California has always been closely linked with sports culture as a whole, and their ties with the birth of one of the one of the biggest and most influential hip-hop scenes in the planet, obviously basketball has also been a major part of Cali’s identity.
From Compton to Chino Hills, the State of California lives and breathes sports, and over the course of history, we’ve seen thousands of top-tier athletes be born and raised among those mythical streets.
Nowadays, they even got the best basketball team in the world in the Golden State Warriors, with people all over the world visiting their state to get a grasp on Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.
But basketball in Cali goes really further, and some of the biggest NBA stars are always eager to represent their California roots. Throughout the years, we’ve seen standout athletes like Gary Payton or Baron Davis be some of those players, and today we’re going to let you know the top 10 active players born in the state of California.
10. Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday was born in Chatsworth, California, and he spent his whole youth career there before being drafted out of UCLA by the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2009, currently leading the reins of the offense in the New Orleans Pelicans alongside Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins.
Injuries have really taken a toll in Holiday’s improvement, constantly forcing him to watch the games from the bleachers. Still, he’s a scoring machine and a great facilitator when he’s able to suit up, averaging 14.3 points and 6.2 assists per game and even making it to 1 All-Star selection.
9. Brook Lopez
Also known as the good Lopez brother, Brook was born in North Hollywood in 1988, spending his college career in Stanford, also in the state of California, before being drafted 10th overall by the New Jersey Nets as their new cornerstone for the future.
Just like Holiday, injuries have been Lopez’ Achilles heel, but even in limited games, he’s been one of the most productive centers in the offensive end, something like a poor man’s Marc Gasol in that regard. Averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds throughout his career, Lopez has made it to 1 All-Star selection, and he’s a prime buyout or trade candidate this season for the young Los Angeles Lakers.
8. Paul George
The newest member of the Oklahoma City Thunder was born in Palmdale, California in 1990; spending his NCAA career also in Cali, playing for Fresno State University before heading to the NBA as the 10th overall pick by the Indiana Pacers back then in 2010.
Paul George is one of the game’s best and most skilled scorers, and he might as well be the missing piece the Thunder so desperately needs to make yet another NBA Finals run. So far, the 4-time All-Star and former Most Improved Player, has posted averages of 18.1 points, over 6 boards and almost 4 dimes per game.
7. Klay Thompson
Being the son of a Los Angeles Lakers legend (Mychal Thompson), Klay Thompson was born and raised in Los Angeles as one of three athlete brothers, being obviously the most successful of them all.
The Splash Brother has been an instrumental factor in 2 NBA Championships, has made 3 All-Stars, won the Gold in the Olympics and even a basketball World Cup and he’s not even 28 years old yet. Besides, he’s known as one of the best backcourt defenders and shooters in the league, averaging over 19 points, 3 boards and 2 assists in 45% from the floor and 40% from deep.
6. Kevin Love
Another UCLA Bruin makes our list: Kevin Love, born and raised in Santa Monica and being the son of a former NBA player, Stan Love. Throughout the early years of his NBA career, Love was known as one of the deadliest scorers and rebounders in the league, before taking the leap to the Cleveland Cavaliers on the deal that sent Andrew Wiggins to Minny.
Now, an NBA Champion, Love has really embraced his new and lesser role with the Cavaliers, and we’ve seen some aspects of his game (like his passing) that we didn’t get the chance to appreciate before. So far, he’s averaged 18.4 points and 11.5 rebounds per game in over 40% from the floor and 36% from three-point land.
5. DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan grew up in Compton in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the nation, constantly being protected by the crips and gangs member as he was always known as one of the best athletes in town and the pride of the projects.
The former USC Trojan has quietly grown to be one of the league’s elite scorers, and even though he still lacks any kind of touch from beyond the arc, he’s still unstoppable in the elbows and below the rim. So far, he’s posted career averages of 19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 helpers and 1 steal per game.
4. Damian Lillard
As we can appreciate in most of his music, Damian Lillard didn’t have it easy at all growing up in Oakland, even having a near death experience getting involved in the middle of a gunfight when he was still a teenager.
Now, he’s one of the league’s top-tier scorers and one of the clutchest players the league has ever seen. Sadly, despite having ice on his veins and being a fierce competitor, he’s lacked the kind of support cast to take his Blazers to distance. Averaging over 22 points and 6 dimes, Lillard just doesn’t get enough recognition for his game.
3. Russell Westbrook
Is it crazy to believe that Russell Westbrook was actually once Darren Collison’s backup? Well, the Long Beach native was actually number two during his UCLA stint, but eventually came up big to become one of the league’s best players and the first one to average a triple-double for the season since Oscar Robertson.
Westbrook is versatile, a one-man fast break, a deadly scorer and a committed defender, and there isn’t much else he can do to finally shut his doubters. So far, he’s won the Olympic gold, 1 World Cup, made it to 6 All-Stars, has won 2 scoring titles, 2 All-Star MVPs and is the reigning MVP, averaging 22.7 points, over 6 boards and more than 7 dimes per game to go along with 1.7 steals.
2. Kawhi Leonard
If you take a look at Kawhi Leonard, you’d definitely think of him as a California rapper, and the Riverside native didn’t always had it easy growing up, with his father being shot to death back then in 2008 before committing to play for the San Diego State University.
Being much of a late bloomer, Kawhi Leonard has grown to be the best two way player in the league, and the only player beside LeBron James that could actually win the Defensive Player of the Year and the MVP in the very same year. With 1 ring, 1 Finals MVP and 2 DPOY accolades under his belt, the Klaw has improved every single year on his way to averages of 16.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
1. James Harden
And our current best player born in California is James Harden, a Los Angeles native that every Lakers or Clippers fan would love to have on their team. The Beard came out of nowhere from Arizona State University to become the Oklahoma City Thunder’s go-to-guy off the bench, and now he’s a yearly MVP frontrunner as the man in Houston.
Harden is unstoppable on the offensive end of the floor and even though his defense is mostly questionable at best, he’s one of the greatest superstars and most gifted players in the history of the game. Playing the best ball of his career, he’s coming off a career-best season with averages of 29.1 points and 11.2 assists per game.