Spencer Dinwiddie was Right About SoCal Basketball Players
A small quote from Spencer Dinwiddie caused a lot of conversation recently in the NBA universe. When questioned by The Athletic’s Travonne Edwards about which state/region has produced the greatest haul of today’s NBA players, Dinwiddie remarked it was Southern California (SoCal) by a longshot.
Spencer Dinwiddie on SoCal Basketball Players
Spencer Dinwiddie on basketball Mecca: “I’m from LA listen here..It’s not even close we had Russ, James, Klay may or may not made it but was right there..Kawhi. We put more people on all-nba teams than some states have in the league!” pic.twitter.com/G7ENwVz82u
— Travonne Edwards (Blk Tray) (@Travonne) November 11, 2019
The “Greatest State to Produce Pro Basketball Players” argument has long defaulted to New York. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Metta World Peace, Carmelo Anthony, and Bernard King are all great names of yesterday that have grown up in the five boroughs. Michael Jordan was even born in New York City but spent his formative years in North Carolina.
Chicago also has a claim to the throne with players past and present the likes of Isiah Thomas, Doug Collins, Maurice Cheeks, Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, and Dwyane Wade. When it comes to today’s talent though, Dinwiddie is spot on. California is firmly in the lead when it comes to who has produced the best players out of today’s crop.
Looking Back at the 2018-19 All-NBA Team
Last season, two out of the five All-NBA First team selections hailed from southern California (Paul George and James Harden). In total, four SoCal-born players made an All-NBA team from the 2018-19 season (George, Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Russell Westbrook). If one wants to include Northern California (Damian Lillard), then five California players made it onto the list of the NBA’s 15 best. Those names alone are enough to fill out a serious small-ball lineup, although they’d unquestionably have trouble snagging boards.
Kemba Walker was the only New York-born player to make it onto an All-NBA team last season. Kyrie Irving also made the All-NBA Second Team, although he grew up in New Jersey. Anthony Davis would’ve been on the team if not for his injury and drama-filled trade demand, so the state of Illinois lost their best representative there.
It’s worth noting that behind California, internationally-born players were the second-most present. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic represented on the first team while Joel Embiid and Rudy Gobert made it onto the second and third-team respectively. If Kyrie Irving is counted for his international birth in Melbourne, Australia, then international players had five total representatives. That’s just as many California did.
All-NBA Teams Over the Last Five Years
Over the past five seasons, Southern California players have garnered 19 All-NBA selections. These were split between six players in George, Harden, Leonard, Westbrook, Klay Thompson, and DeMar DeRozan. California as a whole took home 22 All-NBA selections over the last five seasons (three extra seasons from Damian Lillard).
Unfortunately for the boroughs, New York-born players only appeared twice on the past five All-NBA teams (Kemba Walker and Andre Drummond). Anthony Davis was the only Chicago-born representative, making it three out of the past five seasons.
When one thinks about otherwise solid, but not All-NBA names, then California still takes the cake. Current players like Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Trevor Ariza, Allen Crabbe, Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, Dinwiddie himself, and many others originate from the region. Looking back at recent iterations of the All-NBA teams and surveying the league’s role players makes it apparent that California – particularly Southern California – is this era’s hotbed of basketball talent.
How did New York’s Basketball Scene Decline?
It’s hard to put a finger on a singular reason why New York doesn’t produce the basketball talent that it used to. New age distractions like social media and video games could have contributed. Changing attitudes on hoops and diminishing infrastructure may have played a role as well. According to an old article on Grantland, eight different New Yorkers made an All-Star team in the 1970s. This decade featured four New York-born players, only two of which played high school ball there.
Amateur ballplayers and even undisputed legends like Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving used to got to Rucker Park and other New York courts with something to prove. Nowadays, most off-season workouts seem to take place where nearly every NBA star has a residence: Los Angeles.
At a certain point, New Jersey emerged as the more likely place to breed former top-level prospects like Kyrie Irving, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Joakim Noah. One only needs to gaze at ESPN’s list of top 100 high school players in the country for further affirmation of today’s trends in player origins. Five of the top 10, including number one prospect Evan Mobley, come from California. The first New Yorker you’ll find is the 40th ranked R.J. Davis from White Plains, New York. When did New Jersey first show up on the list? Just slightly before New York at 31 with Jabri Abdur-Rahim. Chicago first appeared at number 19 and has three players in the top 30.
Current player Maurice Harkless had an interesting remark in the Grantland story. He said that he was glad to leave New York for Connecticut because the latter made it easier to focus on basketball. But the biggest reason was that New York’s just wasn’t as competitive, therefore not conducive to growth.
Spencer Dinwiddie gave an offhand remark on the power of SoCal basketball. When you dig through current rankings and recent history though, the evidence is overwhelming. Chicago and New York still supply great talent, but the West is clearly a step ahead. States like North Carolina and Texas are even making a push to pass the two historical powerhouses. Regardless, Southern California is set to be the leader for the foreseeable future thanks to its concentration of talent and exponentially increasing competition.
Embed from Getty Images