Top 10 Chicago-born basketball players to play in NBA
Chicago basketball runs deep
Anyone who is from Chicago knows that the city’s basketball tradition runs deeper than the Bulls.
From modern mavens Dwyane Wade and Anthony Davis, to old-school greats such as Isiah Thomas and Tim Hardaway, and beyond, Chicago pedigree dots the NBA historical landscape — and that’s without mentioning Derrick Rose, who, in only a brief run of dominance, earned the distinction of Bulls great in his hometown.
Even those who don’t make it to the highest level or those that do and don’t achieve all-time great status remain revered in the city that raised them.
But for now, we’ll focus on those that excelled at the highest level. Here are the top 10 Chicago-born basketball players to play in the NBA.
10. Michael Finley
Finley was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 21 pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. In his first season, the former Proviso East star finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the All-Rookie first team. The following year, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in a blockbuster trade for Jason Kidd.
In Dallas, Finley blossomed into a star and became an integral part of the Mavericks’ success alongside Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki. Finley earned All-Star nods in 2000 and 2001 and won an NBA Championship with the Spurs in 2007.
9. Kendall Gill
One of the famed “Flying Illini” members, Gill was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the No. 5 pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. He averaged 11 points per game his rookie season and was named to the All-Rookie first team.
Gill broke out in his second year in the league, leading the Hornets in scoring with 20.5 points per game. Known as an excellent defender, Gill also tied an NBA record with 11 steals in a game as a member of the Nets in 1999. The former Rich Central star played 15 combined seasons in the NBA with seven different teams, including a one-year stint with the Bulls.
8. Juwan Howard
The former Chicago Vocational standout was taken by the Washington Bullets with the No. 5 overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. Even in his rookie campaign, Howard’s 17 points per game average ranked second on the team behind college teammate Chris Webber.
Howard earned his first and only All-Star selection in his second year, a season in which he averaged 22.1 points per game. In 1996, Howard made history, becoming the first NBA player to sign a $100 million contract. He finished his career winning two NBA championships with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013.
7. Antoine Walker
After leading Kentucky to a national championship in his sophomore year of college, Antoine Walker declared for the draft and was selected by the Celtics with the No. 6 pick in 1996. The former Mt. Carmel star led the Celtics in scoring in his rookie year and was named to the All-Rookie first team. Walker made three All-Star appearances during his time in Boston, and in 2006, won his only NBA title as a member of the Miami Heat.
6. Mark Aguirre
After leading DePaul to a 27-2 record during the 1980-81 season, Aguirre declared for the NBA Draft as a junior. The Sporting News Player of the Year was selected with the top overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks in 1981.
In just his third season, Aguirre averaged 29.5 points per game — finishing second in the league in scoring behind the Pistons’ Adrian Dantley — and made his first of three career All-Star appearances. Ironically, Aguirre was dealt for Dantley in 1989, then went on to win two titles with the Bad Boy Pistons in 1989 and 1990.
5. Tim Hardaway
The former Carver High School star was taken No. 14 by the Golden State Warriors in 1989. During his time in the Bay Area, Hardaway teamed up with Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin to become part of “Run TMC,” a high-octane fast break offense.
Hardaway led the Warriors to the playoffs and to a first-round upset of the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs in his second season in the league. After seven years with Golden State, he was traded to the Heat, where he finished fourth in MVP voting behind Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Grant Hill in 1997. Hardaway ended his career a five-time All Star, and his No. 10 jersey is retired by the Heat.
4. Anthony Davis
Davis led Kentucky to a national championship as a freshman, then was selected No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Hornets in 2012. After the 2012-13 season, he was named to the All-Rookie first team and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Damian Lillard.
In his eight years in the league, Davis has become an absolute force on both ends of the court. The former Perspectives star has made the All-Star team in seven of his eight seasons, was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive first team in 2018 (and second team in 2017 and 2015), and led the league in blocks in 2014, 2015 and 2018. In 2017, Davis broke Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star game scoring record of 42 points, notching 52 en route to taking home All-Star Game MVP honors.
3. Derrick Rose
The former Simeon star was selected with the top overall pick by the Bulls in the 2008 Draft. Rose followed that honor up with a spectacular rookie season, averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 assists per game, and taking home Rookie of the Year honors. In his first career playoff game, he matched Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA record for points scored by a rookie in their playoff debut (36) in an upset victory over the second-seeded Boston Celtics.
During the 2010-11 season Rose led the Bulls to a 62-20 record, made his second of three career All-Star games and, at age 22, made history by becoming the youngest player to win MVP.
2. Dwyane Wade
Wade was selected No. 5 overall by the Heat in the 2003 NBA Draft, and led Miami to its first NBA title in just his third year in the league. He also won a scoring title in 2008-09, averaging 30.2 points per game.
The former Richards star later teamed up with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and led the Heat to four consecutive Finals appearances from 2011 to 2014, winning two (2012, 2013). A 13-time All-Star, Wade is the Heat’s all-time leader in games played, points, assists and steals. His No. 3 jersey is retired by the franchise. (And we won’t mention his one-year spell with the Bulls.)
1. Isiah Thomas
After leading the Indiana Hoosiers to a national championship during his sophomore season, Thomas was selected No. 2 overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 1981 NBA Draft. Thomas made an immediate impact and was selected to start the All-Star game in his rookie year.
In fact, the former St. Joe’s star earned All-Star nods in 12 of his 13 years in the league, and was named MVP of the All-Star game twice. Thomas also led the “Bad Boy” Pistons to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990, taking home Finals MVP honors in 1990. In 2017, he was selected as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time.