Who are Oakland’s top three basketball players of all time? That’s the question posted in Twitter by Oaklandish today.
And while such a question can yield hours of talk and debate, time is precious, so here’s my answer:
1. Bill Russell – While Russell was born in Louisiana, he and his parents moved to Oakland along with the large influx of blacks coming from the South to get jobs in the shipbuilding industry in this city during World War II.
From there, Bill Russell graduated from McClymonds High School, and then stayed in the Bay Area, attending The University of San Francisco 1953–1956, and there establishing his legendary prowess at the position of center. He would eventually become one of the most dominating players in National Basketball Association (NBA) history.
2. Jason Kidd – While born in San Francisco, the legendary Jason Kidd, who announced his retirement today, was raised in the same Oakland neighborhood as the next person on this short list, Gary Peyton. After graduating from St. Joseph High School in Alameda, Kidd went on to play at my grad school alma mater, Cal Berkeley, and being part of one of the greatest teams in Cal Basketball history: the 1994 squad that went as far as the NCAA Sweet 16.
Eventually, Kidd went on to be one of the most effective players in the history of the NBA, with an NBA title, two Olympic gold medals, is second on the career list in assists and steals, in addition to being an NBA All-Star, ten times.
3. Gary Payton – Gary was actually born in Oakland, and, like me, Tom Hanks, and Theotis Brown, and John Langraf, graduated from Skyline High School, before going on to Oregon State University.
After graduating from OSU, Gary went on to establish a 17-year career in the NBA, most of that time with the now-folded Seattle SuperSonics from 1990 to 2003, then the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and finally, the Miami Heat from 2005 to 2007, where he finally won an NBA Finals Championship. Payton finished his NBA career, becoming 7th in all-time minutes played in the NBA.
Bill Russell, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton: those are my top three players in Oakland Sports History.