The path from growing up in the state of Maryland and progressing to the NBA is a well-traveled one. Maybe there is something in the water in the Old Line State – but it does seem to produce a steady stream of talented ballers. There have been more than a few that have gone on to feature in the annual All-Star game over the years.
Of course, one of the most talented basketball players from Maryland who never had the opportunity of showing us just how good he would be in the big league was Len Bias. Born in Landover, Maryland, Bias was a high school star before becoming a Terrapin at the University of Maryland. He developed into an All-American there and was taken by the Boston Celtics as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft.
Anyone who saw Len Bias play would tell you that he was destined to become an All-Star. But tragedy struck just two days after the draft when one of the most talented players of his generation died from heart problems after a drug overdose. We would never discover just how well Bias would have done in the NBA – but here are five other players from the state of Maryland who went on to become NBA All-Stars.
Born in DC, Dantley attended the famous DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland and received All-American honors in his senior year, under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Morgan Wootten. Already well-regarded, his career really took off at Notre Dame. In three years at the school, he led the team in scoring and rebounding and played a part in the famous win over UCLA in 1974. He also managed to pick up Olympic Gold in Montreal in 1976.
After declaring a year early for the 1976 NBA Draft, Dantley was taken as the sixth overall pick by the Buffalo Braves and became an immediate starter at small forward. His personal success continued, winning the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in 1977. Although he was always listed as a small forward, Dantley tended to play a more power forward game and excelled for a number of teams but was a six-time NBA All-Star while at the Utah Jazz. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
This is another tragic story involving a top Maryland basketball player and the Boston Celtics. Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1965, Lewis attended Dunbar High School and played alongside fellow future NBA stars, Muggsy Bogues and David Wingate. From there he went to Northeastern in Boston and continued to show promise, playing in the NCAA Tournament in all four years of college.
Lewis was drafted by the Celtics in the first round of the 1987 NBA Draft, 22nd overall, as the club was looking to add some youth to an ageing roster that included legends Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. After Len Bias’ death the year before, Reggie Lewis was expected to become the new face of the franchise in the coming years.
Lewis started slowly in Boston but kicked into gear in his second year and ultimately was named as an NBA All-Star in 1992. But the next year he collapsed on court during a playoff game against Charlotte. Although he resumed play later in that game, it did end up being his final game in the league. During an offseason practice game in July 1993, Lewis suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the age of just 27. Another Maryland hoops star taken far too soon.
Now working as an assistant coach at the Boston Celtics, Cassell is another baller from Baltimore, Maryland who went on to become a star of the NBA and enjoyed a 15-year career, playing for eight different teams. Initially declared ineligible for the NCAA, Cassel played two years at San Jacinto before he took his big scoring game to Florida State.
In two years at Florida State he made it as far as the Elite Eight at March Madness and was eventually taken by the Houston Rockets at the 1993 NBA Draft. Cassell won championships in both of his first two years in the NBA and became an important member of the team. But Cassell picked up a bad injury in his third year and then spent a while moving between a number of different clubs.
It was while he was at Minnesota that Cassell was named as an NBA All-Star in 2004, before moving on again and eventually ending his playing career as a Boston Celtic where he won another championship. He has since become an assistant coach in the league.
Born in Takoma Park, Steve Francis is another Maryland native that ended up playing as a Terrapin before heading to the NBA. Known for his crossover dribble, Francis was taken second overall in the 1999 NBA Draft and looked like he was going to start his pro career at the Vancouver Grizzlies.
But Francis really didn’t want to relocate to Vancouver and ended up forcing a trade to Houston. He started as he meant to go on, winning rookie awards and then being named as an All-Star three years running from 2002. But after being traded to Orlando, Francis’ career never really sparkled in the same way.
He played for a number of other NBA teams before retiring. But he did get his number honored at the University of Maryland and will be remembered by many for his flashy play and his “Steve Franchise” nickname.
Our final Maryland-born NBA All-Star went to the same high school as Adrian Dantley before becoming an Indiana Hoosier and a consensus first-team All-American. His performances in college hoops ensured that he was taken second overall in the 2013 draft by the Orlando Magic.
Although he was named in the All-Rookie First Team in his first year, it wasn’t until he returned to Indiana – as a Pacer, this time – that he made it to the NBA All-Star team. He actually made the cut two years running before being traded to Houston and then Miami.
He has recently returned to the Oklahoma City Thunder and continues to be just one of a whole host of Maryland ballers representing their state in the best basketball league in the world.