Between the mega-trade to send Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers and selecting Zion Williamson with the first overall pick in the NBA draft, the New Orleans Pelicans have been in the front line of sports news in recent days. With this influx of young stars via trade and draft, many consider the Pelicans as a dark horse team to make the playoffs in the upcoming season.
But when they were awarded the number one pick in the draft lottery, there was harsh criticism from some that Williamson wouldn’t gain as much recognition playing in New Orleans, as he would’ve say in New York City. This of course because New Orleans was never much of a basketball city. The state of Louisiana historically was always more a football state. However, there has been some solid basketball talent that has come from the Bayou State over the years. Let’s take a look at some of the best.
Shooting guard Joe Dumars was one of the cornerstones of the “Bad Boy” Pistons of the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, prior to coming to Detroit he was just a kid from Louisiana. He was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. And he grew up in the nearby town of Natchitoches, where he attended Natchitoches Central High School. For college he attended McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA. There he averaged 22.5 points per game. And in the 1984-85 season, his senior season, he won player of the year for the Southland Conference.
After his senior season he chose to make himself eligible for the 1985 NBA draft. And the Detroit Pistons selected him in the first-round with the 18th overall pick. He won many distinctions throughout his career. Those include six All-Star selections, four All-Defensive First Team selections, and two NBA titles. In the 1989 NBA Finals, Dumars won the Finals MVP award for his stellar performance against the Lakers. He averaged 27.3 points per game in that series.
Dumars’ Pistons teams were known as the “Bad Boys”, this due to their physical and sometimes aggressive play on the court. Dumars played all of his 14 seasons with the Pistons. And after the 1998-99 NBA season, he decided to retire. And his journey as a player culminated with his 2006 enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Another Louisiana native to make his mark on the NBA was center Robert Parish. Also born in Shreveport, LA, Parish attended the local Woodlawn High School there. He dominated at basketball and took his school to a state championship. And after his decorated high school career, he went on to play at Centenary College of Louisiana.
In his four seasons at Centenary College, Parish averaged 21.6 points, 16.9 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. After college Parish entered the 1976 NBA draft. The Golden State Warriors selected him in the first-round with the eighth overall pick. He was with the Warriors from 1976 to 1980. In a pre-draft trade though, Parish would find himself on the Boston Celtics to begin the 1980 season.
Parish had his best seasons with the Celtics. In his time there he earned nine All-Star selections. He also helped the Celtics to three NBA titles. After 14 seasons with the Celtics, Parish would have short stints with the Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls. He won his fourth and final NBA title with the Bulls in 1997.
After the 1996-97 NBA season, Parish called it quits after 21 seasons in the league. He was 43 years old at the time of his retirement. He finished his NBA career with averages of 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. And in 2003 he was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame for the accomplishments in his long and illustrious career.
The most prolific player of all-time from Louisiana would have to be power forward Karl Malone. He was born in Summerfield, Louisiana. And he attended the local Summerfield High School. After a very successful high school career, he decided to attend Louisiana Tech University to stay close to home. In his time at Louisiana Tech he averaged 18.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. And after three seasons with the Bulldogs, he was ready for the NBA.
In the 1985 NBA draft the Utah Jazz selected Malone in the first-round with the 13th overall pick. He and point guard John Stockton would go onto become one of the most prolific NBA duos of the 1990s. And they would frustrate opponents with their efficient pick-and-roll plays. During his 19-year career, Malone was an All-Star 14 times. He was named to the All-NBA First Team 11 times. And he was also named to the All-Defensive First Team three times. He also won the NBA All-Star MVP award twice, once in 1989 and then in 1993. In addition, he took home two regular season MVP awards. The first was for the 1996-97 season, and the second for the 1998-99 season. Talk about personal accolades!
Although he never won an NBA title he appeared in three NBA finals. Two were with the Jazz and one with the Lakers. And after 19 seasons in the NBA, 18 with the Jazz and his final one with the Lakers, Malone retired after the 2003-04 NBA season. He ended his career second all-time in points, a record which still stands to this day. And 2010 was the year in which he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame for all his accolades as a player.
The Bayou and Beyond
Although the state of Louisiana has produced some Hall of Fame caliber NBA stars as mentioned, it’s still not typically known as a basketball hotbed. But this could change soon. If this young Pelicans team can start making some deep playoff runs in the years to come, they just might be the inspiration for the next generation of NBA stars in the Bayou State!