Top 10 NBA players from Ohio of all time
We all know about the legend who grew up in Akron, but which other NBA stars has Ohio produced? We’re ranking the 10 best NBA players from Ohio of all time.
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The NBA championship made its way to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time in 2016, with the team being led by one of the greatest players in league history. That man just happened to be a hometown hero who grew up in Akron, Ohio. Lebron James features on this list of the greatest players ever from the state of Ohio, but who else sits alongside him?
Current NBA Players from Ohio
Lebron James is not the only NBA superstar who grew up in Akron, Ohio. Steph Curry comes from the same city, as does Larry Nance Jr, now with the New Orleans Pelicans.
You then have CJ McCollum, Terry Rozier, Caris LeVert and Gary Trent Jr all from Ohio and currently playing on NBA rosters.
Famous NBA Players from Ohio
There are so many famous NBA players born in Ohio. Lebron James is a prime example. One of the most famous basketball players ever to come from the state of Ohio, he is nothing short of a global phenomenon and one of the most appreciated athletes anywhere in the world. Steph Curry also has an extremely strong following of his own and is now the No. 1 three-point shooter in the history of the league.
Through the years, players such as Nate Thurmond, John Havlichek and Jerry Lucas all grew up in Ohio, as well as Clark Kellogg, who was a co-host commentator of the popular NBA 2K video game for many years.
Ranking the Top 10 all-time NBA Players from the state of Ohio
10. Caris LeVert | Shooting Guard/Forward
Born: August 25, 1994 - Columbus, Ohio
Years Active: 2016-Present
Teams: Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers
Caris LeVert was a part of the Michigan Wolverines roster that went to the championship game in the 2013 NCAA Men's basketball tournament. LeVert was a freshman that season but had a role coming off the bench.
LeVert played for four seasons with the Wolverines, with his final two being struck by injury. The talented guard/forward suffered a Jones fracture that ended his college career early, and he subsequently wrote a letter to each NBA franchise assuring them he would be a durable asset despite the injury.
LeVert was drafted by the Indiana Pacers, but his rights were later traded to the Brooklyn Nets. He spent four full seasons with the Nets before being traded back to the Pacers. In his first season in Indiana, LeVert set a career-high 20.7 points per game and 4.6 rebounds. He returned to Cleveland in a trade that saw him sent to the Cavaliers during the 2021-2022 season, where he plays currently.
9. Terry Rozier | Point Guard
Born: March 17, 1994 - Youngstown, Ohio
Years Active: 2015-Present
Teams: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets
Rozier grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, raised by his mother and grandmother. He played his college basketball at Louisville, entering the 2015 NBA draft alongside teammate Montrezl Harrell.
Rozier was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft, and played guard there for four seasons. Rozier’s career with the Celtics peaked in the 2017-2018 season where he saw almost 26 minutes a game and averaged 11.3 points per contest. He was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in 2019 as part of a deal that involved Kemba Walker heading to the Celtics.
After arriving in Charlotte, Rozier started to put up far better numbers, increasing his scoring average from nine points per game in his final season with the Celtics to 18 points per game in his first season in Charlotte. He set a new career high the following season, with 20.4 points and 4.2 assists per game. He has averaged over 40 per cent in field goal percentage in all three of his seasons with the Hornets so far.
8. Ron Harper | Point Guard
Born: January 20, 1964 - Dayton, Ohio
Years Active: 1986-2001
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, LA Clippers, Chicago Bulls, LA Lakers
Awards: 5x NBA Champion, 1x NBA All-Rookie First Team
Ron Harper was a strong point-scoring point guard for the first eight seasons of his career. He spent four seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 19.7 points per game with 5.5 assists. Harper was traded to the LA Clippers in 1989, where once again he averaged 19.7 points per game across four years with the team.
Harper is most famously recognized for his role in Michael Jordan's second stint with the Chicago Bulls. Harper was signed as a free agent during Jordan’s initial retirement as part of the retooling process in 1994. Harper played a key role behind Jordan and Scottie Pippen as a ball-handling guard who specialized in perimeter defense. He won three championships with the Bulls during the Jordan/Phil Jackson era between 1996 and 1998.
In 2000, Harper followed Phil Jackson to the Lakers, where he would play a similar role alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. He won another two championships in back-to-back seasons, marking a total of five NBA titles in six years.
Harper retired in 2001 with over 14,000 points and 4,000 assists throughout his decorated career as a pro.
7. CJ McCollum | Shooting Guard
Born: September 19, 1991 - Canton, Ohio
Years Active: 2013-Present
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans
Awards: NBA Most Improved Player
CJ McCollum was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 10th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, and was expected to be a big hit early on. He was a favorite for the Rookie of the Year award, but broke his foot on the last day of training camp, and subsequently missed the first 35 games of his first season. A later finger injury cost him another chunk of time, and McCollum only started a total of three games in his first two seasons with the Blazers.
It was in his third season that McCollum had a breakthrough, becoming the team's second shooting option to star point guard Damian Lillard. The Blazers had moved on from four key starters, including LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, and a spot opened up for McCollum to show what he could do. McCollum scored a career high 37 points in the opening game of the season, and that night changed the course of his career.
He went from an average of 6.8 points and one assist in the 2014 season to 20.8 points and 4.3 assists in 2015, and won the league's Most Improved Player Award in the process. McCollum has averaged 20+ points every year since, and is now a key starter for the New Orleans Pelicans.
6. Charles Oakley | Power Forward
Born: December 18, 1963 - Cleveland, Ohio
Years Active: 1985-2004
Teams: Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets
Awards: 1x NBA All Star, 1x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 1x NBA All-Rookie First Team
Charles Oakley was a one time All Star whilst playing with the New York Knicks. He was consistently one of the best rebounders in the league, ending his long career with over 13,500 points and rebounds in the regular and postseason combined.
Oakley spent his first three seasons with the Chicago Bulls after being drafted ninth overall in 1985. He was a teammate of Michael Jordan during their early years, before Oakley was traded to the New York Knicks in exchange for center Bill Cartwright.
It was with the Knicks that Oakley found a long-term home, playing in New York for 10 seasons. The Knicks power forward had over 7,500 points and 7,200 rebounds in regular season games for the Knicks, and another 1,000+ in each category in the playoffs.
Oakley played in the league for 20 years, retiring in 2004 after short stints and minor contributions with the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets.
5. Jerry Lucas | Power Forward
Born: March 30, 1940 - Middletown, Ohio
Years Active: 1963-1974
Teams: Cincinnati Royals, San Francisco Warriors, New York Knicks
Awards: NBA Champion, 7x NBA All Star, NBA All Star MVP, 3x All NBA First Team, NBA Rookie of the Year, NCAA Champion, NCAA Player of the Year, Basketball Hall of Fame, College Basketball Hall of Fame
Power forward Jerry Lucas became a star at the collegiate level by leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to three straight NCAA finals between 1960 and 1962, winning the title in 1960. Lucas was a consensus All American for three years running and won the National College Player of the Year award in both 1961 and 1962.
When he turned pro, Lucas spent seven seasons with the then-named Cincinnati Royals, featuring in almost 500 games. He was named the Rookie of the Year in his first season, and was named an All Star for six seasons in a row. He played there until Bob Cousy took over the team, when he fell out of favor due to not fitting the team's style of play. Lucas had a no-trade clause in his contract, so was able to choose his next destination, and landed in San Francisco. He was one of the league's best rebounders and took great shots, and he seemed to fit with the Warriors.
He played two seasons in San Francisco, struggling with a hand injury his first year, and was later traded to the New York Knicks. It was with the Knicks that Jerry Lucas won the NBA championship, during the twilight of his career.
Lucas retired with over 14,000 points and almost 13,000 rebounds, and a Gold medal that he won while playing for the US men's team at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He is a member of the pro and college basketball Hall of Fame.
4. John Havlicek | Small Forward
Born: April 8, 1940 - Martins Ferry, Ohio
Years Active: 1962-1978
Teams: Boston Celtics
Awards: 8x NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP, 13x NBA All Star, 4x All NBA First Team, 5x NBA All Defensive First Team, NCAA Champion, Basketball Hall of Fame, College Basketball Hall of Fame
John Havlicek was a teammate and roommate of Jerry Lucas, and part of the same Ohio State team that won the 1960 NCAA championship.
Havlicek was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1962, and the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League. Havlicek had the option to play wide receiver for the Browns, but decided to instead pursue a career in the NBA. He focused on the Celtics, and would spend his entire 17-season career there.
Havlicek was athletic and a brilliant defender, landing him on the NBA All Defensive team five times. He played alongside Celtics greats such as Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, and helped the team to eight championships across two generations of Celtics basketball. Havlicek is a member of both the pro and college basketball Hall of Fame. His number 17 has been retired by the Boston Celtics.
3. Nate Thurmond | Power Forward/Center
Born: July 25, 1941 - Akron, Ohio
Years Active: 1963-1977
Teams: San Francisco/Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers
Awards: 7x NBA All Star, 2x NBA All Defensive First Team, NBA All Rookie First Team
Nate Thurmond played during an era of dominant centers, including the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was a fierce competitor during his playing days, and proved himself to be one of the great big men of his era. He is now considered one of the best big men in the history of the game, and a member of the pro and college basketball Hall of Fame.
Thurmond, known as “Big Nate” was the first player in NBA history to record a quadruple-double, something that has only ever been done four times. Thurmond had 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocked shots against the Atlanta Hawks in 1974.
Thurmond spent the majority of his career with the Warriors, but has had his jersey retired by both Golden State and the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he spent the last three years of his career. He is one of just 14 players to have his jersey retired by more than one team.
He finished his career with over 14,000 points and rebounds, and over 2,500 assists.
2. Stephen Curry | Point Guard
Born: March 14, 1988 - Akron, Ohio
Years Active: 2009-Present
Teams: Golden State Warriors
Awards: All Time Three Points Made Leader, 4x NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP, 2x NBA MVP, 8x NBA All Star, 4x All NBA First Team, 2x NBA Scoring Champion, All Rookie First Team
Steph Curry has grown and grown as a player in the NBA, turning himself into one of the greatest players to ever play the sport, and cementing his legacy as the best three-point shooter of all time.
Curry’s range as a shooter is insane, and as the years have gone on he’s just got better and better, growing in confidence, until he took the No. 1 spot. On December 14, 2021, Steph Curry drained a three against the New York Knicks to surpass NBA legend Ray Allen's record of 2,973 three point shots, making him the league's all-time leader.
Curry has won two MVPs, including the league's only ever unanimous title in 2016. He won four titles during the Warriors dynasty run between 2015 and 2022, and has been named an All Star on eight separate occasions.
He is one of only nine players to belong to the 50-40-90 club, an accolade informally recognising players who are able to match or exceed a 50 per cent field goal percentage, a 40 per cent three point percentage and a 90 per cent free throw percentage in an NBA season. Curry achieved this feat in 2016, as well as leading the league in scoring and steals. Needless to say, that was his unanimous MVP season.
Currently playing in the NBA season in 2022-2023, the Warriors point guard is one of the greatest shooters of all time, with a list of accolades and achievements as long as any player in history. Curry will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but he’s not done playing just yet.
1. LeBron James | Small Forward
Born: December 30, 1984 - Akron, Ohio
Years Active: 2003-Present
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, LA Lakers
Awards: 4x NBA Champion, 4x NBA Finals MVP, 4x NBA MVP, 18x NBA All Star, 13x All NBA First Team, 5x NBA All Defensive First Team, NBA Rookie of the Year, 4x AP Athlete of the Year, NBA Scoring Champion
Is he the greatest of all time? The world will always be divided over the LeBron James vs Michael Jordan debate, but thankfully Michael Jordan didn’t grow up in Ohio, so we don’t need to debate between the two today. James is one of the all-time greatest NBA players in the history of the game, and his legacy is almost impossible to match. He is undoubtedly the greatest NBA player from the state of Ohio.
LeBron James, now worth an estimated billion dollars, has built a worldwide legacy for the ages. He has been recognised as the Associated Press Athlete of the Year no less than four times. LeBron has been a champion everywhere he’s played.
He won his first two titles with the Miami Heat, as part of a dynasty that included him and legendary guard Dwayne Wade. James opted out of his Miami contract in 2014, and chose to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that had drafted him No. 1 overall several years earlier.
He brought a title to Cleveland, overcoming the Golden State Warriors, who had taken a 3-1 lead in the 2016 Finals series. He then moved on to the LA Lakers, winning his fourth championship and fourth Finals MVP award in 2020. He is the first player to accumulate $1b in earnings during his playing career.
LeBron is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, winning the tournament at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics with the US Men's basketball team. He is the second all-time leading NBA scorer, second only to Kareem Abdul Jabbar, seventh all time in assists, and 10th in both three-point shots made and steals.
LeBron is an 18-straight NBA All Star selection, and the basketball Hall of Fame will be waiting for him, ready to crown him as one of the best, if not the very best of all time.
Parameters for Rankings
These great players from the state of Ohio have been ranked based on their career achievements both at the collegiate and the pro basketball level. Hall of fame status, individual accolades, NBA championship titles and more have been considered for each player before the final rankings were decided.