NBA 75: Which metropolitan area is the best basketball hotbed?

·6-min read
(Graphic by Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports)
(Graphic by Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports)

The NBA released its 75th Anniversary Team last week — a list that actually included 76 players — granting us an opportunity to settle once and for all which hotbed of basketball in the United States is most talented.

Yahoo Sports built an augmented reality graphic to help visualize where the 76 players on the list were born, went to high school, attended college and played professionally. The information illustrates roughly a dozen hotbeds for hoops greatness, half of which boast players concentrated in a single metropolitan area.

Here is our chance to determine which hotbed is the best with a 3-on-3 tournament for the ages.

Click and scroll through our 3D augemented reality experience below to explore where the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team hails from, including birthplace, high school, college and pro teams they played for. When done, continue on to read how each hotbed would fare in a 3-on-3 tournament.

Scan the code to launch this experience in augmented reality. (Experience by Brian Pincus and Sonny Cirasuolo)
Scan the code with your mobile device. (Experience by Brian Pincus and Sonny Cirasuolo)

First, the six hotbeds that did not quite qualify ...

North Carolina boasts seven of the 76 greatest players spread throughout the state: Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Sam Jones, James Worthy, Pete Maravich and Bob McAdoo. Charlotte — with Curry and Worthy — came closest of any metropolitan area to fielding a 3-on-3 team. The Tar Heel State deserves this special mention, though, because what an offense Jordan, Curry and Paul would make.

• Shout out rural Louisiana, which produced Willis Reed, Karl Malone and Elvin Hayes. Shreveport's Robert Parish and Baton Rouge's Bob Pettit also hailed from The Pelican State, which makes for an incredible big-man rotation. Even if we could gerrymander three of them into one metro area, they still need a playmaker.

Michigan is represented by Magic Johnson, George Gervin and Dave DeBusschere. If only Johnson were from Detroit and not Lansing, Motor City would have been able to put together a formidable 3-on-3 squad. 

Ohio put four players on the 75th Anniversary Team: LeBron James, Nate Thurmond, John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas. James and Thurmond are from Akron. Unfortunately, the Cleveland Cavaliers made Dell Curry available to the Charlotte Hornets in the 1988 expansion draft, three months after Steph was born in Akron.

• Havlicek practically belongs to West Virginia, since he grew up across the river from Wheeling in Martins Ferry. Too bad Jerry West and Hal Greer grew up playing their ball on the other side of The Mountain State. 

• It is remarkable that Texas only produced three of the 76 greatest players in league history: Clyde Drexler, Dennis Rodman and Shaquille O'Neal. As fun as it would be to see the three of them in a tournament with the title of Best Basketball Hotbed on the line, we can't let Houston, Dallas and San Antonio play together.

Now, our official 3-on-3 teams from the six best basketball hotbeds on the 75th Anniversary Team ...

The Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia are four of the six best basketball hotbeds in the world. Which trio would reign supreme? (Yahoo Sports graphic)
The Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia are four of the six best basketball hotbeds in the world. Which trio would reign supreme? (Graphic by Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports)

New York City

  • Starters: Bob Cousy, Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • Bench: Dolph Schayes, Billy Cunningham, Lenny Wilkens, Nate Archibald

A well-rounded monster of a team. Abdul-Jabbar is arguably the greatest center ever, Erving is a top-five small forward and Cousy is one of the 10 most accomplished point guards. All three were MVPs. Schayes may have won one, too, if the award were around before 1956. Not a bad option to bring off a deep bench.

Average score of New York City's starters on the 100-point Russell Scale: 81.0

Los Angeles

  • Starters: James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Paul Pierce

  • Bench: Reggie Miller, Russell Westbrook

A modern masterpiece of a small-ball team. Harden, Leonard and Pierce can all create for themselves and each other from anywhere on the floor. Good luck keeping them off their spots. Bring in Miller's shooting or Westbrook's energy to provide a jolt off the bench. They really could use a big man to contend with Abdul-Jabbar and the other great centers. Too bad Bill Walton grew up a few hours south of L.A., near San Diego.

Average score of Los Angeles' starters on the 100-point Russell Scale: 63.6

The Bay Area

  • Starters: Damian Lillard, Jason Kidd, Bill Russell

  • Bench: Gary Payton

A quirky team, but Russell as the defensive backbone of a roster featuring three all-time floor generals is a formidable squad. Russell and Payton might be the two greatest defenders ever at their positions, and they would not need much of an offense to challenge other cities beyond letting Lillard cook in a 3-on-3 setting.

Average score of the Bay Area's starters on the 100-point Russell Scale: 73.7


  • Starters: Isiah Thomas, Kevin Garnett, Anthony Davis

  • Bench: Dwyane Wade

The most underrated of the six teams. The size and versatility of Garnett and Davis would wreak havoc on both sides of the ball, and Thomas is the only point guard not named Magic to be the best player on back-to-back champions. It might be nice to have an elite shooter, but Wade as a fourth man is not a bad luxury.

Average score of Chicago's starters on the 100-point Russell Scale: 65.3

The DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia metro area)

  • Starters: Elgin Baylor, Kevin Durant, David Robinson

  • Bench: Dave Bing

Get a load of the length and scoring on this team. Three of the four won scoring titles, and the one who didn't, Baylor, averaged 38.3 points a game playing only weekends while on active duty with the U.S. Army Reserves during the 1961-62 season. Often overshadowed by even greater legends, the starters all had trouble winning titles until they partnered with other all-timers, so is this enough of a superteam for Durant?

Average score of the DMV's starters on the 100-point Russell Scale: 76.4


  • Starters: Earl Monroe, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain

  • Bench: Paul Arizin

Another brilliantly well-balanced team. You have a center who scored 100 points in a game, a shooting guard who scored 81, a point guard who scored 56, and Arizin, who once scored more than 100 points in a game at Villanova. Wilt could have used some of Kobe's killer mentality, and Earl would bring out the flashy style in all of them. Take them to any playground court, and they are going to run the show for a good while.

Average score of Philadelphia's starters on the 100-point Russell Scale: 72

If I had to seed them one through six, I'm probably ranking them:

6. Los Angeles

5. Bay Area

4. DMV

3. Chicago

2. Philadelphia

1. New York City

NYC and Philly get the byes in our imaginary 3-on-3 tournament.


(3) Chicago vs. (6) Los Angeles

KG and AD are absolutely working L.A. on the block.

Prediction: Chicago in six.

(4) DMV vs. (5) Bay Area

Russell can only stop Durant or Robinson, not both.

Prediction: DMV in seven.


(3) Chicago vs. (2) Philadelphia

KG wills the Windy City to an upset.

Prediction: Chicago in seven.

(4) DMV vs. (1) New York City

Kareem gives The Admiral the business.

Prediction: New York City in six.


(1) New York City vs. (3) Chicago

Kareem can get that skyhook any time.

Prediction: New York City in seven.

There you have it. A totally unbiased, scientific and definitive conclusion. NYC is king.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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