As you’ve learned in our baseball and football lists, there are a ton of highly competitive athletes from Saratoga Springs and the greater Capital Region that have made it all the way to peak professional performance in the MLB and NFL. And there are a few talented Saratogians dotting those lists.
While it shouldn’t surprise you that there have been a number of basketball players that have made it to the ranks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from this region, it might be hard to fathom that not a single Saratoga native has hit a pro hardcourt (an illustrator/skateboarder did get a signature sneaker from Nike, but he’s a badass with a sketchpad, not a basketball).
So here are the 28 basketball players who are either from the Capital Region or have ties to the area that have made it to the NBA. (We’ve included both players and coaches.) Just to reiterate, our methodology is simple: You have to have laced up (or shined your coaching shoes) in an actual NBA game to make this list—D-levelers, summer leaguers and Euro wonders need not apply. Also, as an added bonus, we’ve included how you can collect these players, and how much it might cost you to create a master set of their basketball cards. (Editor’s note: The asterisk by a player’s name denotes that he wasn’t born in the Capital Region.)
Vincent Askew* (Albany)
One of a number of NBA players that played for the Albany Patroons, a Continental Basketball Association (CBA) team active from 1982-92, Askew, a shooting guard, was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the 1987 NBA Draft but played just 14 games before being waived, hence his stint with the Patroons. But he wound up being named the CBA’s MVP twice as a Patroon and went on to have an illustrious second-chance NBA career, playing for the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Seattle Supersonics, New Jersey Nets, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers. You can find Askew’s rookie cards in all of the 1991-92 card series for $0.50-$1, and if you want to focus in on his Patroons’ days, you’re in luck: ProCards put out a set in 1989-90, featuring Askew as a Patroon ($2-$5).
Scott Brooks* (Albany)
Brooks, who is an assistant coach with the Portland Trailblazers and did a stint as head coach of the Washington Wizards, went undrafted in the ’87 NBA Draft and instead signed on with the Patroons, where he was named to the all-rookie team and later that season, won a CBA championship. He eventually made it the NBA, debuting with the 76ers in the 1988-89 season, and went on to play for teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, where he won the 1994 NBA championship. As a head coach, he won Coach of the Year honors in 2010 with the Oklahoma City Thunder and has also coached a pair of NBA All-Star games. You can find his rookie card in the 1989-90 Fleer or Hoops set ($1-$2) as a player, and more recently, he appeared in the 2017-18 Panini Prizm set as a coach ($1-$2).
Luther “Ticky” Burden* (Albany)
Born in Florida, Burden wound up attending Albany’s Philip Schuyler High School (back then, Albany High had two separate schools). After a stellar high school career, Burden went on to attend the University of Utah. He played ball there through his junior year before entering the American Basketball Association (ABA) and NBA drafts (the two leagues merged in 1976), and was drafted by both the ABA’s Virginia Squires and NBA’s New York Knicks. Choosing the Squires, he spent just a year there before jumping ship for the Knicks. Between 1975-78, Burden played 134 games, averaging 13.1 points per game, 2 rebounds and 1.4 assists. Unfortunately, after his basketball career ended he turned to a life of crime, which landed him in prison (he passed away in 2015 at the age of 62). Though he was active for just a few short years, Topps created a record of his time as a Knick. Back when the card company thought it was a good idea to produce “tall” cards for basketball players, it produced a card in its 1976-77 series, using his nickname “Ticky” on the front of the card. You can easily track one down for $2-$10, depending on condition.
Tony Campbell* (Albany)
Campbell, who was taken with the 20th overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons, was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won a championship ring in 1987-88. That same year, he also won a CBA championship ring with the Albany Patroons, the first player to log the feat. Campbell’s first card can be found in the 1989-90 Hoops set ($0.50-$1), wearing a Lakers uni.
Rick Carlisle* (Albany)
Carlisle, who was born in Ogdensburg and raised in Lisbon, NY, finds his way on to our list for his single-season turn as an Albany Patroons player in 1987, after playing a handful of seasons with the Boston Celtics. Carlisle, who first attended the University of Maine before transferring to the University of Virginia, was drafted by the Celts in the 1984 NBA Draft (teammates included Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish). He won his lone championship as a player with the Celtics in 1986. Carlisle then did his stint in Albany, before landing with the Knicks in 1987-88, skipped a season due to injury and ended his career as a New Jersey Net in 1989-90. With the latter, he ended up joining up as an assistant coach, launching a second life in the league that saw him eventually win an NBA championship in 2011 as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, the franchise’s first finals win. Carlisle is currently doing his second stint as head coach of the Pacers (he also served as an assistant there early on), and has also done time with the Trail Blazers (as an assistant) and Pistons (head coach). Carlisle has dribs and drabs in the card world, including his rookie card as a player in the 1984-85 Star set ($15-$20) and as a coach, 2004-05 Topps Total ($1-$3). If you need one of his cards, featuring his shiny bald head on it, look out for his 2017-18 Panini card ($1-$3).
Lionel Chalmers (Albany)
The Los Angeles Clippers took Capital City native Lionel Chalmers in the second round of the 2004 NBA Draft, and he went on to play in just 36 games with LA, before being traded to the Timberwolves, where he’d get some preseason time but never returned to a regular season action. He’s since played in Greece, Italy, Turkey and France, among other foreign leagues. Chalmers has a number of cards in the 2004-05 series, including autographs in the SP Authentic set ($3-$5), Topps Finest set ($3-$5) and the SPx set, which also features a jersey swatch on the card ($5-$7).
Mario Elie* (Albany)
Eventually a 12-year veteran of the NBA, who played for six different squads, Elie was originally drafted in 1985 by the Milwaukee Bucks but was almost immediately cut from the team. After bouncing around foreign leagues, he landed in Albany with the Patroons in 1989-90 and then came back for the 1990-91 season, before making his NBA debut with the 76ers that same year. Amazingly, Elie would end up winning three NBA championship rings, two with the Rockets (he was a teammate of Scott Brooks in ’94) and one with the San Antonio Spurs. He’s since made the rounds as an assistant coach at a number of teams, including the Mavs, Kings and Nets. You can find Elie’s rookie card in all of the 1991-92 sets for dirt cheap ($0.50).
James “Jimmer” Fredette (Glens Falls)
A star player for Glens Falls High School, Fredette went on to attend Brigham Young University, where he was named the 2011 Player of the Year. That same year, Fredette was drafted with the 10th overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Bucks, but never got the chance to become a regular starter. He ended up playing a total of 241 games over the next eight seasons, spending time with the Kings, Bulls, Pelicans, Knicks and Suns (his most productive year was 2012-13, when he played 69 games for the Kings). Fredette has a number of pieces of cardboard to his name, including 2011-12 SP Authentic ($1-$3), 2012 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions ($1-$3) and a host of other small-potato issues. Want to invest a little in your Jimmer collection? An eBay seller has a 2012-13 Immaculate logo star patch card up for sale for $2,500.
Dick Grubar (Schenectady)
Schenectadian Grubar, who starred for Bishop Gibbons High School and went on to attend the University of North Carolina, was drafted by the Lakers in the 6th round of the 1969 draft but never officially signed with the team. He was eventually picked up by the Indiana Pacers, where he played just two games during the 1969-70 season. Though Grubar didn’t play enough games to make it onto Topps cardboard, he does appear in the 1989 North Carolina’s Finest set ($0.50-$1), as well as Upper Deck’s 2010-11 North Carolina basketball set (grab an autographed version of his card for $10-$15).
Kevin Huerter (Clifton Park)
Huerter, who grew up in Clifton Park, led his Shenendehowa High School team to a state championship, before leaving for Maryland, where he played college ball from 2016-18. Huerter was eventually drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, where he was named to the All-Rookie Second Team in 2018-19. (Fun fact: Huerter was a high school teammate of current Atlanta Braves pitching phenom Ian Anderson, who is currently 8-5 and looking at a likely playoff run.) Huerter’s rookie cards are plentiful in the 2018-19 series, with his Panini Prizm card going for $10-$20. You can also find Huerter’s John Hancock on a number of limited-run cards, including the 2018-19 Panini Donruss Optic Rated Rookie card, which goes for about $100-$150. Want to roll the dice on a Huerter-sized investment? Try a 2018-19 Panini Spectra Neon Orange, serial numbered 1 out of 5, graded a mint 9 out of 10, which one eBay seller is hawking for just under $900.
Phil Jackson* (Albany)
If you watched the Chicago Bulls’ Netflix documentary, The Last Dance, during lockdown last year (who didn’t?), you’ll know that Jackson was an integral part of the team’s (and Michael Jordan’s) winning ways. But that wasn’t even close to his first act. Jackson also coached the LA Lakers and is, by all accounts, an absolute championship-winning machine, logging 11 over a 20-season career as a head coach. But before he led guys like MJ and the late Kobe Bryant to victory, Jackson served as a head coach in the CBA for the Albany Patroons from 1982-87, leading the team to its first championship in 1984 and being named Coach of the Year the following year. Jackson also played 12 seasons as a player, spending the majority of his career with the New York Knicks, winning NBA championships with the team in ’70 and ’73. Speaking of which, if your after Jackson’s rookie card as a player, you can find it in the 1972-73 Topps basketball set, and depending on condition, it’ll cost you $30-$100. If you want his coaching rookie card, that can be found in the 1989-90 Hoops set and will only put you back $5-$20, depending on condition.
Garth Joseph* (Albany)
Joseph, who stands 7’2″ tall and weighs over 300 pounds, elbows his way onto the list because of his college days spent starring for the College of Saint Rose from 1994-97. Though Joseph went undrafted in the 1997 NBA Draft, he was later picked up by the Toronto Raptors in 2000-01, making his debut in November 2000 and playing just two total games at center for the team, before landing with the Denver Nuggets for two more. Though he didn’t make enough of a splash in the NBA to get himself on a basketball card, he does hold the record for being the only player in NBA history from the tiny Caribbean island nation of Dominica.
George Karl* (Albany)
Another legendary NBA head coach, who spent time coaching the Patroons, is George Karl, who was with the Capital City team for its 1988-89 and 1990-91 seasons. Karl led the team to two winning seasons, the latter of which the team went 50-6 and got him named Coach of the Year. Karl eventually broke into the NBA, coaching for 27 seasons with a number of different teams, most prolifically with Seattle, Milwaukee and Denver, and racking up well over 1,000 career wins. Karl had a brief NBA career as a player, too, playing for the San Antonio Spurs from ’73-’78. To that end, you can find Karl’s rookie card in the 1974-75 Topps basketball set, and it’ll cost you about $10-$20. Karl’s first coaching card can be found in the 1992-93 Fleer, Skybox and Hoops sets for $1-$2.
Barry Kramer (Schenectady)
Kramer grew up in the Electric City and played for Linton High School there (he shared a year there with future NBA coaching great Pat Riley, who was a lower classman). After being named an All-American at New York University, Kramer was drafted 7th overall by the San Francisco Warriors in the 1964 NBA Draft (the team would later become known as the Golden State Warriors). Debuting that same year and playing the next season and change with the Warriors, Kramer played 85 games with the team, before doing a short, 19-game stint with the Knicks and leaving the game to attend law school. After graduating, he played just seven games with the New York Nets of the ABA, before hanging it up. Oddly, Kramer didn’t make it onto anymore cardboard. But he did become a successful lawyer, ascending to the role of New York Supreme Court Justice in 2009.
Sidney Lowe* (Albany)
Lowe, who won an NCAA championship in 1983 with NC State, ended up playing for the Patroons during the 1988-89 season, under head coach George Karl (see above). Lowe was originally selected in the ’83 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls but never donned a red, black and white jersey, seeing playing time with the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves over a five-season career. Lowe went on to have a second career in the NBA as a head coach with the ‘wolves and Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies. Lowe actually has two cards of note, both of which are relatively difficult to track down: His 1983-84 Star card, featuring him in a Pacers jersey, goes for $10-$20; while his short-printed 1989-90 Hoops card, featuring him in a Hornets jersey, goes for about $3-$5.
Jamario Moon* (Albany)
Moon rises and shines on this list because of the stint in 2005-06 that he did with the reborn Albany Patroons (prior to the team’s comeback in 2005, the franchise hadn’t played a game in the Capital City since ’93). After attending Meridian Community College in Mississippi, Moon made the Bucks’ summer league squad in 2001 but failed to make it to the team as an NBA starter. Moon eventually did make his NBA debut with the Toronto Raptors in November of 2007, and put together a 286-game career for teams such as the Heat, Cavaliers, Clippers and Bobcats. For all of the tabs-keeping folks out there, Micheal Ray Richardson (see below) served as head coach of the Patroons team Moon played on. Moon has a number of basketball cards to his name, including his 2007-08 Topps Finest rookie card ($1-$3) and 2007-08 SP Authentics ($5-$10). Looking to shoot the moon? Grab his 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Collection autographed card for $200-$250.
Tod Murphy* (Albany)
Nope, you read that right: This “Tod” goes with just the one “D.” A Patroon from 1987-88, Murphy won a championship and was named championship series MVP. His NBA career was spotty at best, playing a single game with the LA Clippers in 1987-88, then resurfacing with the Timberwolves for three seasons in the ’80s and ’90s (he was a starter there), as well as seeing time with the Pistons and Warriors in the early ’90s (he also did another partial season in the CBA in ’93 with the Rochester Renegade). You can find Murphy’s rookie card in the 1989-90 Hoops set for $0.50-$1.
Bill Musselman* (Albany)
Musselman, who famously feuded with Luther “Ticky” Burden while he was coaching the Virginia Squires, leading to Burden’s eventual exit to the Knicks, landed in Albany for the 1987-88 season, coaching players like Tod Murphy, Sidney Lowe and Tony Campbell (see above) to a CBA championship. A year later, he was given a shot in the NBA with the then-expansion Minnesota Timberwolves, where he was briefly reunited with Murphy. Musselman also did coaching stints in the NCAA, ABA and WBA. Musselman, who passed away in 2000, has a lone card to his name, in the 1989-90 Hoops set. You can pick it up for $1-$2.
William Henry “Smush” Parker* (Albany)
Without question, the man with the best nickname on this list is Smush Parker, who got it from his mom at birth and considers it his first name. (Sorry, William Henrys of the world.) Parker actually gets his name on our list for his late-career stint with the Albany Patroons, which took place in 2017-18. Born in Brooklyn, Parker attended the College of Southern Idaho before transferring to Fordham. Entering the NBA Draft after his sophomore year there, he went undrafted but wound up signing with the Cavs during the 2002-03 season. After a year playing in Greece, Parker put together a journeyman career in the NBA, playing for the Pistons, Suns, Lakers, Heat and Clippers—and wound up playing a league-high 82 games in 2005-06 and 2006-07 with the Lakers, playing under Coach Phil Jackson (see above). In all, Parker played 274 games, averaging 9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists. Because it literally would’ve been criminal not to include a guy named Smush on a basketball card, Parker appears in a number of series, including 2002-03 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection ($10-$20), 2002-03 Fleer Platinum ($5-$10) and 2002-03 Topps Chrome ($4-$5). For a little more oomph for your Smush, you can grab his 2002-03 Topps Chrome rookie black-bordered refractor, graded a 9 out of 10, for $50-$60.
Sam Perkins* (Latham)
Born in Brooklyn, Perkins entered high school in Kings County, only to have his family move to the Latham area, where he eventually starred at Shaker High. From there, Perkins went to play for UNC, where he was named ACC Rookie of the Year in ’81, playing for a team that included future Lakers great James Worthy and Bulls superstar Michael Jordan. Aside from a number of records he notched at UNC, Perkins also won a gold medal for the US at the 1984 Olympic Games. Drafted fourth overall in the 1984 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks, Perkins put together a stellar career, playing 1,286 games for the Mavs, Lakers, Supersonics and Pacers and averaging 11.9 points, 6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. As luck would have it, Perkins wound up in one of the single most sought-after basketball card sets of all time: 1986-87 Fleer, which features rookie cards of Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon and many others. That card will cost you $10-$30, depending on condition. Perkins also appears in a number of the rare pre-rookie sets, including 1984-85 Star as an Olympian ($40-$50), 1984-85 Star as a Mav ($10-$20) and 1985-86 Star as a Mav again ($5-$10). If you find a graded version, near-mint to mint, of the former, it’ll put you back in the $200-$250+ range.
Luther Rackley* (Troy)
Born in Georgia but raised in the Collar City, Rackley starred for Troy High, leading the team to an undefeated record in 1964-65. He went on to attend Xavier University and starred there, before being drafted in 1969 by both the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals (who featured a pre-Bucks Oscar Robertson) and ABA’s Minnesota Pipers. Choosing the Royals, Rackley ended up playing 278 games for a number of teams throughout his seven-season career, including the Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA), New York Knicks (NBA), the Memphis Tams (ABA) and finally the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA). Rackley appears on a trio of Topps cards, all part of the “tall” card era, including 1969-70 ($5-$10), 1970-71 ($3-$5) and the back down to normal sized 1971-72 ($1-$3). One eBay seller is asking $450 for a 1970-71 Topps Rackley, graded 9 out of 10 by PSA.
Micheal Ray Richardson* (Albany)
Many a journalist has flubbed the spelling of Micheal Ray Richardson’s first name—but hasn’t overlooked his career in both the NBA and CBA. Drafted fourth overall in the 1978 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks, Richardson split his eight-year career between the Knicks, Warriors and Nets, playing in 556 games and posting a career statline of 14.8 points per game, 5.5 rebounds and 7 assists. A four-time NBA All-Star and three-time steals leader, Richardson makes our list not as a Capital Region native but for his appearance as an Albany Patroon in the 1987-88 season (he won a championship with Coach Bill Musselman) and then as the Patroons’ head coach from 2004-07. It’s worth noting that Richardson’s career didn’t come without a bit of controversy; he received a lifetime ban from the NBA in 1986 due to substance abuse violations (it was later overturned, but Richardson never returned to the fold) and was suspended in 2007 by the CBA for antisemitic remarks he made in an Albany Times Union article. For those hunting for Richardson’s rookie card, you can find it in one of the modern era’s greatest sets: the 1980-81 Topps set, which also features Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s rookies on the same card (each card fuses three different player “panels” together via perforated lines). While the Bird-Magic rookie could put you back as high as $861,000, depending on condition, you can pick up Richardson’s card, which also features Campy Russell and Armond Hill on it, for a much more reasonable $3-$5. Looking for a little more value? Richardson has appeared in a number of recent sets, including the 2021 Panini Spectra one. A seller on eBay is hawking Richardson’s Panini Spectra Prizm card, serial numbered out of 99 and autographed by the former star, for $20.
Pat Riley* (Miami Heat/LA Lakers head coach)
Though Riley was born in Rome, New York, he was raised in Schenectady, playing for the Linton High School team. (Riley’s dad, Leon, had been a professional baseball player, who spent the majority of his career in the minors, playing just a quartet of games for the Philadelphia Phillies.) The San Diego (later, Houston) Rockets drafted Riley with the seventh pick in the first round of the 1967 NBA Draft—and interestingly, so did the Dallas Cowboys, in the 11th round of the NFL Draft—but Riley chose basketball, putting together a 10-season career with the Rockets, Lakers and Suns. But it was Riley’s career as a head coach that made him famous and landed him in the Hall of Fame; he won a championship as an assistant coach in ’80 with the Lakers, then as a head coach in ’82 (Lakers), ’85 (Lakers), ’87 (Lakers), ’88 (Lakers) and ’06 (Miami Heat). As a head coach, Riley also won more than 1,200 games and was named Coach of the Year three times. If you’re looking for Riley’s rookie card as a player, you have to track down his “tallboy” 1970-71 Topps card, which will cost you $20-$30 (and a lot more, if it’s graded mint or higher). All of the major card companies produced cards in the ’80s and ’90s, featuring Riley as a head coach, and all can be had for a pittance ($1-$2). If you’re lucky, you might even find one of his ’80s cards from the impossible-to-find Star sets, which will put you back $5-$10, depending on condition. (I picked up his 1970-71 rookie card at the Collector’s Friend in Rensselaer for about $10, I believe.)
Scott Roth* (Albany)
Another Albany Patroons player, Roth was originally drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 1985, but decided not to start his career in Turkey rather than the NBA. After his stint abroad, Roth returned to play for the Patroons, under Head Coach Bill Musselman, during its 1987-88 season. That season, the team went an incredible 48-6 and featured Micheal Ray Richardson, as well as Tony Campbell, Tod Murphy, Scott Brooks, Rick Carlisle and Sidney Lowe, all of whom are on this list. (The team was such a sensation that future heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson attended some of their games.) Eventually, Roth would wind up in an NBA jersey, playing parts of seasons for the Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves. Roth also ended up getting a second wind as an NBA assistant coach, sitting on the sidelines for teams like the Mavs, Grizzlies, Warriors, Raptors and Pistons. Roth appears on two basketball cards, his 1989-90 Hoops rookie card ($1-$2) and 1990-91 Hoops ($0.50-$1), both as a member of the Timberwolves.
Derrick Rowland* (Albany)
Born in Brookhaven, Rowland went on to play for SUNY Potsdam, winning a D-III championship with the team during the 1980-81 season. Drafted in the 10th round of the 1981 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, Rowland never made the lineup but landed in two games for the Bucks during the 1985-86 season. He gets on this list, though, for his stint as both a player (he played under Head Coaches Bill Musselman, George Karl and Phil Jackson) and head coach for the Albany Patroons (he won a 2019 championship with the team). Although the team played in 2020, it opted not to play in 2021 due to the pandemic. As far as we can tell, Rowland is still the head coach—but he never did score a basketball card.
Terry Stotts* (Albany)
Although Stotts was drafted in 1980 by the Houston Rockets, he never made it on the team, eventually playing for future Albany Patroons coach George Karl, when he was heading up the Montana Golden Nuggets. It was the Patroons, where Stotts served as an assistant coach in 1990-91 to Karl, that got him on our list—and afterwards, wound up as an assistant coach on the Supersonics, Bucks (with Karl again), Warriors and Mavs, as well as head coach for the Hawks, Bucks and Trail Blazers. In 2011, he won an NBA championship as an assistant coach with the Mavs. Though Stotts had no NBA playing time, he doesn’t appear on a basketball card as a player. But he was included in the 2004-05 Topps Total set ($1-$3), as well as 2005-06 ($1-$3) and 2017-18 Panini Prizm ($2-$3) as a coach.
James Thomas (Schenectady)
Schenectady native Thomas, a power forward, first starred for Schenectady High and went on to play for the University of Texas at Austin. Thomas went undrafted in the 2004 NBA Draft, but ended up seeing playing time with Portland, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago over a four-season career. Though you can’t find Thomas on any American basketball cards, you will be able to find him in the 2006-07 Euroleague sticker set, as a member of Fortitudo Bologna in Italy’s Basketball Champions League. A seller has it available on eBay for a single $1.
Edwin Ubiles* (Albany)
Siena College’s lone player to ever make it onto the NBA court, Ubiles signed a 10-day contract with the Washington Wizards and made his debut on March 21, 2012. He played in just four games for the Wizards. Ubiles also did a turn with the Albany Patroons, playing during the 2018-19 season, on which he shared a court with Jamario Moon (see above). His head coach? Derrick Rowland (see above). As luck would have it, four games wasn’t too few for the Leaf company (not to be confused with the manufacturer from the ’40s or ’90s) to produce a 2012-13 autograph card featuring Ubiles, which will cost you $5-$10. He also appears in the 2012-13 Leaf Signature set, too ($10-$20).