In terms of the production of raw basketball talent, Pennsylvania undoubtedly ranks among the top states in the U.S. Just last week, the potential comings and goings of Toronto Raptors guard and North Philly native Kyle Lowry were the talk of the entire hoops world.
However, Lowry isn’t the best player to come out of the Keystone State. That’s no knock on the six-time NBA All-Star, either. Some of the best players ever to step onto the hardwood are Pennsylvania natives.
On Monday, The Athletic’s Josh Robbins and Darnell Mayberry put out their list of the two best NBA players to hail from each of America’s 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And while the debate for who deserves top honors in Pennsylvania will likely continue to rage, Robbins and Mayberry have made their pick.
It may be difficult to argue against their choice — who just so happens to be a Philadelphia 76ers alum — too.
ALL the latest Sixers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Sixers newsletter here!
Wilt the Stilt Beats Out Modern Day Icon
Where sheer dominance over one’s contemporaries is concerned, Wilt Chamberlain may be in a class all his own. Even now, more than two decades after his death and nearly 50 years after he played in his final game, his name still pops up in the GOAT debate.
So, his selection as The Athletic’s best Pennsylvania-born baller is hardly a hot take. Robbins and Mayberry wrote the following about his selection:
“The statistical output Wilt Chamberlain consistently amassed is often hard to fathom. The 7-foot-1 Philadelphia center so thoroughly dominated his competition his name is plastered all over the NBA record books. He led the league in scoring seven times, averaging a staggering 50.4 points in 1961-62, his third season. He owns the top-four scoring averages for a single season and five of the top six.
“It was that 1961-62 season that Chamberlain crafted his famous 100-point game, which came on March 2, 1962, against the New York Knicks. Also during that 1961-62 season, Chamberlain averaged a record 48.5 minutes per game. He led the league in minutes per game in nine seasons and holds the top-seven spots on the category’s all-time list. Chamberlain also led the league in rebounding in 11 of his 14 seasons, averaging 27.0 and 27.2 during his first two seasons. In the 1967-68 season, his 702 assists also led all players.”
Chamberlain spent seven years playing pro ball in his hometown of Philadelphia, three with the Warriors and four with the Sixers. He won his first NBA championship with the latter franchise in 1967. He would pick up his second ring as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972.
Speaking of, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant — another Philly native — was Pennsylvania’s runner-up. Given his influence on modern players, though, other versions of this exercise would have undoubtedly given him the nod over Wilt the Stilt.
Other Notable Sixers Alums Hit the List
Sixers legends Moses Malone and Allen Iverson were picked first and second in the state of Virginia, which should come as no surprise. Like Kobe, AI’s exploits in the late ’90s and 2000s influenced a generation. As a Sixer, he put up 28 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals a night over 700-plus games with Philly.
Malone, meanwhile, was already well on his way toward locking down a spot in the Hall of Fame before even joining the Sixers. In Philly, though, he won his only championship ring in 1983.
Julius Erving, another Sixers alum who was incredibly influential, was selected as the runner-up for the state of New York, coming in behind the NBA’s all-time scoring champion in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Wrote Robbins and Mayberry:
“Julius Erving remains one of the most electrifying players in league history. Although Dr. J soared to prominence in the ABA for his rim-rattling dunks, he’s on this list for his NBA achievements. He reached the NBA Finals four times with the Philadelphia 76ers and finally won the title in 1983. The Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry receives a lot of credit for popularizing pro basketball, but Erving’s contributions in growing the league should not be underestimated.”
Elsewhere, Hal Greer — who moved with the Syracuse Nationals to Philly where they became the 76ers in 1963 — was the runner-up to Jerry West in West Virginia. Greer spent his entire career with the same franchise, earning 10 All-Star selections and scoring well over 20,000 points in his career.