Top 10 Greatest White Basketball Players in History of the NBA & WNBA

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Sports rankings are always going to be subjective. It matters when you were born. It matters who you root for. It matters who you root against. You can argue points, championships, awards, and the ever-present “eye test.” Also, sports rankings are some of the most fun to debate, no matter what the category. With all of that in mind, I bring you the Top 10 greatest white basketball players in the NBA (and WNBA) ever.

10. “The Pistol” Pete Maravich

pete-maravich

Career Stats: 5-Time NBA All Star, Points: 15,948 (24.2 PPG), Rebounds 2,747 (4.2 RPG), Assists 3,563 (5.4 APG)

Taken by a heart attack while playing basketball at the young age of 40, Pete Maravich may have been the greatest ball handler and scorer of all time. Maravich averaged 44.2 points a game while at Louisiana State University. Keep in mind, he did this before there was a three-point shot. While Maravich’s Hall of Fame talent was undeniable, Marvich’s LSU teams never went to the NCAA tournament. Maravich also never had a deep run in the playoffs with the Hawks or Jazz. The farthest Maravich went was the Eastern Conference Finals in 1980, on a team led by rookie sensation Larry Bird, who may or may not crack this list later on.

9. Diana Taurasi

Diana-Taurasi

Career Stats: 5-Time WNBA All Star, 2-Time WNBA Champion,  WNBA MVP, Points: 5,444 (20.7 PPG), Rebounds: 1,129 (4.3 RPG), Assists: 1,053 (4.0 APG)

Diana Taurasi was one of the most celebrated high school players of all time. She followed up on her promise by leading the University of Connecticut to three consecutive National Titles. In Athens, Greece, she led the United States women’s basketball team to the Gold Medal, in a year that the men took home a bronze. As a member of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, Taurasi has not only been a league MVP, but also a two-time champion. There is no level of basketball on which Taurasi has not excelled and dominated in both team, as well as individual, play.

8. Kevin McHale

kevin-mchale

Career Stats:  3-Time NBA Champion, 7-Time NBA All Star, Points: 17,335 (17.9 PPG), Rebounds: 7,122 (7.3 RPG), Blocks: 1,689 (1.7 BPG)

Kevin McHale once famously remarked that playing second fiddle to Larry Bird was still a pretty mean fiddle. If playing basketball and playing the fiddle were the same thing, Kevin McHale could have won a gold fiddle from the Devil. It would look like nice next to all of the other hardware McHale collected in his playing career. McHale , on Bird’s Celtic teams, was a three-time NBA champion. McHale himself was a seven-time All Star selection, and an unbelievable defensive presence in the 1980’s.  When McHale got into his zone, he would refer to putting all potential opponents into the “torture chamber.”

7. John Stockton

john-stockman

Career Stats: 10-Time NBA All Star,  Points: 19,711 (13.1 PPG), Assists: 15,806 (10.5 APG), Steals: 3,265 (2.2 SPG)

On John Stockton’s tombstone, they may have to clear things up by saying, “…but he had to play Jordan’s Bulls.”  It is true that John Stockton was never an NBA champion. However, when they talk about unbreakable records, they might have to put Stockton’s  15,806 assists next to Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak. Stockton averaged 10.5 assists per game. Stockton is a Hall of Famer, a member of the 1992 Dream Team that won the Gold Medal in Barcelona, and was named one of the 50 Greatest Basketball Players in NBA history in 1996.

6. Steve Nash

steve-nash

Career Stats:  8-Time NBA All Star, 2-Time NBA MVP, Points: 16,649 (14.5 PPG), Assists: 9,916 (8.6 APG), Steals: 862 (0.7 SPG) 

Eight-time NBA All-Star Steve Nash first gained the notice of the basketball world in 1993. Nash led the 15th seeded, and lightly regarded, Santa Clara to an improbable upset win over 2 seed Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Nash is one of the best, most productive point guards in the league, having won back-to-back season MVP trophies after reaching the age of 30. Currently ready to continue his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Nash will be a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. Nash is already one of the greatest motors to ever power any NBA team.

5. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk-Nowitzki

Career Stats: NBA Champion, NBA MVP, 11-Time NBA All Star, Points : 24,134 (22.9 PPG),  Rebounds: 8.734 (8.3 RPG), Assists: 2,791  (2.6 APG)

Dirk Nowitski is a defensive nightmare that NBA teams had previously not even dreamed of. Nowitzki is a 7-footer who can shoot a three-point shot. The last time that there was a shot this unstoppable was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Skyhook. German-born Nowitzki has cemented his legacy in the NBA by not only winning the MVP award (2007,) but also for helping the Dallas Mavericks win their first-ever NBA Championship. In the annals of Mavericks basketball history, there is only B.D. (Before Dirk) and A.D. (after Dirk.)

4. George Mikan

george-mikan

Career Stats: 7-Time BAA/NBA/NBL Champion, NBL MVP, Points:  10,156 (23.1 PPG),  Rebounds : 4,167 (13.4 RPG), Assists:  1,245 (2.8 APG)

When people list the greatest NBA, or even greatest Laker, centers of all time, it’s a shame that George Mikan might slip anyone’s mind. To review, George Mikan led DePaul University to the 1945 NIT Championship. During that time, the NIT was the important tournament, the one that helped determine a National Champion. Mikan was the MVP of the National Basketball League, before the merger that made it the NBA. Mikan then became a five-time NBA Champion with the then-Minneapolis Lakers. In 1950, an AP poll named George Mikan as the consensus “best basketball player of the half-century. Mikan received this honor while still an active player with the Lakers.

3. John Havlicek

John-Havlicek

Career Stats: 8-Time NBA Champion, 13-Time NBA All Star, Points: 26,395 (20.8 PPG), Rebounds: 8,007  (6.3 RPG), Assists: 6,114 (4.8 APG)

Lovingly nicknamed after the John Wayne movie “Hondo,” John Havlicek first made a splash as a member of the 1960 Ohio State team that won the NCAA Championship. Havlicek was one of the first to alternate between the shooting guard and small forward positions. As a team leader, Havlicek was a thirteen time All-Star, in addition to be being the Finals MVP in 1974. Playing for the Boston Celtics, Hondo won eight NBA Championships but, more importantly for his individual legacy, he won two of them after Bill Russell retired.

Perhaps the greatest revolution that “Hondo” engineered, however, was the fact that he started his Hall of Fame career by coming off of the bench. Havlicek was one of the first to demonstrate the true importance of the “Sixth Man.”

2. Jerry West

jerry-west-logo

Career Stats : NBA Champion , 14-Time NBA All Star,  Points: 25,192 (27.0 PPG), Rebounds: 5,366 (5.8 RPG), Assists: 6,238 (6.7 APG)

Sometimes, stats and championships do not tell the whole story. In West’s heyday, if you needed a player to help seal a win, then you wanted him playing for you. There was never a more apt nickname than “Mr. Clutch” for a basketball player. These days, people know Jerry West by another nickname: “Logo.” When you look at the silhouette in the NBA’s modern logo, you are looking at Jerry West.

For over a decade, West came up against the dominant buzz saw that was the Boston Celtics dynasty. Finally, in 1972, West and the Lakers broke through to become champions. West would go on to be coach of the Los Angeles Lakers (never missing the playoffs in his three years,) as well as becoming the architect of several NBA Champions, serving General Manager of the club from 1983-2002.

1. Larry Bird

larry-bird

Career Stats: 3-Time NBA Champion, 3-Time NBA MVP,  12-Time NBA All Star,  Points: 21,791 (24.3 PPG), Rebounds:  8,974 (10.0 RPG) ,  Assists: 5,695 (6.3 APG)

So yeah, he squeaked onto the list after all.

Even when the stats are gaudy, they don’t always encompass the true legend. Larry Bird was a three-time MVP, three-time NBA Champion, 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist, and the only man ever to win the MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year Awards. Larry Bird’s run to the Finals of the NCAA Tournament with Indiana State helped to revolutionize how we view the modern-day spectacle of the Final Four. Bird’s rivalry with Magic Johnson was not only the stuff of legend, but the rivalry is also now a Broadway play. Larry Bird helped to create the NBA as it is today. This is the one and only possible spot for “Larry Legend.”


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55 Comments

  1. Not wanting to be the kind of guy who goes around accusing a list of being “too american-centric”, but I’d assume some spanish, argentinian and italian league players who never played for any of the NBA teams – be it for political, personal or professional reasons, should be in this list (back when NBA players were not admitted in the Olympics, some great players refused offers to play on NBA teams so they could represent their countries. It’s the case of Brazilian Oscar Schmidt, who’d deserve a spot in this list, maybe 8th place, in my opinion, and many others).

    Especially since this is a “white basketball player” list, and seeing as the number of white players in those other leagues is proportionally higher than in the NBA. The problem is always in the titles. If this list was named “greatest white basketball players in NBA history” I’d shut my mouth.

    • @ steve. You beat me to the punch. Where on God’s Green Earth is Bob Cousy !!! But then again 4 out of the 10 players here listed all wore Celtics Uniforms. I have 2 others from Cousy’s time. Dolph Schayes and Bob Pettit.

  2. Even “white” is open to interpretation, I suppose. I would have assumed “white” meant Caucasian-American players, which would have eliminated Nowitzki and Nash.

    With that said, I saw Pistol Pete and Kevin McHale play. Different positions, of course, but Maravich was a much better individual player than McHale was. Just my opinion.

    PS – Taurasi is a brilliant basketball player. But make a list of the greatest white women players. She would be #1 on that list, and the discussion isn’t even close.

  3. This is a pretty good list, but there is one HUGE omission: Bob Pettit, who played for the St. Louis Hawks in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. He made the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All-Time List. How could he not be included?

  4. Dirk,Stockton,Steve, and Diana do not in any way belong above Kevin McHale and Pistol Pete. I have no idea how you came up with this list but you are wrong.

  5. I would also like to mention Chris Mullins of the Golden State Warriors (Does his name end with an ‘s’ ? If not then I apologize)

  6. My Version of the List:
    1. John Stockton
    2. Larry Bird
    3. Kevin McHale
    4. George Mikan
    5. Manu Ginobili (Gotta look at his Euro stats to fully appreciate him)
    6. Steve Nash
    7. Jerry West
    8. Dirk Nowitzki
    9. John Havlicek
    10. Pau Gasol

      • Well what really is wrong with it? The only problem is leaving Maravich out. He should replace Pau.
        1. John Stockton: Career steals and assists leader
        2. Larry Bird: One of the greatest shooters ever
        3. Kevin McHale: Watch some film to see just how impressive he was
        4. George Mikan: Innovated the post game
        5. Manu Ginobili: NBA, Euro, and Olympic Champ. Key part of the biggest dynasty of the 21st century…yet
        6. Steve Nash: 2x MVP
        7. Jerry West: He’s the logo. 14x all-star and also held a scoring title
        8. Dirk Nowitzki: Best shooting big man of the 2000s
        9. John Havlicek: 13-time all-star. 8-time champion.
        10. Pau Gasol
        Gasol could be replaced with Maravich

        • No way in hell should John Stockton be over Larry Bird…unless Stockton won an NBA title in some alternate universe.

  7. west,stockton, maravich,havlicek, ….guards
    barry, bird, mchale, pettit….forwards
    Walton,cowens …..centers

  8. THIS IS WHITE PLAYERS, GERMANS WOULD BE UNDER INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS, SODIRK SHOULD NOT BE ON THIS LIST. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHITE AND INTERNATIONAL!
    ALSO WHO THE HELL IS DIANA TAURASI

  9. I’ve been watching since the mid 70’s so I’m just going with who I’ve seen play.

    Starting Line up:

    Larry Bird – Small foreward
    Kevin McHale – Power foreward
    *Bill Walton (6’11 my ass) Center
    John Stockton – Point guard
    Jerry West – Shooting guard

    Oft the bench:

    Tom Chambers
    Dirk Nowitzki
    Manu Ginobili (even though he is one sneaky dirty player)
    Kiki Vandeweghe (don’t know why he is not on other lists)
    Kevin Love
    Jeff Hornacek
    Chris Mullins
    Billy Cunningham

    Yeah I know I got 13 players. And I feel I’m missing someone I really like. *Bill Walton healthy straight out of UCLA

  10. Rev Stephen Forfer on

    The true Top-10 most talented caucasian basketball players of all-time:

    1. Pistol Pete Maravich (top 5 greatest players black or white!)
    2. Larry Bird
    3. Jerry West
    4. Bob Pettit
    5. Bill Walton
    6. Rick Barry
    7. John Havlicek
    8. George Mikan
    9. Kevin McHale
    10. Paul Westphal

  11. Sorry, I can’t take this list seriously. I mean, no Bob Cousey? Not only the greatest white point guard ever, but top three greatest point guard, period. With all due respect to the author of this article, please study the history of the NBA more closely. Oh, and another please, make a separate list for WNBA players, seriously now…

  12. larry bird,jerry west,john havlicek,rick barry,bob pettit,dolph schayes,kevin mchale,bob cousy,john stockton,and dave cowens.

  13. You lost all credibility leaving of Ric Barry. Look up his numbers. The man averaged over 30 a game three seasons. Led the NBA, ABA, and NCAA in scoring. You know who else did that? NOBODY. Led an undermanned team to a Championship.
    Bob Pettit should be there too.

  14. How about Hall of Famer Rick Barry? This dude averaged 25 points a game over 14 year career, with 4 of those years being 30 points plus years. Was famous for the underhanded free throws, and was one of the all time great free throw shooters. Has 1 NBA Championship despite the fact he never played on any great teams or with any great players. Rick Barry was the best white player I had ever seen play before Larry Bird came along.

  15. Since it’s greatest NBA players, ehite, it’s a good list. But having a great NBA career is dependent on a lot more than just how good you are. Easily the best white basketball PLAYER ever and among the best ever white, black, whatever eas Pistol Pete. I saw almost all of them.

  16. Not only should bob cousy be on here he should be number 1.
    And Jason Williams doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

  17. Manu Ginobili: 4-Time NBA Champion, Olympic Gold Medal with Argentina, Euroleague Champion, 2-Time NBA All Star. One of only two players aged 40 or more to have scored 20+points in two consecutive games. 9th player with most playoff games in history. White with most playoff games in history. So, sorry, but Manu is better than Larry Bird.

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