Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins have a few things in common. They are freshmen in college – Parker at Duke, Wiggins at Kansas. They are two of college basketball’s best players. If they choose to make themselves eligible, they are both considered locks to go high in the 2014 NBA Draft, with one website projecting Parker to go second and Wiggins to follow at No. 3. They have one more thing in common: They are the sons of former NBA players.
If, and more likely when, they make the NBA, Parker and Wiggins will join a growing fraternity of players whose father’s preceded them in the league. At last count, there were 19 second-generation players on 2013-14 NBA rosters. Historically, there have been several instances where the son has had to play in a long, dark shadow cast, not only by a father, but by a bonafide NBA legend.
Luke Walton physically looks like his father, but anyone who saw both father and son play knows that as a basketball player, Luke was no Bill Walton; nor was Danny Schayes – who had a respectable 16-year NBA career – remotely close in talent to Dolph Schayes; and Larry Mikan didn’t stand a chance of carving out any kind of NBA niche with George Mikan as his father. It was tough enough on the sons that their fathers were Hall of Famers, but when you consider that each also was a member of the Top 50 Greatest Players in NBA History … well, that was just fate piling on. Then there’s the case of the Barry family; talk about piling on. Three sons – Brent, Drew and Jon – were talented enough to play in the NBA, but none was able to come close to measuring up to Rick Barry — a Hall of Famer and ditto on the Top 50 thing.
Today’s NBA, however, is arguably deeper in talent than ever before, and several sons already have either out-shined their fathers’ NBA careers or are on their way to doing so. Following is a look at the best second-generation NBA players today (statistics are through games played Feb. 19).
5. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
In only his third NBA season, the Warriors’ Klay Thompson is the youngest player on this list and the only one not guaranteed to eclipse his father’s production. He’s off to a promising start, though.
While he appears destined to play the Scottie Pippen role to Stephen Curry’s Michael Jordan, which wouldn’t be too shabby considering Pippen created his own Hall of Fame resume while helping Jordan and the Chicago Bulls win six rings, Thompson is carving his own niche in Golden State.
Earning $2,317, 920 in the third-year of his rookie contract, Thompson is developing a rep as an iron man and the league’s second-best long-range threat. He has not missed a game in his NBA career (201), has connected on 153 threes thus far this season, and is on pace to increase his scoring average for the second time in as many seasons. He and Curry form the NBA’s highest scoring backcourt. Last season, the duo drained more threes than any teammate tandem in NBA history, combining for 483. Carrying the moniker “The Splash Brothers.” Curry and Thompson have connected for 315 treys thus far and they rank first and second, respectively, in three-pointers made.
Thompson’s father, though, has something none of the other dads featured in this story possess: championship hardware and an accomplished NBA career. Mychal Thompson earned two rings as a backup center with the 1987-88, back-to-back champion Los Angeles Lakers and enjoyed a 12-year career where he averaged 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds. He couldn’t drill the three like his son though.
4. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta’s Al Horford’s 2013-14 season ended when he had surgery on his injured right pectoral muscle. What likely also ended when Horford went under the knife was any chance the Hawks had of challenging in the East.
Through 420 career games, Horford is averaging 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting .541 from the field, placing him in select company. The only other players to record at least those averages are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Artis Gilmore. In his seventh NBA campaign, Horford, who is earning $12 million this season, ranks second in franchise history in field goal percentage and rebounds per game.
His father, Alfredo “Tito” Horford, played parts of three years in the NBA with Milwaukee (1988-90) and Washington (1993-94), averaging 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds.
3. Stephan Curry, Golden State Warriors
Earning $9,887,642 in his fifth campaign, the younger Curry leads the NBA in total assists and ranks second in assists per game, in addition to being the league’s fifth leading scorer. Curry has an NBA-best six 30-point/10-assist games, and twelve 20-point/10-assist games. Curry who also voted a starter in his first All-Star Game appearance and is the only player in the NBA to average at least 24 points, 9.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds.
If Curry is ticketed for legendary status, however, he is going to ride his picture-perfect jumper there. In 51 games, he already has connected on 172 three-pointers and is shooting .415 from distance. This comes a season after he established the single-season three-point record by draining 272 treys.
His father, Dell Curry, played for the Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors. Dell was a former 1st round pick who is the current franchise leader in points for the Hornets/ New Orleans Pelicans franchise. While Dell was a solid player, his son Stephan is on the path to greatness. Dell averaged 11.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
2. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Earning $14,693,906 this season, Love is the NBA’s 23rd highest paid player and the league’s best power forward. Love recently played in his third All-Star Game and, based on the numbers he’s putting, is underpaid. This season, he is second in the league in rebounds, ranks fourth in scoring, and is the only player in the league averaging at least 25 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists.
Only in his sixth NBA season (he was limited to 18 games last year due to injury), he has 26 career games in which he’s recorded at least 35 points and 15 rebounds. The only active players with more such points are sure-fire Hall of Famers: Tim Duncan (44) and Dwight Howard (37).
This season, he’s posted three games of at least 40 points and 15 rebounds, the most such games since Shaquille O’Neal had four in 1999-2000. An excellent passer, Love has recorded 26 games of at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
Love’s father, Stan, was the 9th overall selection in the 1971 NBA Draft, but only played four years in the pros. He was done by 1975, retiring with averages of 6.6 points and 3.9 rebounds. The father, though, already had plenty of experience being overshadowed by a family member. His older brother, Mike Love, was a founding member of The Beach Boys.
1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
At his media availability during All-Star weekend in New Orleans, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was asked for his NBA Mount Rushmore. He named Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Bill Russell. Then, Bryant paused. “That’s impossible to do … four, though, man,” Bryant said, articulating what most people in the room were thinking. “Come on. That’s crazy. That’s tough. Absolutely tough.” Bryant’s right. What’s not too tough, though, is to recognize that Bryant would most certainly be short-listed for consideration.
Bryant, who has missed most of his 18th NBA season due to injury, is making $30,453,805 this year. And there’s a fairly compelling reason he is the highest paid player in the NBA: After Michael Jordan, Bryant has the resume of the best shooting guard in league annals.
He’s won five NBA titles and two Finals MVPs. He is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. In December, he became the fifth and youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 points; and at some point, this season or next, he likely will leapfrog Jordan for third on the all-time scoring list. Bryant has 24 career 50-point games, which trails only Wilt Chamberlain (118) and Jordan (31) all-time; has scored at least 40 points 120 times; and has recorded 169 double-doubles and 19 triple-doubles. The four-time All Star MVP has been selected for 16 mid-season classics.
As fluid as his game is, Bryant also has the reputation as one of the league’s most hard-nosed players. In their annual survey, NBA general managers voted Bryant, nicknamed Black Mamba, the toughest player in the NBA.
Bryant’s father, Joe, aka Jellybean, played eight years in the NBA. He averaged 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds. About the only thing the Bryants share as players are cool nicknames.