The state of New York has been blessed with top-notch athletes. It’s too bad that many of those athletes have not made their way to either the Brooklyn Nets or the New York Knicks. It’s been a long time since both of those franchises have been at the top of their game. If we made a starting lineup with just New York-born players, it could contend for the greatest lineup in NBA history.
With all the talent that was born in the state of New York, narrowing the list to just 10 players was tricky. New York trails California for the most players to ever play in the NBA. New York owns 418 players to ever play the sport, while California has 426. Needless to say, the plethora of talent has been and will continue to come from this particular state.
However, these 10 players have proven they were the best to ever play the game after coming out of New York. From championships to MVPs, these are the 10 best NBA players who were born in New York.
Honorable Mentions: Charlie Scott, Connie Hawkins, Chris Mullin, Roger Brown, Richie Guerin, Lenny Wilkins, Larry Brown, Andre Drummond, Stephon Marbury, Joakim Noah, Rod Strickland, Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell
10. Bob Lanier
Career Stats: 20.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG
Honors: 8x All-Star (1972-1975, 1977-1979, 1982), All-Star Game MVP (1974), No. 16 retired by Pistons, No. 16 retired by Bucks
Lanier was drafted with the No. 1 overall pick by the Detroit Pistons in the 1970 NBA Draft. In 10 seasons with the Pistons, Lanier averaged a double-double of 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds, as well as 3.3 assists, 2.0 blocks, and 1.2 steals. Lanier owns the best scoring average in team history, while his total rebounds (8,063) rank second and his points (15,488) rank third all time.
Lanier spent five seasons with the Bucks as well, where they won the Midwest Division every season under Donny Nelson. Lanier played a key role for the Bucks despite playing with aging knees, which included making one All-Star appearance. In 278 games for the Bucks, Lanier averaged 13.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.0 steals. The Bucks made the Eastern Conference Finals twice, but he never could make the NBA Finals.
9. Billy Cunningham
Championships: 1 (1967)
Career Stats: 20.8 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Honors: 4x All-Star (1969-1972), 3x All-NBA First Team (1969-1971), All-NBA Second Team (1972), ABA MVP (1973), All-ABA First Team (1973), ABA All-Star (1973), NBA 50th Anniversary Team, NBA 75th Anniversary Team, ABA All-Time Team, No. 32 retired by 76ers
Cunningham was a member of the 1967 championship team, which was led by Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, and Luke Jackson. After Chamberlain left the team the following year, Cunningham took over as the face of the franchise. He averaged 24.8 points and 12.8 rebounds in his first year as a starter and never looked back. He would make three straight appearances on the All-NBA First Team.
Cunningham’s career ended in 1976 after he tore knee cartilage and ligaments in his knees. For his career, he scored 16,310 points with the NBA and ABA. He recorded 14 triple-doubles in the NBA, which ranks 43rd best all-time. He was voted to the 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.
8. Bernard King
Career Stats: 22.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Honors: 4x All-Star (1982, 1984, 1985, 1991), 2x All-NBA First Team (1984, 1985), All-NBA Second Team (1982), All-NBA Third Team (1991), NBA Scoring Champion (1985)
King was a New York product that became famous in his career. At 6-foot-7, King was an explosive small forward in the league and was a tremendous scorer. He led the league in scoring once with 32.9 points per game. In 1984, King became the first player since Rick Barry in 1967 to score at least 50 points in consecutive games. One of those games, a Knicks win over the Spurs, included King shooting 20 of 30 from the field. The following game saw him set a Reunion Arena single-game scoring record in points.
The following year, King made history on Christmas Day when he torched the Nets for 60 points, which remains a record for points scored on Christmas. He finished the game shooting 19 of 30 from the field and 22 of 26 from the free-throw line. However, during that season, King suffered an ACL tear, torn knee cartilage, and a broken leg bone and required major leg surgery. At the time, no player had ever returned from an injury like that, but King became the first and played until 1993.
7. Nate "Tiny" Archibald
Championships: 1 (1981)
Career Stats: 18.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 7.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Honors: 6x All-Star (1973, 1975, 1976, 1980-1982), All-Star Game MVP (1981), 3x All-NBA First Team (1973, 1975, 1976), 2x All-NBA Second Team (1972, 1981), Scoring Champion (1973), Assists Leader (1973), NBA 50th Anniversary, NBA 75th Anniversary, No. 1 retired by the Kings
Archibald led the league in free throws made three times and free throws attempts twice. Given that he played in an era where big men were still considered major offensive weapons, this was an extraordinary accomplishment. He completed his career with 16,841 points and dished out 6,476 assists. He remains the only player to ever lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season.
When Archibald scored 34.0 points per game that year, it was a record for most points per game for a point guard, where it remains today. His 910 assists that season was also an NBA record at the time, which narrowly broke Guy Rodgers’ mark of 908. When we look at pure point guards, Archibald remains one of the best to ever come out of New York.
6. Carmelo Anthony
Career Stats: 22.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Honors: 10x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Second Team (2010, 2013), 4x All-NBA Third Team (2006, 2007, 2009, 2012), Scoring Champion (2013), NBA 75th Anniversary Team
When Anthony came into the league as a Denver Nugget, he was an electrifying young scorer. He helped the Nuggets make the Conference Finals with a solid playoff performance. It was the first time since 1985. During the playoffs, Anthony set a franchise record with six straight games with at least 35 points.
Anthony’s best season came in 2012-2013 when he led the league in scoring. At the time, the Knicks were in a bad place as an organization. Instead, he was a top player in the league, led the league in scoring, and led the Knicks to a second-round playoff appearance. Altogether, Anthony will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he is done.
5. Dolph Schayes
Championships: 1 (1955)
Career Stats: 18.5 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 3.1 APG
Honors: 12x All-Star (1961-1962), 6x All-NBA First Team (1952-1955, 1957, 1958), 6x All-NBA Second Team (1950, 1951, 1956, 1959-1961), Rebounding Leader (1951), NBA 25th Anniversary Team, NBA 50th Anniversary Team, NBA 75th Anniversary Team, No. 4 retired by 76ers
Schayes is a former league champion, rebounding champion, and a 12-time All-Star. In 1956-1957, he led the league in minutes per game and free throws, while grabbing over 1,000 rebounds. In 1957, he set a consecutive free throw record, which was 18 at the time. Schayes was absolute money at the free-throw line, leading the league in percentage three times, shooting over 89% each time.
What stands out the most was his durability. From February 17, 1952, to December 26, 1961, he set an NBA record streak of 706 consecutive games played. Schayes became the first player in NBA history to amass 30,000 career total PRA (points, rebounds, and assists) and the first person to ever surpass 15,000 career points.
4. Bob Cousy
Championships: 6 (1957, 1959-1963)
Career Stats: 18.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.5 APG
Honors: MVP (1957), 13x All-Star (1951-1963), 2x All-Star Game MVP (1954, 1957), 10x All-NBA First Team (1952-1961), 2x All-NBA Second Team (1962, 1963), 8x Assists Leader (1953-1960), NBA 25th Anniversary Team, NBA 35th Anniversary Team, NBA 50th Anniversary Team, NBA 75th Anniversary Team, No. 14 retired by Celtics
Cousy goes down as one of the greatest point guards ever. Paired with Tom Heinsohn and Bill Russell, Cousy helped power the Celtics into one of the greatest dynasties of all time. The Celtics won six championships, including a stretch of five straight with him as the floor general. While many defer to Russell as the de facto reason, you cannot forget about the greatness that was Cousy with the ball.
Cousy set an NBA record of 28 assists in one game against the Lakers. The record was eventually broken 19 years later, but his 19 first-half assists remain a record. Cousy also owns the record for most assists (51) in a four-game NBA Finals, which he set in 1953. Cousy is the only player on this list that has made all four NBA Anniversary teams as well.
4. Julius Erving
Championships: 1 (1983)
Career Stats: 24.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 4.2 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.7 BPG
Honors: MVP (1981), 11x NBA All-Star (1977-1987), 2x All-Star Game MVP (1977, 1983), 5x All-NBA First Team (1978, 1980-1983), 2x All-NBA Second Team (1977, 1984), No. 32 retired by Nets, No. 6 retired by 76ers, NBA 35th Anniversary Team, NBA 50th Anniversary Team, NBA 75th Anniversary Team
Erving is one of the few players to have his number retired by two franchises. He was an excellent player that could do just a little bit of everything. Erving could guard the best forward, small or power, and log over 40 minutes a game. Erving was a gifted pass for a big man that came up clutch nearly every night.
He started his career with the Virginia Squires. Then, he continued with the New York Nets of the ABA. He won two ABA championships and was a three-time ABA MVP. After that, he joined the Philadelphia 76ers and become one of their best players in team history. He teamed up with Moses Malone to help win the 1983 championship. In his ABA and NBA career combined, Erving scored over 30,000 career points. He became an inspiration to younger generations, including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Championships: 6 (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)
Career Stats: 24.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.4 SPG, 2.1 BPG
Honors: 2x Finals MVP (1971, 1985), 6x MVP (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980), 19x All-Star (1970-1977, 1979-1989), 10x All-NBA First Team (1971-1974, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1986), 5x All-NBA Second Team (1970, 1978, 1979, 1983, 1985), 5x All-Defensive First Team (1974, 1975, 1979-1981), 6x All-Defensive Second Team (1970, 1971, 1976-1978, 1984), Rookie of the Year (1970), 2x Scoring Champion (1971, 1972), Rebounding Leader (1976), 4x Blocks Leader (1975, 1976, 1979, 1980), NBA 35th Anniversary Team, NBA 50th Anniversary Team, NBA 75th Anniversary Team, No. 33 retired by Bucks, No. 33 retired by Lakers
The all-time leading scorer won six championships during his heyday. Along with his 38,387 career points, Abdul-Jabbar added six MVP trophies as well as two Finals MVPs. He is ranked as the third leading all-time rebounder, as well as blocks. The 3,189 blocks he accumulated is even more impressive given that blocks were not counted as a statistic until his fourth year in the league.
Abdul-Jabbar is regarded as the best center ever. He was skilled from his youthful days to the later stages of his career. That includes averaging 23.0 points per game at the age of 38 years old, which was his 17th season in the league. From his skyhook to his impeccable defense, he was truly an all-around player. With that said, there was only one player born in New York that we can say was better.
1. Michael Jordan
Championships: 6 (1991-1993, 1996-1998)
Players Stats: 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Honors: 6x Finals MVP, 1991-1993, 1996-1998), 5x MVP (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998), 14x All-Star (1985-1993, 1996-1998, 2002, 2003), 3x All-Star Game MVP (1988, 1996, 1998), 10x All-NBA First Team (1987-1993, 1996-1998), All-NBA Second Team (1985), Defensive Player of the Year (1988), 9x All-Defensive First Team (1988-1993, 1996-1998), Rookie of the Year (1985), 10x Scoring Champion (1987-1993, 1996-1998), 3x Steals Leader (1988, 1990, 1993), 2x Slam Dunk Contest Champion (1987, 1988), NBA 50th Anniversary Team, NBA 75th Anniversary Team, No. 23 retired by Bulls
If Michael Jordan never retired, would we be talking about him as the all-time leading scorer? That’s a discussion for another day, but what we can’t deny is that he is the greatest player to be born out of the state. With five regular-season MVPs and six Finals MVPs (a record), Jordan is the most decorated player in NBA history. Jordan is only one of seven players to win an NCAA championship, NBA championship, and Olympic Gold medal. He is also one of two players, the other being Scottie Pippen, to win six rings with one team.
Jordan led the league in scoring an NBA record 10 times and tied Wilt Chamberlain’s record of seven consecutive scoring titles. He also made the All-Defensive First Team an NBA record nine times, a record he shares with Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett, and Koe Bryant. Jordan’s 5,987 playoff points are the second-most in NBA history and he ranks fifth on the all-time scoring list with 32,292 career points. At the end of the day, there is no better player than Jordan out of New York, let alone the entire NBA.