Five Days of List-Mas: NBA players from Illinois

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
12:24
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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 Illinois.

Jabari Parker, Billy Garrett and Thomas Hamilton are all standout basketball recruits who are likely headed to D-I colleges — and possibly beyond. Illinois 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 Illinois to play in the NBA.

5. Derrick Rose
Rose won a state title at Simeon, then led Memphis to the NCAA title game as a freshman in 2007-08. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Rose has quickly distinguished himself as a superstar, earning MVP honors last season after averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists per game.
4. Isiah Thomas*
A true Chicago kid, Thomas graduated from St. Joseph and played two seasons at Indiana, winning a national title in 1980-81 before declaring for the NBA draft. The Pistons made him the No. 2 pick, and Thomas spent his entire 13-year career with Detroit. The 6-foot-1 point guard averaged 19.2 points and 9.3 assists for his career, made 12 All-Star teams, won two NBA championships and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
* Let's all agree not to talk about his post-playing career as a front office executive. [Shudder]

3. Kevin Garnett
Garnett would have been No. 1 on this list, but he's not a true Illinois native. Born in South Carolina, he only spent his senior year of high school in the state, playing at Farragut. It was a productive season, as he posted 25.2 points, 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 6.5 blocks and earning McDonald's All-American status before deciding to skip college. Garnett declared for the 1995 NBA draft and went fifth overall to Minnesota. A surefire lock for the Hall of Fame, Garnett has made 14 All-Star teams, won MVP honors in 2003-04 and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2007-08. Also in 2007-08, he led the Boston Celtics to the NBA championship.

2. George Mikan
A true legend of the game, Mikan was born in Joliet and graduated from Archbishop Quigley. After a great college career at DePaul, Mikan played just seven NBA seasons — but he made an historic impact. The first true "center," the 6-foot-10 Mikan was unstoppable in the post, averaging 28.3 points as a rookie in 1948-49. He went on to average 23.1 points per game for his pro career. Mikan won five NBA championships, was inducted into the Hall of Fame and was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players. And perhaps even more impressive, the league had to alter some of its core rules in order to prevent Mikan from dominating the game too thoroughly. The NBA widened the lane from six to 12 feet in an attempt to keep the first true "big man" away from the basket.

1. Dwyane Wade
Wade may be a villain right now, but let's not lose sight of the fact that he's also one of the best players in NBA history. A Richards grad, Wade went on to star at Marquette before being taken fifth overall by Miami in the 2003 NBA draft. He's now working on a streak of seven consecutive seasons of at least 24 points per game, including a league-best 30.2 in 2008-09. In 2005-06, Wade led the Heat to the NBA championship, averaging 34.7 points per game in the last round to win Finals MVP honors. Now that he's teamed up with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, there's a good chance Wade could add more championship hardware before his career is over.

Tomorrow: Wild Card! Check back tomorrow to find out what our list is.
Mike Grimala is an associate editor for ESPNHS. Follow him on Twitter at @MGrimalaESPN »

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