In a league that is predominantly African-American, quality white players are few and far between. When one does come along, people definitely take notice. In the politically-correct world we live in, this article may seem a bit on the racist side, but is it really? For anyone that has played basketball or been a fan of the game, everyone takes notice when a white guy is the difference maker in the game. You know you have been there yourself. You are amazed when the white guy defies the steretypes of being slow, unable to jump and lacking the grit to play in an ultra-competiive league with the best athletes in the world. You either root for him as the great white hope or anticipate his ultimate demise. You wonder if he can do it, but usually keep your expectations low and are astounded when he succeeds.
I’ve been playing b-ball since I was a kid. I ate, slept and dreamed of playing basketball growing up. I was also slow, white and unable to jump. I am even more physically-lacking at 34, which my black friends then and now are always keen to remind me. But like me, they also recognize when a white guy can play. Why? It adds a little extra flavor to the game and makes it interesting. Just remember how the media and nation jumped over Jeremy Lin, the first Asian-American player a few years ago.
Below is a list of the top NBA white players in the the modern era.
10. Jason Williams (1998-2011: 10.5 PPG/5.9 APG/ 2.3 RPG)
Although J-Will, also known as ‘White Chocolate,’ never made an all-star team nor put up gaudy stats, he is recognized as being one of the most entertaining players in the history of the game. A high school coach’s worst nightmare, it was seemingly impossible for Williams to make a fundamental pass even during crunch time. I loved watching J-Will growing up and he inspired myself and millions of kids. He should also get credit for being the starting point guard on some pretty good playoff teams during his career.
9. Kevin Love (2008-present: 18.2 PPG/2.4 APG/11.8 RPG)
The only one on this list that is currently playing, Love still has a lot to prove and many critics to silence. Before coming to Cleveland, Love was looking like the closest thing to Larry Bird. Although he is physically capable of being that player, Love has nowhere near the same level of toughness and intensity as Bird, which is no surprise considering that Love grew up in a well-to-do suburb while Bird was raised in a tough suburb in Indiana. Nevertheless, Love does have a lot of pressure being the only white star in the game today. Until he can shake the status of being a ‘soft player,’ he will never live up to the expectations.
8. Dan Majerle (1988-2002: 11.4 PG/4.5 RPG/2.9 APG)
If you were around when Charles Barkley‘s Phoenix Suns made a run to the finals in 1993 before losing to Chicago, then you likely recall how clutch Dan Majerle was. Also known as ‘Thunder Dan,’ Majerle could drive to the hole and dunk on opponents almost as well as he could drain endless threes. He was an exciting player to watch in the early 90’s and a great sidekick to Barkley for at least a couple of years. The Michigan native was also a top defender during his career.
7. Tom Chambers (1981-1998: 18.1 PPG/6.1 RPG/2.1 APG)
Chambers put up some big time numbers during his career, including back to back 25 point-per-game-and-plus seasons. He averaged a career high 27.2 ppg for Phoenix during the 1989-90 season. Besides being a prolific scorer, he could dunk with the best of them, including what is considered to be by some the greatest dunk in NBA history over Marc Jackson of the New York Knicks. Labeled ‘The Dunk’, Chambers seemingly jumped over then Knick’s point guard Jackson on a fast break slam dunk. Chambers is the only player in NBA history with 20,000 or more points not to make the NBA’s Hall of Fame.
6. Chris Mullin (1985-2001: 18.2 PPG/4.1 RPG/ 3.5 APG)
The Brooklyn native could shoot and pass with the best of them and he did it with a certain flare that was original and fun to watch. Mullen headed a memorable Golden State Warriors team in the late 1980’s and early 90’s that was one of the most entertaining squads in NBA history. Elected into the Hall of Fame in 2011, Mullen averaged 25 points per game or more in 5 consecutive seasons during his prime. Although he wasn’t particulary quick nor athletic, his incredibly-crafty play, assortment of moves, tireless work ethic and left-hand made him a tough assignment for defenders for a number of years. He was also one of the best three-point shooters in the history of the game.
5. Mark Price (1986-1998: 15.2 PPG/6.7 APG/1.2 SPG)
Before his career was cut short due to injuries, Price was at times awesome and considered by many to be the most underrated point guard of all time. Although he looked more like a member of the Brady Bunch with his parted hair, he was a tough player, fiercely competitive and the leader of great Cleveland Cavaliers teams that were cut down by Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Along with the New York Knicks of the early 90’s, Price’s Cavs were the only other team that could legitimately challenge the Bulls during that time. Not only did Price have a killer three-point shot, but he could also get to the hole and dish it out with the best of them during his prime.
4. Kevin McHale (1980-1993/17.9 PPG/7.3 RPG/1.7 BLK)
McHale was certainly no role player on a great Larry Bird-led Celtics teams of the 1980’s, but probably the second-best player on the team and a member of the Hall of Fame. For a guy that seemingly never lifted weights, looked liked he was inflicted with some kind of illness and was famous for drinking a can of soda before each game, he could definitely play. McHale is considered to be one of the top five power forwards of all time. Gifted around the rim, he had an almost unstoppable ‘up and under move’ that has been mimicked by almost every big man since he last played. McHale averaged over 26 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game during the 1986-87 season.
3. Steve Nash (1996-2014: 14.3 PPG/8.5 APG/3.0 RPG)
Nash‘s stats are a bit misleading considering that he was a backup his first two years in the league and didn’t hit his peak until around the age of 30, which is a remarkable feat in a game dominated by younger players. In fact, Nash was still nothing short of amazing well into his mid-30’s. Although he wasn’t much of a defender, he reinvigorated the role of the point guard as the leader of a high-octane Phoenix Sun’s team from 2004 to 2011. We can see Nash’s impact on the game today with the brilliant play of Steph Curry. Although Nash probably didn’t deserve to win two MVPs, he deserved the first one solely for making the game exciting again.
2. John Stockton (1984-2003: 13.1 PPG/10.5APG/2.2 SPG)
In my opinion, Stockton may be the most underrated player in NBA history. Stockton and Malone could never beat Jordan, but those Utah teams were certainly championship-worthy. Looking more like a cross between a FBI agent and serial killer, Stockton was quick, tough and the ultimate competitor. He probably never got due credit simply because he stayed away from the spotlight and dressed like a stay at home dad, but looks are often deceiving. I would rank Stockton as the second greatest point guard of all-time after Magic Johnson. Before you disagree, keep in mind that Stockton is the all-time NBA leader in both steals and assists, which is a remarkable feat. Every Utah team he started for made the playoffs and was a perenial contender in the Western Conference for a number of years.
1. Larry Bird (1979-1992: 24.3 PPG/ 10.0 RPG/ 6.5 APG)
This last pick is a no-brainer. Forget about being the best white player of all-time, Bird is arguably the top three and certainly the top five greatest players ever to play in the NBA. The only player since Bird to replicate his stats has been Lebron James, who has two championships to date versus Bird’s three. Bird would have had an even more impressive career if he hadn’t injured his back in 1985 building a driveway for his mother. He played the rest of his career in severe pain and still managed to put up ridiculous numbers. But why was Bird so great and why is there such a shortage of great American white players today? Unlike many of the white players today, Bird grew up poor and was incredibly tough and struck fear into the hearts and minds of his opponents.