And he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right, but the goats on his left. — Matthew 25: 32-33
People have read much too many things into this old Bible verse, and so have unfairly thought of left-handed people in a negative way. But even these archaic-thinking people would have certainly sought exception had they seen the athletes on this list play basketball. Here then are ten of the greatest left-handed players ever to play in the NBA:
1. BILL RUSSELL
Team: Boston Celtics, 1956- 1969
Bill Russel scoring a hook shot
Eleven championship rings. Enough said. He is the truly the winningest athlete ever in all of professional team sports. Russell’s scary resume doesn’t even stop there. He has won five regular season MVP awards, was a 12-time All-Star, and was even the first-ever African-American to be named as team head coach in a major sport. We could go on and on about Bill’s basketball pedigree, but let’s just stop at saying that he is the greatest NBA player of all-time. Fans of Jordan, Wilt, Kareem, or Bird would certainly disagree. But since none of these other legends were left-handed, then at least for this list, Bill’s the undisputed king.
2. DAVID “ The Admiral” ROBINSON
Team: San Antonio Spurs, 1989-2003
David Robinson and his first NBA title
Nicknamed “The Admiral” because of his Naval background, Robinson was often compared to Russell. Not only were they both left-handed, they also played the same center position and had similarly superior defensive skills. David was named the 1989-1990 Rookie of the Year and from that season on, had been the leader for Spurs until his retirement in 2003. He was the 1992 Defensive Player of the Year, the 1995 MVP, and teamed up with Tim Duncan to lead the Spurs to the 1999 and 2003 NBA championships.
3. WILLIS “The Captain” REED
Team: New York Knicks, 1964 - 1974
Willis Reed drives to the basket
Willis became part of NBA folklore when he made THE ENTRANCE. With Reed nursing an injury, all appeared lost for the Knicks as they faced the mighty LA Lakers. But as the deciding 7th game was about to start, Willis came walking out of the dug-out to enter the basketball court and willed himself to play in the first minutes of the game. This inspired his teammates, and sent the Madison Square Garden crowd into a wild, game-long frenzy resulting in the Knicks winning their 1st championship. Reed would lead New York to another championship in 1973 also against the Lakers. Before he retired in 1974, he had been named the NBA MVP in 1970 and Finals MVP in 1970 and 1973.
4. DAVE “The Cow” COWENS
Teams: Boston Celtics, 1970-1980; Milwaukee Bucks, 1982-1983
Dave Cowens scores on a layup
Hustle and heart. These were two things that characterized Dave Cowens’ game. He made up for his lack of size and quickness with his hard work and incredible will to win. As the starting center for the storied Celtics team, he was named as the 1973 MVP, and led Boston to two championships (1974 and 1976) before retiring in 1980. He made a small comeback with the Milwaukee Bucks but promptly re-retired after one season. Cowens was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1990 and made it to the 50 Greatest Players list in 1996.
5. NATE “Tiny” ARCHIBALD
Teams: Cincinnati Royals 1970–1972; Kansas City Kings, 1972-1976; New York Knicks, 1976-1977; Boston Celtics, 1978-1983; Milwaukee Bucks, 1983-1984
Nate Archibald of the Boston Celtics
Nate Archibald is the first and only player in NBA history to have led the league in scoring (34.0 ppg) and assists (11.4 apg) at the same time in one season. He was a point guard with wondrous playmaking talent, and a quickness which made him an unstoppable scorer. His most successful years were with the Boston Celtics, with which he won a championship in 1981. Archibald was All-NBA First Team three times, All-NBA Second Team twice, a seven-time All-Star, and was the MVP in the 1981 All-Star Game. Nate was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991 and was named as one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All-Time.
6. BILLY “Kangaroo Kid” CUNNINGHAM
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, 1965-1972, 1974-1975; Carolina Cougars (ABA), 1972-1974
Billy Cunningham in his sixers uniform
Billy Cunningham was a hard-nosed basketball player, and a member of one of the greatest NBA squads of all time, the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers. Cunningham was one of the league’s top rookies then and was a key contributor in the ’67 Sixers’ title-winning campaign. He would later lead Philadelphia to another NBA title, this time as a coach of the Dr.J/Moses Malone-led 1983 Sixers team. Billy was All-NBA First Team thrice, All-NBA Second Team once, and played in four All-Star Games. He also played in the American Basketball Association (ABA) for a couple of years (1972-1974) and was named the MVP of the fledgling league in 1972. After his playing days were over, Cunningham was voted into the Hall of Fame and would later also be included in the 50 Greatest Players of All-Time.list.
7. CHRIS “Mullie” MULLIN
Teams: Golden State Warriors, 1985–1997, 2000–2001; Indiana Pacers, 1997–2000
Chris Mullin wearing his warriors uniform
“Mullie” was one of the best shooters and passers of his generation, but struggled in his early years in the NBA. After getting rid of a nasty drinking problem and shifting to his natural small forward position, Mullin blossomed to become the franchise player of the Golden State Warriors, and made his team a perennial play-off contender. He played in five All-Star Games, was on the All-NBA second team twice, and on the third team, and first team once. Mullin was allso part of the fabled Dream Team I squad which won the Olympic Gold in the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1997, he was traded to the Indiana Pacers, to act as a hired-gun off the bench. He retired as a Golden State Warrior in 2001, and is now the Warriors’ Vice-President for basketball operations..
8. GAIL “Stumpy” GOODRICH
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, 1965-1968, 1970-1977; Phoenix Suns, 1968-1970; New Orleans Jazz, 1977-1979
Gail Goodrich signing autographs
Nicknamed “Stumpy” for his short height, Goodrich made up for his lack of size with excellent offensive and passing skills. He was a starter of the legendary 1971-72 Lakers squad, alongside Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. This team established a then all-time best 69-13 record and won the NBA title. Gail was a 5-time All-Star and was First Team All-NBA in 1973-74. He also played briefly for the Phoenix Suns and the New Orleans Jazz. In 1996, he was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
9. LENNY WILKENS
Teams: St. Loius Hawks, 1960-1968; Seattle Supersonics, 1968-1972; Cleveland Cavaliers, 1972-1974; Portland Trailblazers, 1974-1975
Lenny Wilkens cheers for his team
Wilkens is one of the best playmakers ever to play in the NBA . He honed his skills in the playgrounds of New York City before excelling in the collegiate and professional ranks. Lenny was an NBA All-Star 9 times, and was the MVP of the 1971 All-Star Game. He was known for his passing, even leading the league in assists in the 1969-1970 season and finishing his career with one of the highest assist totals in the history of the NBA. He is a member of both the 50 Greatest Players and Hall of Fame lists. Wilkens also became a very successful coach, establishing the NBA all-time record for most regular season games won (1,332 wins), and earning another spot in the Hall of Fame this time as a coach.
10. BOB LAINIER
Teams: Detroit Pistons 1970-1980; Milwaukee Bucks, 1980-1984
A black and white photo of Bob Lanier
This Hall of Famer was known for two things during his career: his unusually large size-22 feet, and his exceptional skills on the basketball court. He was a force under the basket and often battled Kareem Abdul Jabbar for inside dominance. “Big Bob” was an 8-time All-Star and was named the MVP in the 1974 All-Star Game. He was one of the first stars of the Detroit Pistons, and was among those responsible for putting the Pistons in the pro basketball map. Lanier retired as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1984, after leading the Bucks to five straight division titles. Surely, Lainier’s game was way bigger than his shoe-size.
As can be seen on the list, some of the finest basketball players in NBA history were left-handers. Perhaps in the biblical passage, when the goats were rounded to the left and the sheep to the right, the left lane went straight to a basketball court. That’s why no one should ever think any differently of a person just because he or she is left-handed. That person might just be the next Hall of Famer for all we know. If you enjoy reading this article, you’ll surely be interested in learning how to dunk a basketball and how to play basketball defense.
Think this is amazing? wait until you see NBA Players Below Six Feet making a dunk.