Chi-Town’s 50 Finest

The legendary parks and gyms around Chicagoland provide the perfect backdrop for the country’s best basketball city. But it’s the players that really make it happen. Here’s the officially unofficial list (in alphabetical order) of the 50 greatest players in the area’s history.
by August 12, 2014

Mark Aguirre
A legend at Westinghouse High and then at DePaul, this scoring machine might be underrated outside of the Chi, but Aguirre is revered in his hometown—even after winning NBA titles with the hated Pistons, following a run as a perennial All-Star in Dallas.

Cliff Alexander
Big Cliff still has a long way to go before his résumé matches up to the rest of this list, but the athletic monster, one of the rare upper-echelon big men the city has produced, is off to a good start by attending Kansas.

Tony Allen
Allen’s high school career wasn’t extraordinary, but he did get to a Final Four at Oklahoma State, won a ring in Boston and 10 years from now, he’ll be looked at as one of the NBA’s elite defensive players of his era.

Nick Anderson
From Simeon HS to starring for Illinois, Anderson made his presence known locally and was the definition of a solid pro during his days in Orlando.

Kenny Battle
Before being drafted in the first round, Battle was perhaps the most exciting dunker in the “Flyin’ Illini,” and coming out of high school, the West Aurora product was just as respected as his city counterparts.

Patrick Beverley
Between his legendary senior year at Marshall (yes, the Hoop Dreams school), a solid two-year stint at Arkansas, having to grind overseas and then immediately establishing himself as one of the L’s top defenders, Beverley’s track record speaks for itself.

Jamie Brandon
One of the most celebrated high school recruits of his era, Brandon didn’t live up to his billing. But Shaq’s LSU teammate’s career at national power King is the stuff of legend.

Jim Brewer
Doc Rivers’ uncle was the first big star at Proviso East, an All-American at Minnesota, an Olympian in ’72, the second overall pick in the NBA Draft and a solid pro for several years.

Quinn Buckner
A floor general for the back-to-back Illinois state champs that went undefeated his senior year, then repeated the feat in college by leading Indiana to a title without a loss. Buckner also won a ring with the Celtics.

Will Bynum
“The Thrill” has been living up to his nickname since his days at Crane on the West Side. Bynum went to a Final Four at Georgia Tech, then started his pro life overseas before beginning what’s now a long NBA tenure.

Maurice Cheeks
Before his days coaching or even playing sidekick to Dr. J as an All-Star PG for the Sixers, Mo ran the show for historic DuSable HS, right next to the infamous Robert Taylor Homes.

Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton
One of the first black players in the NBA, Clifton also played for the Globetrotters and in baseball’s Negro League. He helped start DuSable’s proud legacy, continued by two extremely difficult omissions on this list, pioneers “Sweet” Charlie Brown and Paxton Lumpkin.

Terry Cummings
Another overlooked NBA star from the Chi, made his name at Carver on the South Side and then DePaul before becoming a two-time All-Star power forward up the interstate in Milwaukee.

Anthony Davis
Davis’ first three years of high school weren’t remarkable. In the three years since, he hit his famed growth spurt, became the nation’s top recruit, won an NCAA Championship at Kentucky, got an Olympic Gold medal, went No. 1 in the Draft and became an NBA All-Star.

Bo Ellis
The South Side native was an All-American at Parker (now Robeson) HS and at Marquette, where he helped win the school’s only national championship before a brief NBA career.

Ronnie Fields
Fields was more than KG’s sidekick during their lone season together, but while he never joined his Farragut teammate in the NBA, his gravity-defying dunks have made him a legend in his hometown to this day.

Michael Finley
The most successful of the “Three Amigos” (Donnie Boyce and Sherrell Ford being the others) at Proviso East, Finley’s best NBA seasons came in Dallas, but the two-time All-Star small forward won it all with the Spurs.

Kevin Garnett
Yes, The Kid is from South Carolina, but even he’ll tell you his one year on the West Side, where he graduated from high school before going right to the pros, helped shape his HOF career.

Kiwane Garris
A phenomenal lead guard at Chicago Westinghouse, the 6-2 Garris was a ballyhooed recruit at Illinois, where he finished his career in ’97 as the school’s second all-time scorer. Never made an impact in the NBA but he had a great career in Italy.

Kendall Gill
Underrated coming out of the south suburbs, as a college All-American and in the NBA, Gill was probably the best and most productive long-term pro of all the “Flyin’ Illini.”

Rickey Green
A legendary speedster, a knee injury took Green out of Utah’s lineup and gave a youngster named John Stockton the opportunity to start. Before that, the South Side native was a star at Hirsch, at Michigan and made an NBA All-Star Game.

Glen Grunwald
The former NBA exec was a HS All-American in the burbs, then went on to win a National Championship at Indiana, though a serious injury in college limited Grunwald’s success on the court.

Tim Hardaway
A star at Carver and for UTEP, Tim Bug exceeded expectations during an All-Star career as one of the NBA’s best PGs of his era, with his signature crossover becoming iconic in the process.

Billy “The Kid” Harris
The late Harris was known for his streetball exploits, but The Kid also got it done in organized ball at Dunbar, for Northern Illinois, in the ABA and against top Draft pick Jerry Sloan in training camp for his hometown Bulls.

Hersey Hawkins
A big man at Westinghouse, Hawk filled it up during his All-American career at in-state Bradley, then had a respectable run in the L, making the All-Star Game once with Philly.

Jeff Hornacek
The Suns coach was a fairly anonymous—if extremely effective—player at Lyons Township in La Grange and walked on at Iowa State before reaching stardom there. Hornacek went on to a very successful NBA career, with his best years coming in Utah.

Juwan Howard
An All-American at Vocational, also known as CVS, the South Sider went to Final Fours with Michigan’s Fab Five and had a lengthy NBA career, wrapped up after back-to-back titles in Miami, where he’s now on staff.

Alfredrick “The Great” Hughes
A star at Robeson, Hughes went on to put up ridiculous numbers at Loyola, located on Chicago’s North Side, still ranking in the NCAA’s top-10 all-time scorers.

Dan Issel
Hailing from suburban Batavia, Horse starred at Kentucky and then the ABA, where he won a title with Denver, before ending his HoF career with the Nuggets, who he would later coach.

Eddie Johnson
The Westinghouse and Illinois product doesn’t get his just due as one of the NBA’s great scorers, but the gunner, a Sixth Man of the Year winner, was one of the deadliest shooters of his time and scored more than 19,000 points in the League.

Johnny “Red” Kerr
Best known as the Bulls’ late TV analyst, Kerr also won a Public League title at Tilden, starred at Illinois, was an NBA All-Star, got a title as a player and was a successful coach.

Marcus Liberty
The biggest name during King’s reign under Sonny Cox, Doc was good but not great at Illinois and his NBA career was less than stellar, but his prep days still evoke powerful memories.

Corey Maggette
An All-American at Fenwick and Duke’s first one-and-done recruit, Maggette didn’t have the superstar career many envisioned, but the strong, athletic wing was a reliable double-figure scorer throughout a well-traveled NBA career.

George Mikan
The NBA’s first superstar hailed from nearby Joliet and got on the map at DePaul under the tutelage of longtime Blue Demons coach Ray Meyer before beginning his HoF pro career.

Jahlil Okafor
Like Alexander, it still remains to be seen what happens in the powerful and polished Whitney Young star’s career, but on and off the court, the top recruit in the 2014 class and early candidate to be the No. 1 draft pick in 2015 is equipped to succeed.

Candace Parker
The lone woman on this list (with apologies to Cappie Pondexter), the Naperville native is a true WNBA superstar, something easy to see coming after her All-American high school and college careers.

Jabari Parker
Even if Parker doesn’t become a star in the L, his run of four consecutive state titles at Simeon and dominant freshman year at Duke alone justify his place here.

Sonny Parker
Jabari’s father was no slouch himself, starring at Marshall and Texas A&M before a solid, if brief, career with the Warriors and returning home to start a youth basketball program and summer league that many of the top ballplayers in the city participated in.

Kevin Porter
A DuSable alum, Porter was one of the most underrated PGs of his time, leading the NBA in assists on four separate occasions, his best days on the Bullets.

Quentin Richardson
Known as one of the most ferocious rebounders at his size during his days at Whitney Young and DePaul, Q-Rich put on a headband and changed his game to become a three-point marksman in the L, where he was a key player for a number of teams.

Doc Rivers
Another Proviso East star, Rivers excelled at Marquette before turning pro, had a long, successful run as an NBA point guard, then broke into coaching with the Magic, won a Championship with the Celtics and now is the head man with the Clippers.

Derrick Rose
A two-time state champ at Simeon, Pooh lived up to the hype by getting to the National Championship game at Memphis, becoming the NBA’s top Draft pick, winning Rookie of the Year, being named an All-Star and League MVP before his unfortunate knee injuries slowed him down.

Cazzie Russell
The former Carver star went to consecutive Final Fours and was an All-American at Michigan, then a No. 1 pick by New York, making an All-Star team with the Knicks and having a long career as a consistent scorer.

Jon Scheyer
Scheyer’s 21 points in 75 seconds is considered an unparalleled performance in Illinois prep ranks, but the high point of the McDonald’s All-American’s career was starring on Duke’s 2010 National Championship team.

Isiah Thomas
As hated as he became as the emotional leader of the Detroit Pistons, Zeke built his reputation at St. Joseph, a suburban Catholic school, before winning an NCAA title at Indiana and proceeding with a Hall of Fame career.

Dwyane Wade
Wade was a sleeper out of Richards HS, but became a household name after leading Marquette to a Final Four, then becoming a perennial NBA All-Star and a three-time Champion.

Antoine Walker
A top recruit from Mount Carmel, where he played with NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, Toine was a star at Kentucky, winning a Chip before becoming an All-Star with Boston and earning a title with Miami.

Darrell Walker
A lightly regarded prospect out of Corliss HS on the South Side, Walker earned his reputation as a hard-nosed defender at Arkansas and during a long NBA career before becoming an long-time coach in the pros.

Ben Wilson
The late Wilson is considered Chi royalty, even almost 20 years after he passed. Benji was the nation’s top recruit, a 6-8 point forward who led Simeon to the ’84 title before his tragic shooting death prior to his senior year.

George Wilson
Before starring at Cincinnati, winning Gold in the ’64 Olympics and having a solid NBA career, Jiff led Marshall to four city and two state titles, which became the first all-black team in Illinois to win the crown.

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Ronnie Fields // Photo by Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT