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Top 10 White American NBA Players in History

Publish Date: 04/15/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Today, we look at the greatest white American basketball players in the history of the NBA. Before 1960, most players in the NBA were white Americans; that slowly changed until the mid-1970s, when the league became predominately African-American players. You know the adage, ” White men can’t jump”? Some can jump, and some can even shoot; that leads us to today’s list of the greatest white American basketball players ever.


The criteria for the greatest white American basketball players of all time will be like any other greatest list you see on the Grueling Truth. The overall impact on basketball, stats, championships won. So, an all-around player is a big thing, and the ability to impact a game even when not scoring is a huge factor in making up this list.

There have been a lot of great white American-born players in the NBA, and you might find some guys from before 1960 on this list. While I agree that they could not play in today’s games, their impact on the game will be factored in those cases.

10) George Mikan, Minneapolis Lakers

George Mikan became one of the NBA’s first superstars during his early days as a Minnesota Laker and is credited for creating its rich legacy for generations to come. To begin his career, Mikan stood 6’10”, dwarfing competitors on the court. Over his first three seasons he won three scoring titles by averaging 28.0 PPG while shooting 41.7% from the field, excelling defensively while dominating games through rebounding and finishing abilities.

Not only was Mikan an instant scoring champion, but he also led the Lakers to two championships in his first two seasons – scoring 30.9 PPG during playoff runs for each title run as they delivered their inaugural titles in team history. Following missing out on winning in 1951, he would go on a phenomenal three-peat run from 1952 through 1954 as NBA champions, during which Mikan averaged 21.0 PPG and 14.83 RPG on this three-peat, following this final championship run in 1954 – Mikan retired shortly after. It would have been nice if he had played a few more years; it would have certainly moved him up this list.

  • 5 Time NBA Champion
  • 4 Time NBA All-Star
  • NBA All-Star game MVP
  • 3 Time NBA Scoring Champion
  • NBA Rebounding Leader 1953
Video: George Mikan Career Highlights - Mr. BASKETBALL!

George Mikan Career Highlights – Mr. BASKETBALL!

9) Pete Maravich, Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Jazz, Boston Celtics

Before any of the flashy dribbles and passes seen in today’s game, Pistol Pete Maravich pioneered them all. After dominating college competition with a 40.0 PPG average at LSU, he ventured into the NBA, where his impact became clear. Dazzled audiences with his speed and control and incredible ability to score and facilitate for his teammates, Maravich made his NBA debut with the Hawks in 1970 and averaged 24.3 PPG along with 5.6 APG over four seasons of play – two All-Star selections! Throughout his four-season tenure with them, Maravich earned two All-Star selections, averaging 24.3 PPG and 5.6 APG per season on average!

Maravich became a legend when he joined the New Orleans Jazz. Over his first five seasons with them, he averaged at least 20.0 PPG; during 1977, when he won his scoring title, averaging 31.3 PPG while shooting 43.1% from the field in 49 games played, he averaged 25.2 PPG with 5.6 APG while shooting 43.4% overall from the field. Overall, his career earned five All-Star selections and four All-NBA Team selections as he cemented himself in history as one of its most influential players ever. Pistol Pete was one of the greatest offensive basketball players ever to live.

  • 5 Time NBA All-Star
  • NBA Scoring Champion 1977
  • NBA All-Rookie First-Team
Video: [HD] Pistol Pete Maravich - TOP 20 PLAYS β’Έ 2016

[HD] Pistol Pete Maravich – TOP 20 PLAYS β’Έ 2016

8) Kevin McHale, Boston Celtics

Kevin McHale came to Boston through one of the most favorable trades ever executed by any NBA franchise. That move unlocked his potential as an impactful bench player into one of the greatest power forwards ever. From 1981 through 1985 – including earning All-Star status and receiving Sixth Man of the Year Awards both years – McHale flourished greatly, becoming a pivotal part of two championship-winning squads. McHale became a start after the Celtics traded Cedic Maxwell.

After becoming Boston’s full-time starter in 1986, Boston continued its winning ways as one of the greatest dynasties ever seen. McHale quickly established himself as a 20.0 PPG scorer who also contributed 2.0 BPG and 8.0 RPG, helping lead them to another NBA championship victory that same season with him as an integral factor on both ends of the court – earning three titles along with seven All-Star selections, six All-Defensive Team selections! McHale teamed up with Larry Bird, which meant that the Celtics simultaneously had two of the best white American basketball players on their team at the same time and those two helped to make one of the best trios in NBA History!

  • 3 Time NBA Champion
  • 7 Time NBA All-Star
  • 5 Time All NBA Defensive Team
  • 2 Time NBA 6th Man of the Year Award
Video: Kevin McHale - Career Highlights - The Greatest Post Moves Ever

Kevin McHale – Career Highlights – The Greatest Post Moves Ever

7) Rick Barry, Golden State Warriors

Barry started his NBA career with the Warriors of the NBA in 1965-66 when he earned All-Star and Rookie of the Year honors with 25.7 PPG. Barry averaged 35.6 PPG the next season and won the scoring title. However, he unexpectedly left for four seasons of American Basketball Association play before eventually rejoining in 1973 and cementing his place in Warriors history.

Between 1973 and his final All-Star season in 1978, Barry averaged 24.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 5.8 APG, and 2.3 SPG. In 1975, he averaged 30.6 PPG and led the NBA in steals per game with 2.9 SPG; later that season, Barry led his Warriors to the greatest NBA Finals upset against the Washington Bullets and earned Finals MVP honors with 29.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 5 APG per Game, and 3.5 SPG – Barry never met a shot he didn’t like, and he made the majority of them.

  • NBA Champion 1975
  • NBA Finals MVP
  • 8 Time NBA All-Star
  • NBA All-Star game MVP 1967
  • NBA Rookie of the Year
  • NBA Scoring Champion 1967
Video: Rick Barry: Career Mixtape

Rick Barry: Career Mixtape

6) Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics

Bob Cousy was one of the pioneering and groundbreaking point guards to ever step onto a basketball court, earning himself the moniker “Houdini of the Hardwood.” Known for his speedy gameplay and breathtaking dribbling display every night. He was also noted for his remarkable passes that made his teammates better whenever they shared the court with him and helped win six NBA championship titles during his career! Beginning his career in 1950, he had already established himself as both the best passer and point guard by 1953.

Cousy won eight consecutive assists titles from 1953 through 1960 and claimed the 1957 MVP award, averaging 20.6 PPG and 7.5 APG while leading Bill Russell and other Celtics players to an NBA Championship victory. To cap it all off, Cousy won the NBA Championship in his final year overall, he played 13 seasons in the league, was 13-time All-Star selection, six champion titles, and 12 All-NBA Team selections. Cousy was the precursor to the present-day point guard.

  • Won 1957 NBA MVP
  • 8 Time NBA Assist Leader
  • 13 Time All-Star
  • 6 Time NBA Champion
  • 2 Time NBA All-Star Game MVP
Video: Bob Cousy Highlights ● Mr. Basketball | 4K |

Bob Cousy Highlights ● Mr. Basketball | 4K |

5) John Stockton, Utah Jazz

Stockton’s career got off to a dismal start as he started off riding the bench for three years of his career. Once made a full-time starter in 1987-88, Stockton would win both assists titles (13.8 APG and 3.0 SPG) while taking home two steals titles during that stretch. He would go on to capture nine more assists titles during that span, as well as two more steals titles as well.

During this stretch, Stockton became the NBA’s all-time leading assist and steals man. Over this period, he averaged 15.7 PPG, 13.1 APG, and 2.6 SPG as one of the greatest two-way point guards ever. Additionally, Stockton led the Utah Jazz to consecutive NBA Finals appearances (1997) before falling victim to Michael Jordan and the Bulls both years, earning 10 All-Star selections, 11 All-NBA Teams selections, and 5 All-Defensive Team selections throughout his 19-year career.

Stockton was an excellent clutch shooter and had a habit of hitting game-winners for the Utah Jazz.

  • 9 Time NBA Assist Leader
  • 2 Time NBA steals leader
  • 2 NBA Finals appearances
  • NBA All-Time Assists leader
  • 10 Time NBA All-Star
  • NBA All-Star game MVP
Video: John Stockton: Passing Skills (Part 1) Compilation

John Stockton: Passing Skills (Part 1) Compilation

4) John Havlicheck, Boston Celtics

John Havlicek “Hondo” is one of the greatest basketball minds in the history of NBA. From 1963 to 1978, Hondo won four consecutive NBA championships during these first four years on both the bench and as a starter and established one of the most outstanding basketball resumes in history. Hondo was without a doubt one of the Best Boston Celtics of all time.

Havlicek would win four more championships with the Celtics over 15 seasons, earning eight. Havlicek earned his only Finals MVP award that season as they defeated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Bucks in a seven-game dogfight; Havlicek received Finals MVP honors with a 26.4 PPG average for each game played during those seven contests. Havlicek remains one of basketball’s greatest two-way players, having earned 13 All-Star selections, 8 All-Defensive Team selections, and 11 All-NBA Team selections throughout his long and decorated career. Hondo was one of the best white American basketball players in the NBA.

His toughness was unparalleled, and he could often be seen flying head-first across the court to get the ball. Havlicheck stole the ball! That call by Jonny Most is one of the greatest moments in NBA history, and Hondo is still a legend in Boston.

  • NBA Finals MVP
  • 8 Time NBA Champion
  • 13 Time All-Star
  • 8 Time NBA All-Defensive Team
  • NBA All-Rookie First-Team
Video: John

John “Hondo” Havlicek: Career Tribute Mixtape

3) Bob Pettit, St.Louis Hawks

Bob Pettit is one of the most incredible power forwards in NBA history and can claim many achievements. Bob was named MVP by both teams he played for: St Louis/ Atlanta Hawks (in 1955-1965). Pettit averaged 20.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG throughout his career – earning All-Star selection every season; his legacy will live on as long as the NBA exists.

Pettit was named Rookie of the Year for the Hawks in 1955 and MVP the following season (in 1956), averaging 23.00 PPG and 15.0 RPG while also winning the scoring title with a 25.7 PPG in 1956. Pettit led his Hawks team to their only NBA title by defeating Bill Russell in the NBA Finals series for a 29.3 PPG average with 17.0 RPG over 7 games, winning an MVP award again when his average of 29.2 PPG led the NBA that year; ultimately becoming 11 All-Star, two-time MVP award recipient, 11 All-NBA Team selection in 11 years in 11 seasons before retirement from NBA action.

Pettit is the only man to beat Bill Russell’s Celtics in an NBA Finals series.

  • NBA Champion
  • 2 Time NBA MVP
  • 4 Time NBA All-Star game MVP
  • 10 Time NBA All-Star
  • NBA Rookie of the Year
  • 2 Time NBA scoring champion
  • NBA Rebounding Leader(1956)
Video: Bob Pettit: A Will To Win

Bob Pettit: A Will To Win

2) Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers

Could anyone forget Jerry West, whose silhouette graces the NBA logo? One of basketball’s greatest shooters and scorers in history who never managed to earn MVP recognition is difficult for me to comprehend; nevertheless, here we are! West was one of the highest Finals average scorers ever, yet still not being acknowledged with his due as MVP makes my head spin; still, here we are!

Jerry West holds one of the worst records imaginable – aside from losing 8 NBA Finals series – by being honored with Finals MVP honors while his team lost. West-led teams made nine NBA Finals appearances in 14 years. The only winning effort was in 1972 when the Lakers beat the New York Knicks. His legacy lives far beyond losses, giving everything he had so that his team had every chance at success!

West sent a Finals game to overtime by making a halfcourt shot at the buzzer against the New York Knicks; of course, as luck would have it, the Lakers would lose that game and the series in 1973. West would build the Lakers’ “Showtime” dynasty of the 1990s as a general manager.

  • 9 NBA Finals Appearances
  • NBA Champion
  • 1972 NBA All-Star Game MVP
  • 14 Time NBA All-Star
  • 4-Time All-NBA-Defensive Team
  • 1972 NBA Assists Leader
Video: Jerry West Career Highlights - The LOGO!

Jerry West Career Highlights – The LOGO!

1) Larry Bird, Boston Celtics

No one could dispute Larry Bird is the greatest white player in NBA history. No matter their personal opinions on that point, no one will disagree that Larry is legendary not just for his trash-talking or winning ways but for helping save the NBA from dying when his rivalry with Magic Johnson began in college and spilled over into the league, taking place throughout their college years and into professional basketball, taking away Rookie of the Year went to Bird over Magic but, Magic winning an NBA Championship title at the end of their rookie season.

Bird was an unparalleled force in every facet of basketball and experienced an extraordinary run from 1984 through 1986 that has rarely been replicated since. During that period, he won three consecutive MVP awards, two NBA championships, and two Finals MVP awards – an astounding accomplishment rarely equalled today.

As a member of Boston, Larry Bird averaged 26.2 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 6.73 APG and 1.8 SPG during regular season play – before elevating his performance during playoffs, averaging 26.5 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 6.55 APG and 2.0 SPG over those three years bringing three championships for Boston! Larry would finish his career being named to twelve All-NBA Teams, including three All-Defensive teams while being honored as “the greatest white player ever to play NBA basketball!”

Bird is the greatest because of his ability to affect the game even if he wasn’t scoring; he was one of the greatest passers in NBA history and an underrated defensive player.

Bird was the best American-born white basketball player of all time and, along with Magic Johnson, helped to save the NBA!

  • 1980 NBA Rookie of the Year
  • 3 Time NBA MVP
  • 3 Time NBA Champion
  • 2 Time NBA Finals MVP
  • 3 Time All-Defensive Team
Video: Larry Bird Top 10 Plays of Career

Larry Bird Top 10 Plays of Career

Honorable mention

Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns

Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offensive scheme allowed Nash to quickly become an All-Star in 2005 and flourish under its regime, with 11.5 assists per game (APG) and being recognized with the MVP award of that season; Nash would later earn another MVP title in 2006 by posting 10.5 APG and 18.8 PPG (lowest scoring MVP season ever in NBA history). Many consider him among the greatest players never to win an NBA championship title.

Bill Laimbeer, Detroit Pistons

Laimbeer was an all-time great shooter for a big man and an excellent rebounder; he helped the Pistons win back-to-back NBA Championships.

Dolph Schayes, Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia 76ers

Schayes would reach his zenith as a player during the 1954-55 season, averaging 18.5 PPG and 12.3 RPG in regular season play but saving his best efforts for playoff series like his seven-game Finals matchup against the Pistons; he averaged 19.0 PPG and 11.9 RPG while only shooting 39.2% from the field.

Paul Arizin, Philadelphia Warriors

Arizin was named Rookie of the Year with 17.2 points per game and 9.8 rebounds in his rookie campaign. Arizing led the Warriors in scoring (25.4 PPG) and field goal percentage at 44.8% during his sophomore campaign before taking two years off to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps before returning and concluding his Hall Of Fame career.


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