Top NBA Draft Picks From Ohio

Top NBA Draft Picks From Ohio

Ayden Fahlstrom
2 years ago
3 min read
 LeBron James looks on during the game between Perry High School and Sierra Canyon High School

Many basketball fans associate New York and California with basketball hotbeds. But Ohio has a rich hoops history of its own, with several NBA stars to show for it. 

Most readers should be able to think of a few NBA players who hail from the Buckeye State, including a certain superstar currently playing in Hollywood. But there are also a few notable players over the years who you might not even realize possess Ohio roots.

Here are some of the best NBA draft picks to ever come from the state of Ohio.

LeBron James

Let’s just get this one out of the way right now. LeBron James is in the conversation as the best player in basketball history, so he’s easily the top draft pick from Ohio.

James is an Akron native who starred for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. As the biggest high school basketball star in the sport’s history, he was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.

We all know the accolades by now. Through 19 seasons, LeBron is a four-time MVP, four-time champion, and the second-highest scorer in league history behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Though his crowning achievement was delivering the Cavaliers their first Finals victory in 2016, cementing his place as an Ohio sports legend.

Stephen Curry

There’s a debate if players born in Ohio who grew up elsewhere should count on this list. But if they do, Stephen Curry is an easy choice to make the list.

Curry is more associated with North Carolina after growing up in Charlotte and attending Davidson College. But long before he was picked seventh overall by the Golden State Warriors in 2009, he was born in Akron when his father Dell was playing for the Cavs.

Ironically, Curry’s three Finals wins in four seasons against Cleveland make him one of the biggest rivals of Ohio sports lore. But as the NBA’s all-time leader in threes celebrates his fourth title this summer, Cavs fans can take comfort in Steph coming from their home state.

John Havlicek

It’s time to get back to players that are tried and true Ohioans. Beyond LeBron, the best example of that is John Havlicek.

Before Hondo became a Boston Celtics icon, he was a Buckeye all the way. Havlicek was born in the tiny town of Martins Ferry. He then played high school ball at Bridgeport High School before heading to the Ohio State University. After a successful career with the Buckeyes, he was drafted by the Celtics with the ninth pick in the 1962 NBA Draft.

Havlicek won the NBA Finals in eight of his 16 seasons, all with Boston. He also made 13 All-Star teams and is a Basketball Hall of Famer. In fact, until James officially enters the Hall, Hondo is the best Ohio-born player currently residing in Springfield, Mass.

Nate Thurmond

Before LeBron and Steph, Akron was the home of another NBA great — Nate “The Great” Thurmond.

Thurmond was born and raised in Akron, attending now-defunct Central High School in town. He then played for Bowling Green at the collegiate level before the San Francisco Warriors selected him third in the 1963 NBA Draft, 

The Chairman of the Boards was easily the top player from his draft class and one of the NBA’s best players overall. Even though he never won a ring, Thurmond made seven All-Star teams and five All-Defensive teams. Best of all, he spent the final two years of his career with the hometown Cavaliers before retiring in 1977.

Jerry Lucas

Not only did Jerry Lucas grow up in the Buckeye State, but he also spent the majority of his NBA career with an Ohio-based team, even if it wasn’t the one we’re familiar with today.

Lucas grew up in Middletown and played for the town’s high school team. After high school, he suited up on the same Ohio State team as Havlicek and Bobby Knight before going to the Cincinnati Royals as the sixth-overall pick in 1962.

Although he was a territorial selection who sat for his entire rookie due to contract issues, Lucas had a great career with Cincinnati. Six of his seven All-Star appearances were with the Royals, as were all five of his All-NBA nods and Rookie of the Year award. But his lone title came with the New York Knicks in 1973, the second-to-last year of his Hall of Fame career.

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