of anyone from the Lone Star State so far. He was born in Abilene but spent his formative years in California and became an NBA icon with the Boston Celtics. In 10 seasons with that franchise, Sharman proved to be a deadly shooting guard and helped lead them to four championships from 1957-1961. He was an eight-time All-Star and seven-time All-NBA pick who averaged 18.8 points per game over the last nine years of his career.
Utah — Tom Chambers
One of the best NBA players to never be elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Tom Chambers racked up more than 20,000 points in his career as a power forward. He was born in the city of Ogden, Utah and stayed in his home state to play hoops at the University of Utah, where he was a first-team All-WAC selection. He had four All-Star seasons with the SuperSonics and Suns and averaged 20.6 points and 6.7 rebounds a night in his first 11 seasons in the NBA.
Like some other guys on this list, Chambers got to go back to his home state during his NBA tenure, spending a couple of seasons with the Utah Jazz in the mid-1990s.
Vermont — No One
Can you believe that no player from Vermont has ever played a game in the NBA? It’s the only state in the union that has never produced a player in the league, despite having several who have been drafted but never ended up playing. That means that even far-flung countries like Estonia, Iran and Luxembourg have given the NBA more players than the Green Mountain State. On the women’s side, Shaftsbury native Nicole Levesque is the only Vermonter to have ever played in the WNBA.
Virginia — Moses Malone
It was a toss-up between a pair of legendary Hall of Famers but Moses Malone edged out Allen Iverson for the crown of Virginia’s best baller. The late big man was born in Petersburg and was one of the first truly great NBA stars to come to the pros straight out of high school. He led the league in rebounding six times and was a 13-time All-Star who spent time with nine different franchises across the ABA and NBA, winning a championship with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983. He’s also one of just eight players in history to win league MVP honors at least three times.
Washington — John Stockton
While John Stockton’s NBA career is forever linked to Utah, he learned his trade in his native Washington. He was born in Spokane and stayed in his hometown through his college years, when he was a star player at Gonzaga. Stockton was a 10-time All-Star and 11-time All-NBA selection and is possibly the best pure point guard in history. He’s the NBA’s all-time leader in both assists and steals and is unlikely to be passed in either category any time soon.
West Virginia — Jerry West
The man whose image is immortalized as the NBA’s logo came from West Virginia to eke out a brilliant career in Los Angeles. Jerry West is synonymous with basketball in his home state, as he was born in tiny Chelyan before becoming a national star at the University of West Virginia in the late 1950s. His 14-season NBA career, all spent with the Lakers, included an All-Star selection every single year and 12 appearances on the All-NBA squad. He led the franchise to its first championship in Los Angeles in 1972.
Wisconsin — Latrell Sprewell
Milwaukee native Latrell Sprewell is remembered by some for one regrettable outburst that nearly derailed his NBA career but he was a great player for many years. He was a four-time All-Star with the Warriors and Knicks and was a consistent 20-point scorer during five consecutive early years of his 13-season tenure. For his career, “Spree” averaged 18.3 points per game, which is easily the best mark for any player born in Wisconsin.
Wyoming — James Johnson
Current Dallas Mavericks forward James Johnson is the only player born in Wyoming who’s lasted more than three seasons in the NBA. He’s been bouncing around the league since 2009, when he was a first-round pick by the Bulls. Johnson, who was born and raised in Cheyenne, had his best years with the Heat during the mid-2010s, when he was averaging more than 11 points a game. The Cowboy State isn’t exactly known for cranking out ballers but Johnson has done a nice job representing his home state in the past decade.