The Greatest White Players in NBA History

From Jerry West to Larry Bird to Kevin Love, these are the best white players in the history of the NBA.


It’s no secret that the NBA is a league largely comprised of African-American players. It would be willfully ignorant to say otherwise. While it certainly hasn’t always been that way (just look at any picture from pre-1970), the white guy used to be a common sight on a basketball court rather than a rarely-seen sideshow. Guys like Kevin Love were the norm, but now a star white player is as rare a find as you can get on an NBA court.

That’s not to say it’s a bad thing; after all, the only thing holding white players back from success in the NBA is themselves. The simple reality is that in this era a player can be assessed by purely his own merits, rather than having something like race play a factor.

However, the other side of this is that the NBA’s fan base is made up largely of white people. While this absolutely does not impact the love guys like LeBron James or Kevin Durant get from the average white fan, it does mean someone like Love can enjoy a long career as a fan favorite even if his numbers dwindle.

Some white players, though, have proven worthy of the adoration they receive. Today would've been Pistol Pete's 67th birthday so we take a look at the Greatest White Players in NBA History.

*Note: We’re defining “white” as North American-born and having two white parents.

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30. Paul Westphal

Team(s): Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Seattle Supersonics, New York Knicks
Career years: 1972-1984
Career stats: 15.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Paul Westphal made five consecutive All-Star games from 1977 through 1981 and was All-NBA four out of those five seasons. After '81 he repeatedly was slowed by stress fractures in his foot, which cut into his minutes and hampered his on-court play. Since he spent his first three seasons in the league coming off the Celtics' bench and his last three dealing with nagging foot pain, Westphal only really had five prime seasons to make an impact.

Still, in those five years he only missed four games while posting solid average of 22.5 PPG while also entering the top 10 in both steals and assists.

29. Bill Bradley

Team(s): New York Knicks
Career years: 1965-1977
Career stats: 12.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Bill Bradley only spent a decade in the NBA, but he is still able to spin one of the most unique tales ever for a professional basketball player. On the court, he won two championships with the Knicks in '70 and '73, made the All-Star team in '72, and had his number retired in Madison Square Garden. After retiring, the Hall of Famer decided to parlay his popularity among the fans into a political career. He served as a senator for New Jersey from 1979 to 1997, unsuccessfully running for president in 2000.

28. Bill Laimbeer

Team(s): Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons
Career years: 1981-1997
Career stats: 12.9 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG

Bill Laimbeer was the type of player who had those intangibles that couldn't really be reflected in the box score. And by that, we mean they don't have league leaders for elbows. Those aforementioned elbows along with his massive forearms brought a world of hurt to anyone coming into the lane, and helped the Bad Boy Pistons of the 1980s win two championships.

After retirement, he took his expertise to the WNBA and coached the Detroit Shock to three titles.

27. Tom Chambers

Team(s): Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers
Career years: 1981-1997
Career stats: 18.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG

It's not even the four All-Star appearances or the All-Star Game MVP in 1987 that made us think Chambers definitely deserved a spot on this list. It's was this emasculation of Mark Jackson. That dunk alone would give Chambers a spot on here. One of the greatest white dunkers of all time? Thought you knew...

26. Jack Sikma

Team(s): Seattle Supersonics, Milwaukee Bucks
Career years: 1977-1991
Career stats: 15.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG

Coming out of noted basketball powerhouse Illinois Wesleyan (which houses roughly 2000 undergrads), Jack Sikma went on to be drafted eighth overall and made seven consecutive All Star games from 1979 through 1985. Sikma was one of the better shooting centers in the history of the NBA, and even led the league in free throw percentage (.922) during the 1987-88 season. Later in his career, he began to expand his range; after only attempting 68 three-pointers in his first 11 seasons, Sikma fired up 550 over the course of his final three seasons and hit nearly 200 of them.

Combine that with solid defense (two-time league leader in defensive rebounds, one-time All-Defensive team) and you can see why Seattle eventually decided to hang his number in the rafters. Of course...Seattle fans haven't stared into rafters in a long time. #soresubject

25. Kevin Love

Team(s): Minnesota Timberwolves
Career years: 2008-Present
Career stats: 19.2 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG

There's a reason every team in the NBA wants him; after all, there's not many 6'10" ballers who can shoot the three. In addition to his .362 career three-point percentage, he's also one the best rebounders in the NBA. At just 25 years of age, Love is still ascending. If he continues to develop (and being traded to a winner would help enhance his reputation) you can expect him to continue scaling this list.

24. Mark Price

Team(s): Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic
Career years: 1986-1998
Career stats: 15.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG

One of the better three-point shooters of all time (and winner of two three-point shootouts as proof), Mark Price was a four-time All Star who currently sits at No. 2 on the all time free-throw percentage leaderboard (90.4%). He had to utilize his shot to combat his relative lack of height, as he stopped sprouting at 6'0". During the 1988-89 campaign, Price joined fellow list member Larry Bird as only the second player in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 club (percentages from the field, three and charity stripe, respectively). Since the '80s, just four players have accomplished the feat (Kevin Durant, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and Reggie Miller).

Even though injuries eventually curtailed his career, this achievement cements him as one of the league's better pure shooters in recent memory.

23. Dan Issel

Team(s): Denver Nuggets
Career years: 1976-1985
Career stats: 20.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG

Because he spent his first six seasons in the ABA, Dan Issel's career numbers are not as gaudy as they might have been. After dominating the ABA (six seasons, six All-Star games), he jumped to the NBA when the leagues merged and Denver was added to the NBA's ranks. Issel took off running, making the All-Star team as a "rookie" and averaged a double-double in his second season. Six of his first seven seasons in the NBA, Issel averaged over 21.0 PPG. If you combine ABA and NBA scoring, he ranks ninth on the all-time list.

He was durable too, as "The Horse" missed just 24 games in 15 professional seasons and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1993.

22. Chris Mullin

Team(s): Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers
Career years: 1985-2001
Career stats: 18.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG

In both NBA and college play, white ballers often come off as goofy and somewhat out of place. This was anything but the case for Chris Mullin. Being from Brooklyn, Mullin had a bit of extra swag that shined through on the court. His pure jump shot led him to become a five-time All-Star and a member of the 1992 Dream Team. If all that wasn't enough, goofy white dudes also don't get shout-outs in rap songs. Well, unless you're counting Kanye's shout-out to Coldplay.

21. Paul Arizin

Team(s): Philadelphia Warriors
Career years: 1950-1962
Career stats: 22.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.3 APG

Along with Neil Johnston, Paul Arizin led the Philadelphia Warriors to the 1956 NBA title. He was one of the NBA's first jump shooters, led the league in scoring in just his second year, and made 10 All-Star teams despite taking two years off to fight in the Korean War. Apparently, Arizin preferred literally anything to San Francisco, because he refused to move with the Warriors when they crossed the country from Philadelphia and instead decided to call it a career.

At the time, he was the No. 3 scorer in league history; unfortunately, that accomplishment hasn't aged well and he's now just below Stephon Marbury at No. 101.

20. Dave DeBusschere

Team(s): Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks
Career years: 1962-1974
Career stats: 16.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Dave DeBusschere was as tough as it gets. The late eight-time All-Star played a major role in the Knicks only two championships ('70 and '73) after being traded by his hometown Pistons. The bruising forward was feared around the league for his relentless will on both ends of the court and as a result he was named to six All-Defensive teams. 

19. Pete Maravich

Team(s): Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Jazz, Boston Celtics
Career years: 1970-1980
Career stats: 24.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Growing up, Pete Maravich took his basketball with him everywhere. He dribbled to and from school, he dribbled at the movies, he dribbled everywhere. His high skill level also stemmed from his father's notorious training sessions. Think Jesus Shuttlesworth without the dysfunctional parents. Ultimately the insane work rate paid off, as Maravich ended up the greatest collegiate player in history with an average of 44.2 PPG over his entire career at LSU. In the NBA, he had five All-Star appearances and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players of All Time.

18. Neil Johnston

Team(s): Philadelphia Warriors
Career years: 1951-1959
Career stats: 19.4 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.5 APG

Neil Johnston was a pioneer of the hook shot, later perfected and made famous by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. With that same hook shot, Johnston led the NBA in scoring for three years straight (1953-1955). He also led the league in rebounding during the 1955 season, won a championship in 1956, and was a six-time All-Star. Despite playing less than a decade, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990. 

17. Jack Twyman

Team(s): Rochester/Cincinnati Royals
Career years: 1955-1966
Career stats: 19.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.3 APG

Jack Twyman was the first NBA player to average 30.0 PPG during the regular season, which he accomplished in 1959-60 along with Wilt Chamberlain. Other than being one of the best players in his day, Twyman was also simply a good man and role model. When Royals teammate Maurice Stokes suffered a brain injury in 1958 that left him paralyzed, it was Twyman that became his legal guardian and took care of him until Stokes' passing in 1970. He's also responsible for getting former players financial aid when they need assistance.

16. Billy Cunningham

Team(s): Philadelphia 76ers
Career years: 1965-1976
Career stats: 20.8 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Whoever came up with the expression that "white men can't jump" clearly never saw Billy Cunningham play basketball. The "Kangaroo Kid" could jump out the gym, giving another dimension to the game during a time when it was still largely played below the rim. Known more for coaching the 1983 76ers to a title, Billy was an electrifying player during the league's experimental years, winning a championship with a dominant 76ers team in 1967 along with Wilt Chamberlain and Hal Greer. He was a five-time All-Star, and remains one of the greatest players in Sixers history.

15. Tommy Heinsohn

Team(s): Boston Celtics
Career years: 1956-1965
Career stats: 18.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.0 APG

Tommy Heinsohn had an all-around game that made him a perfect fit on the Celtics' dominant teams of the 1950s and 1960s. Along with Bill Russell and Bob Cousy (and later John Havlicek), he was a key part of the core of Celtics that won eight championships during his career. He stood out individually as well, making six All-Star teams. And, despite the fact that he caught a lot of flack for smoking packs of cigarettes at practice, he remains a favorite of fans and the organization; he's the only Celtic to be involved in all 17 championships as either a player, coach, or broadcaster.

14. Bill Walton

Team(s): Portland Trail Blazers, San Diego Clippers, Boston Celtics
Career years: 1974-1987
Career stats: 13.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.2 BPG

Injuries derailed what would have been one of the greatest careers in NBA history. After a heralded college run at UCLA, Bill Walton was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers with the first overall choice in 1974. Even with the enormous pressure out of college, he led them to a title just three years later in 1977 and was named NBA MVP in 1978. Walton was also one of the first great passing centers in the game. In 10 seasons, he never played a full year but was still named to the NBA's 50 Greatest Players of All-Time list in 1996.

13. Kevin McHale

Team(s): Boston Celtics
Career years: 1980-1993
Career stats: 17.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.7 BPG

Teamed up with Larry Bird and Robert Parish, Kevin McHale won three championships and could have had even more if not for injuries. He was one of the greatest sixth men ever, following in the great Celtic tradition of sparkplugs off the bench. With his abnormally lanky build and extraordinary skills in the post, he was able to score on just about anybody and could block shots without his feet ever leaving the ground. Like Bird, injuries hampered an otherwise stellar career; McHale played on a broken foot during the 1987 Finals against the Lakers and was never the same player.

Over a decade later, he would continue to help the Celts win championships by giving them Kevin Garnett while serving as General Manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

12. Steve Nash

Team(s): Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns
Career years: 1996-Present
Career stats: 14.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 8.5 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG

Whoever thought Canadians were only good at games involving sticks was wrong. Paired with the ideal coach for him in Mike D'Antoni, Steve Nash forever altered the way the offensive game is played in the NBA. With the Suns, coach and player ushered in the European style of play we see so prevalent in the league today, and Nash's soccer background can be seen all over his game as he weaves through defenders and makes audacious passes into tiny defensive creases. He's one of only eight players to win multiple MVPs, and will one day be in the Hall of Fame.

11. Dave Cowens

Team(s): Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks
Career years: 1970-1983
Career stats: 17.6 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG

At 6'9", Dave Cowens was thought to be undersized for a center, but Bill Russell insisted the Celtics front office take a chance on the tough prospect. Russell was on the money as usual. Cowens' hustle and low post game earned him MVP honors in 1973 and helped lead the Celtics to two championships. He also became a beloved figure around Boston for passing out on a park bench after celebrating the team's 1974 NBA title.

10. Jerry Lucas

Team(s): Cincinnati Royals, San Francisco Warriors, New York Knicks
Career years: 1963-1974
Career stats: 17.0 PPG, 15.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Jerry Lucas was a rare breed, and is still regarded as one of the greatest college players in history. He was a beast on the boards using his superb jumping ability to out-leap opposing players and his reportedly photographic memory to put himself in perfect position. Lucas was, simply, a winner; he won high school, college, and pro championships to go along with an Olympic gold medal. Lucas is one of just four players in NBA history to grab 40 rebounds in a single game, along with Nate Thurmond, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain.

9. Rick Barry

Team(s): San Francisco/Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets
Career years: 1965-1980
Career stats: 23.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.1 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Rick Barry was a scoring machine, and will forever be the only player to lead the NCAA, ABA, and NBA in scoring for a single season. While the 6'7" forward dismantled opponents with his will to win and unstoppable offensive game, Barry's claim to fame was his underhanded free throw technique. It enabled him to be one of the best free throw shooters in history, as he currently stands third all-time with a .900 percentage from the charity stripe. He even offered to help Shaq learn the technique, a favor which Shaq declined for unknown reasons.

8. John Stockton

Team(s): Utah Jazz
Career years: 1984-2003
Career stats: 13.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 10.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG

John Stockton is the NBA's runaway all-time leader in assists (15,806) and steals (3,265). He and Karl Malone executed the pick-and-roll to perfection, and are the most prolific tandem in league history never to win a ring. Stockton's insistence on rocking short shorts well into the late 1990s and early 2000s defied all logic, yet the way he wore them allowed him to be a relentless defender. Maybe more current players should try it.

7. Bob Cousy

Team(s): Boston Celtics, Cincinnati Royals
Career years: 1950-1963; 1969-1970
Career stats: 18.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.5 APG

The "Houdini of the Hardwood" was one of the first to introduce New York streetball to the NBA. Red Auerbach was reluctant to draft the Queens native because of his flashy style of play, and ultimately passed on Bob Cousy with the team's No. 1 overall pick saying "I'm supposed to win, not go after local yokels." Cousy went third to the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, who after a contract dispute traded him to the Chicago Stags, who then folded before the season started. Commissioner Maurice Podoloff dispersed three Stags to three teams, with Cousy going last to the Celtics (who still didn't really want him).

In 1956, Boston drafted Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn to complement their unorthodox point guard, and the group went on to win six rings together.

6. Dolph Schayes

Team(s): Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers
Career years: 1949-1964
Career stats: 18.5 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 3.1 APG

Dolph Schayes was an imposing figure in his day. At 6'8" and equipped with an accurate rainbow jumpshot, he was a matchup nightmare on both ends of the floor. If you took away his shot, he simply muscled his way to the basket. He played in 706 consecutive games and at one point wore a cast on his right arm for nearly the entire season. The 12-time All Star also led the 1955 Syracuse Nationals to a championship, and is considered the greatest Jewish basketball player of all time.

5. John Havlicek

Team(s): Boston Celtics
Career years: 1962-1978
Career stats: 20.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG

"Hondo" was just as important to Boston's dynasty as Bill Russell was. Whether as a starter or coming off the bench, John Havlicek gave opponents fits on both ends of the court with his tenacious defense and his deadly mid-range game. His constant movement on offense would be later emulated by Reggie Miller and Rip Hamilton, among many others, and he made it a habit to tire out his adversaries and bury them in the clutch. His late-career work as a sixth man turned the role into one valued highly by all NBA teams, and remains one of his enduring legacies.

4. George Mikan

Team(s): Minneapolis Lakers
Career years: 1948-1956
Career stats: 23.1 PPG, 13.4 RPG, 2.8 APG

George Mikan dominated a young NBA with his intimidating 6'10" frame, leading the Minneapolis Lakers to four championships in five years. The game was populated with smaller players back then, so Mikan towered over everybody and was impossible to prevent from both scoring and rebounding at will. He helped usher in a new era of basketball, demonstrating that big men could be a key part of a successful team. The "Mikan Drill" is also still used by coaches to teach rookies left and right handed layups, keeping his legacy alive over half a century after his playing days ended.

3. Bob Pettit

Team(s): St. Louis Hawks
Career years: 1954-1965
Career stats: 26.4 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 3.0 APG

The rugged power forward had few equals when he stepped on the scene in 1954. A center at LSU, Bob Pettit was forced to change positions due to his relatively small 6'9" build. The position swap ended up being the best thing that could have happened to him, though, as he used his quickness and blue collar work ethic to earn the league's first MVP honors. He was responsible for the Hawks only championship (1958), dropping 50 on Bill Russell's Celtics in the deciding game of the 1958 Finals. Pettit retired in his prime at 32, finishing his career with averages of 22.5 PPG and 12.4 RPG in his last season.

2. Jerry West

Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers
Career years: 1960-1974
Career stats: 27.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.7 APG, 2.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Jerry West's game was so smooth, the NBA made him the logo. That kind of says it all right there. Along with Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, West led the Lakers to nine Finals appearances in 14 years. His jump shot was one of the purest in league history, and many have said that he was the most explosive and athletic player in the entire league. How much did everyone respect him? He remains the only player ever to win NBA Finals MVP when his team lost. That is no joke.

1. Larry Bird

Team(s): Boston Celtics
Career years: 1979-1992
Career stats: 24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG 0.8 BPG

The "Hick from French Lick" was slow and couldn't jump, but that didn't stop him from being one of the 10 greatest players ever. Whenever the game was on the line, the whole building knew who was making the last shot. Larry Legend's jumper was automatic, he had handle and vision like a guard, crashed the boards, and played All-NBA defense. Larry Bird led the Celtics to three titles in five Finals appearances during the 1980s, winning three straight MVPs from 1984 through 1986. When you hear "greatest white basketball player of all time," you automatically think Bird.

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