There have been more NBA players from Massachusetts than you might think, but do you know how many of them have made it to the very top of this sport?
Massachusetts has long been a place where people love their sports and the massive success achieved by the Boston Celtics is part of the reason for this but it isn’t the only reason that we love watching the NBA.
We also love seeing local players make it to the top of this demanding sport and become global sporting icons. That’s why we decided to compile a list of the players who have succeeded in the NBA.
Meanwhile, you can see here what are the Boston Celtics odds if you decide to bet on the NBA playoffs in Massachusetts.
Best NBA Players from Massachusetts
Basketball fans in this state are used to seeing some of the sport’s biggest names playing the game at the TD Garden and on TV, but how many of them were born or grew up in Massachusetts? We’ll be looking at 15 of the very best NBA stars hailing from the Bay State.
1. Bill Laimbeer - Center
The first of our NBA players born in Boston, Bill Laimbeer is best known for his time with the Detroit Pistons, where he was an important part of their tough Bad Boys teams. He played his college basketball with Notre Dame and after a year in Europe joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1980.
However, Bill’s career really kicked off when he went to the Pistons in 1983. This was where he stayed for the remainder of his playing career, as he became a key part of the roughhousing game favored by Detroit in that period. Playing as a center, Bill was excellent at scoring three-pointers, with more than 200 scored during his career.
2. Dana Barros - Point Guard
Another of the NBA players from Boston, point guard Dana Barros was a prolific scorer with Xaverian Brother High School and then Boston College, where they retired his number 3 shirt. The Seattle SuperSonics picked him in the first round of the 1989 NBA draft although he struggled to become a starter in Seattle.
His breakthrough came with a trade that saw him end up with the Philadelphia 76ers, where he set a record by scoring three-pointers in 89 consecutive games.
Dana then went back to Massachusetts to play for the Boston Celtics. His post-NBA career includes opening a sports complex with his name in Mansfield and then a different complex in Stoughton.
3. Vinny Del Negro – Point Guard / Shooting Guard
Vinny Del Negro played basketball from a young age, becoming the all-time top scorer at Suffield Academy before joining North Carolina State University. Vinny joined the NBA in the 1988 draft, spending a couple of seasons with the Sacramento Kings before playing in Italy for two seasons.
He re-joined the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs, reaching a career-high of 14.3 points during the 1996 Playoffs. After this, he played for and coached several other NBA teams, as well as another spell in Italy, but never played for the Celtics or coached them.
4. Pat Connaughton – Shooting Guard / Small Forward
This Arlington-born player started with St John‘s Preparatory School in Danvers, where he played various sports, before an outstanding performance at a national tournament led to him receiving numerous offers for basketball scholarships. Pat eventually chose Notre Dame and played basketball as well as baseball there.
He then chose basketball as his main sport, despite signing for the Baltimore Orioles of the MLB. His NBA career began when the Brooklyn Nets picked him in the 2015 draft, and he then went to the Portland Trail Blazers followed by the Milwaukee Bucks, where he won an NBA championship title in 2021.
5. Toby Kimball – Power Forward
Born in Framingham, Toby Kimball averaged 18.4 points in the three seasons he played with the University of Connecticut. Standing at 6 foot 8 inches tall, he won three Yankee Conference championships with the Huskies and entered their hall of fame. They also got to three NCAA Tournaments with Toby on the team.
His powerful performances in college basketball led to Toby joining the NBA as a third-round pick, where he played for several seasons in teams including the Celtics, the Bucks, and the San Diego Rockets. His NBA scoring average was 6.1 points, together with 6.8 rebounds.
6. Travis Best – Point Guard
The next of the top NBA players from Massachusetts on our list, Travis Best was born in Springfield and played for Springfield Central High School with a 69-4 record over three seasons. Among his early achievements was the setting of a state-record 81 points in one game. He then joined Georgia Tech, where he helped them become ACC tournament champions in 1993.
The 1995 draft saw Travis join the Indiana Pacers, and he went on to play for several other NBA teams and he racked up an average of 7.6 points per game. His finest moment came in the 2000 NBA Finals and after retiring he moved back to live in the Springfield area.
7. Bruce Brown – Shooting Guard / Small Forward
Having been born in Wakefield, Bruce Brown attended Wakefield Memorial High School before heading to Vermont Academy and then joining the Miami Hurricanes as a four-star recruit. After injury problems following an average of 11.4 points in his sophomore season, Bruce declared for the 2018 NBA draft.
He joined the Detroit Pistons and moved in 2020 to the Brooklyn Nets, where he continued to turn in impressive scoring performances. After joining the Denver Nuggets, he quickly made his mark with a triple double. At the time of writing, he‘s on arguably the hottest scoring streak of his career.
8. Michael-Carter Williams
This player from Hamilton is the next on our list of the best basketball players from Massachusetts. His high school career was carried out at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School and then St Andrew’s in Rhode Island. The next stage in his career came with Syracuse, where he had a slow start but his sophomore season was when he finally broke through, with an average of 11.9 points.
Michael was picked in 11th place in the 2013 draft, joining the Philadelphia 76ers and setting a record nine steals on his debut, something no rookie had ever done before. An impressive rookie season ended with an average of 16.7 points and he’s recently re-signed with his current franchise, the Orlando Magic.
9. Nerlens Noel - Center
After starting life in Malden. Nerlens Noel played for Everett High School in Massachusetts and was number one in his class before heading to New Hampshire. His college career took him to Kentucky, where his shot-blocking skills helped him to pick up a string of personal awards.
He was picked sixth overall in the 2013 draft and joined the Philadelphia 76ers but missed his first season in the NBA with a knee injury.
Nerlens continued to be troubled by injuries and has struggled to find a team because of this, with his latest move being a short-term contract with the Brooklyn Nets early in 2023.
10. Ron Lee – Point Guard
Rounding off the top ten of our list of best NBA players from Massachusetts is Ron Lee. Ron is a Boston native who played for six seasons in the NBA. This came after his time at the University of Oregon, where he played a big part in coach Dick Harter‘s legendary Kamikaze Kids approach. He joined the Phoenix Suns in the 1976 draft after becoming Oregon‘s all-time top points scorer, a record he still holds.
Interestingly, Ron was also drafted by the San Diego Chargers of the NFL in 1976. Known for his steals and for giving a huge amount of effort in every game, he ended his playing career in Italy. Ron is deservedly remembered as one of the best-ever NBA players from Boston.
11. Bill Hewitt – Small Forward
We need to go to Cambridge to find the birthplace of our next on the list of the most iconic NBA players from Massachusetts. Bill Hewitt represented the University of Southern California in college basketball before joining the pro ranks in the NBA.
His time in the top basketball league saw Bill play for several teams over a total of six seasons. During that time, he entered the NBA All-Rookie Team when he picked up 7.2 points per game in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
12. Darius Bazley – Power Forward
The next of our NBA players born in Boston is Darius Bazley, who attended high school in Ohio and was a five-star recruit. He made national news headlines for considering heading to the NBA G League rather than playing college basketball.
In the end, Darius trained alone before joining the 2019 NBA draft, having signed an internship with New Balance that earned him $1 million. He spent his first four years as a pro with the Oklahoma City Thunder before joining the Phoenix Sun at the start of 2023.
13. Stan Stutz – Guard / Forward
Born in Worcester in 1920, Stan Stutz was the NCAA‘s leading scorer in three successive seasons while playing for the University of Rhode Island team. After this, he was with the New York Knicks and then the Baltimore Bullets, averaging 7.1 points.
Stan actually played in the Basketball Association of America (BAA) rather than the NBA, and he went on to coach the Washington Tapers in the American Basketball League (ABL). However, he turned out as a referee in the NBA for a few seasons before moving into the business world.
14. Terry Driscoll – Small Forward
Hailing from Winthrop, Terry Driscoll was a key player for Boston College as they reached the final of the National Invitational Tournament in 19659, leading them to the final and winning the MVP award in that game despite Boston‘s loss to Temple University.
His pro career started with the Detroit Pistons before he went to Italy for a season and then returned to the NBA to play with several teams. Terry‘s pro career in the US yielded an average 4.1 points per game and the same number of rebounds. After retiring as an NBA player, he returned to Italy as a player rather than as a coach.
15. Matt Geiger – Center
This center from Salem went to high school in Florida and played his college basketball at Auburn University followed by Georgia Tech. His NBA career began when the Miami Heat picked him in the second round of the 1992 draft, and he stayed in that league with a number of different teams in the next decade.
A series of knee injuries eventually forced Matt to retire from the sport, with an average of 9.2 points during his career. He moved into real estate investing after this, and currently lives in a Florida mansion.
While we‘ve looked at 15 of the best NBA players from Massachusetts to have played pro basketball in the NBA or its predecessors, this list could look very different in the future. That‘s because we‘re hoping to see a new generation of basketball players come through and make their mark.
For the moment, the players that we‘ve looked at here are those who started out in Massachusetts and reached the pinnacle of the sport through hard work and dedication. These basketball players from Boston and the rest of the state will hopefully inspire future stars to put in the effort needed to make it to the top.
Meanwhile, find all the video picks for Boston Celtics and other Massachusetts teams here.
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