It’s safe to say a ton of athletic talent comes from Los Angeles. The second-largest market in the United States boasts four million in the city proper and 18 million in the metro area. In the past, our city has birthed the likes of NBA greats Michael Cooper, Gail Goodrich, Tayshaun Prince, Kevin Willis, and many more.
Despite a diverse spread in hometowns throughout the 50 states, the state of California (and specifically Los Angeles) is the most popular birthplace amongst active players, with New York City as the second. Because of the amount of competitors that came from the City of Angels, we decided to limit this list to only those currently in the Association.
Honorable mentions: Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday, Paul George, Kevin Love, Spencer Dinwiddie
Despite recent inconsistencies with his play and commitment to the game, it’s easy to forget that James Harden is arguably the best active NBA player from Los Angeles. After attending Artesia High School in Lakewood, Harden jumped a state over, competing for Arizona State for two years.
Selected third overall in the 2009 NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden became an integral part of the team’s Big 3, earning Sixth Man of the Year Award, and an appearance in the 2012 NBA Finals. After losing the series in five games by the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City brass attempted to sign Harden to a four-year contract worth between $52 and $55 million. It was a lowball offer, forcing Harden to request a trade.
With the Houston Rockets, his career as a superstar took off. From 2012 to last season, Harden never missed an All-Star selection. His accolades with Houston cemented his status as a Hall of Fame competitor, including three-time NBA scoring champion, and MVP honors in 2018.
The less said about his career post Rockets, the better.
Born in LA while his father Mychal Thompson competed for the Los Angeles Lakers, Klay Thompson later moved to Lake Oswego, Oregon, and then to Ladera Ranch in Orange County. As a senior with Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Thompson managed 21 points per game and a Division III State Championship appearance.
After a three year stint with Washington State, Thompson was selected 11th overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 2011 draft. He has competed with the team ever since, earning the nickname “Splash Bros” alongside all-time great Steph Curry, and ushering in a new era of three-point dominate NBA basketball.
As part of the Dubs dynasty, Thompson went 3-1 in the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, Thompson endured a setback, sustaining a left anterior cruciate ligament injury. After missing nearly 31 months, Thompson returned to play in January 2022, helping his team secure their fourth championship in eight years.
Alongside fellow Los Angeleno Kevin Love, Westbrook made the Final Four in each of his seasons. Originally selected fourth overall in the 2008 NBA draft by the Seattle SuperSonics, the team relocated to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder six days later. In only his second season with the team, OKC became title contenders for the next decade, fueled by the play of both Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Despite several Western Conference Finals appearances, the team only made the Finals once in 2011-12 season, falling to the Miami Heat in five games. Westbrook stayed with the Thunder for over a decade and boasted three straight seasons averaging triple double stats. After a year with the Houston Rockets, Westbrook broke the all time career triple-doubles record with the Washington Wizards.
He is a nine-time NBA All-Star, two-time scoring champion, and one-time MVP.
The current Los Angeles Clippers roster is essentially made of dudes that wanted to return home. Alongside Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, Kawhi couldn’t resist the allure of their home city. Notoriously forcing his way out of San Antonio three seasons removed from his title with the team, Kawhi was traded in a package involving fellow LA born DeMar DeRozan to the Toronto Raptors. Promptly, he won the team their first title in franchise history.
Still, his winning efforts weren’t enough to keep him away from the City of Angels. After a rumored dalliance with the Lakers, Leonard signed with his other hometown team, to a reported three-year, $103 million contract. His tenure with the Clips has been marred with injury, including missing a year in the 2021-22 season and an absence in the playoffs the following year.
Currently, Leonard is a five-time All-Star, two-time NBA Finals MVP, and a five-time member of the All-NBA team.
The other side of the Kawhi Leonard trade, DeMar DeRozan attended Compton High School and ranked as one of the top recruits in the class of 2008. He stayed local, signing a letter of intent to play basketball at USC, competing in a sole season before declaring for the NBA Draft.
Selected ninth overall by the Toronto Raptors, DeRozan took four seasons before earning his first of four All-Star appearances with the team.
After Leonard’s vocal distrust of the San Antonio Spurs medical staff, DeRozan was traded to the Silver and Black. The trade was controversial at the time because DeRozan hadn’t been consulted by Raptors president Masai Ujiri beforehand.
After an inconsistent stay with SA, DeRozan was traded to the Chicago Bulls, bouncing back and earning an additional two All-Star selections. Despite being in the Windy City, DeRozan has been vocal about his desire to return home at the professional level.