December, 15, 2011
By Mike Grimala | ESPN.com
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Whether you’re putting together a grouping of best quarterbacks or worst albums, or you’re making that special list for Santa, there’s nothing quite like a good list. So in honor of the holiday season we’re bringing you lists all week long — Merry List-Mas!
Today: The five best NBA players ever to come out of California.
Grant Jerrett, Gabe York and Aaron Gordon are all standout basketball recruits who are likely headed to D-I colleges — and possibly beyond. California has sent its share of school players to the NBA. But who’s been the best? Here’s our list of the five best players from California to play in the NBA.
* Note: This list doesn't include 11-time NBA champion and five-time MVP Bill Russell, who played his high school and college ball in California but was born in Louisiana. We wanted this list to represent born-and-bred Cali guys.
5. Gail Goodrich
A 6-foot-1 guard from Los Angeles, Goodrich played at Polytechnic in Sun Valley before going on to UCLA and then the Los Angeles Lakers. Goodrich played 14 NBA seasons, including nine for the Lakers, and averaged more than 18 points per game. A five-time All-Star, Goodrich was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
4. Jason Kidd
Kidd will go down as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. An alum of St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda, Kidd stayed in-state to play his college ball at Cal. A 10-time NBA All-Star, he's led the league in assists five times, averaging 9.1 per game for his career. He won his first NBA championship this past season with the Dallas Mavericks.
3. Reggie Miller
One of the greatest shooters in basketball history (and my personal favorite player of all-time), Miller was born in Riverside and played at Riverside Polytechnic. Like Goodrich, he stayed close to home and played college ball at UCLA before becoming a first-round pick of the Indiana Pacers in 1987. Miller was a five-time All-Star and held the NBA's record for most 3-pointers until he was passed by Ray Allen last year. Miller averaged 19.3 points per game, but his true legacy is his reputation as a late-game assassin. Evidence here, here, and here.
2. Bill Walton
Walton's career was cut short by injuries, but at his peak there may have been no one better in the history of the game. The 6-foot-11 center started out at Helix High School in La Mesa, then became an NCAA legend at UCLA, winning two national championships under legendary coach John Wooden. The first overall pick in the 1974 draft, Walton led the Portland Trail Blazers to a championship in 1976-77 by averaging 18.6 points and leading the league with 14.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. Walton played more than 65 games in a season just once, when he came off the bench for the 1985-86 Boston Celtics. Walton was named Sixth Man of the Year, helping the Celtics win the NBA title that year. For his career, Walton posted 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
1. Paul Pierce
This one might sting a little bit, as Pierce has achieved his legendary status while playing for the hated Boston Celtics. But you can't deny his rightful place atop this list. Pierce starred at Inglewood in the early 1990s, then became an All-American during his three years at Kansas. The 10th pick of the 1998 NBA draft by the Celtics, Pierce has averaged 22.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and made nine All-Star teams, and his greatest moment came in the 2008 NBA Finals against his hometown LA Lakers. Pierce scored 21.8 points per game and also averaged 6.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds in the series, leading the Celtics to their 17th championship and earning Finals MVP. Regarded as one of the best clutch players in the league, Pierce can also now be called Cali's all-time greatest.
Tomorrow: Wild Card! Check back tomorrow to find out what our list is.