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Ranking the greatest father-son duos in NBA history

From sharpshooting Currys to lockdown Paytons, these dominant father-son duos helped shape NBA history.

Dell Curry (center) played 16 seasons, paving the way for his sons Steph and Seth, who both became accomplished players in their own right.

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Imagine an NBA father teaching his son the finer points of the game and then seeing that young man follow his sneaker prints all the way to the league. Can anything be more gratifying than that?

Well, actually, yes — when there are multiple such examples.

We are living in proud-dad times, because the father-son combination is no longer a novelty in the NBA. There’s no official and historical count for the NBA record books regarding these combos, but at the start of the 2023-24 season, more than 20 players on league rosters had fathers who once earned an NBA paycheck.

That represents growth. And progress. And maybe a trend that won’t slow much, if at all, anytime soon. Because NBA fathers today are armed with knowledge, connections, access, money for the best training and travel teams and so forth to give their sons an edge.

This month’s draft will be drama-infused — not over whom will be chosen with the first pick, but the mystery surrounding Bronny James, son of LeBron, and where he’ll land.

Therefore, what better way to celebrate Father’s Day than to salute the best of the bloodlines?

1. Dell and Steph Curry

You thought they’d have a good “shot” at No. 1 on this list? Well, sure, the Currys are the father-son gold standard, sharing the singular gift — deep shooting — that defines them.

Dell had a quick release that allowed for clean looks and became the finest 3-point shooter of his time. He shot 47.6% from that distance in one season and at least 40% in nine of his 16 years. He was the Sixth Man winner in 1993-94, an award his son would never qualify for.

As for Steph, the game-changer, mere honors don’t do justice for his impact on the game, but we’ll list them anyway: Four championships, two MVPs and every important 3-point shooting record in the book. His prime popularity trailed only LeBron James.

Bonus: Seth Curry (43.1 career 3-point percentage) was solid, too.

2. Mychal and Klay Thompson

It’s unusual for a team to be blessed with one father-son combo; how about two? The Warriors enjoyed a championship era because Steph splashed with Klay, whose biggest rival for 3-point shooting was his own teammate.

Unlike Dell Curry, Mychal was nothing like his son. Mychal was bigger than Klay, played closer to the rim and made exactly one 3-pointer in his career. The first pick of the 1978 Draft, Mychal won a pair of titles with the Showtime Lakers as an important front-line backup, although his greatest gift was that of gab; he’s a longtime Lakers broadcaster.

Klay mastered the catch-and-shoot, someone who once took 11 dribbles to score 60 points. His midrange is solid, too, and at his peak made All-Defense 2nd Team, usually taking the toughest assignments.

3. Rick and Brent Barry

These two were Barry, Barry good, the father fundamentally sound, the son funk-amentally sound, each playing 14 seasons. Five Barry sons played professionally: Brent, Jon, Scooter, Drew and Canyon.

You had to see Rick to appreciate his two-way greatness, a player whose game over three decades (1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s) and two leagues (NBA and ABA) would translate today. He shot from distance (before the 3-point line), was the greatest passing forward pre-Larry Bird, averaged a record 36.3 points in 10 career NBA Finals games, led the league in steals and let’s not get started on the underhand free throw.

Rick won one championship as the centerpiece of the 1974-75 Warriors, while Brent won a pair as a valuable support player for the Spurs. Brent had more hops than his father which translated into a dunk championship (in a warm-up jacket) and plenty of highlights.

4. Arvydas and Domantas Sabonis

This is by far the best international father-son link, the father a legend on the former Soviet Union national team, the son born in Portland where his father played for the Blazers but raised partly in Spain.

Arvydas actually had three careers — professional overseas, Olympic gold medal-winning national team member, then groundbreaking center for the Blazers. Once he arrived in the NBA, his knees were creaky yet he carved out a respectable seven seasons by showing unusual court vision and skills for a center; think prototype Nikola Jokic.

Domantas is peaking for the Kings, a 6-foot-10 triple-double threat who’s just 28. His style is much like his father, only with younger knees. Domantas is a three-time All-Star, made All-NBA twice, just averaged 7.3 assists by showing sharp playmaking and has led the league in rebounding twice. The Kings don’t light the beam without him.

5. Joe and Kobe Bryant

Sharing a love for basketball, Joe Bryant (right) played 8 season in the NBA before Kobe Bryant became a legendary superstar.

This is the highest-rated combo where the son was so much more impactful than the father. And that’s no disrespect to Joe; Kobe simply became an icon.

Joe “Jellybean” Bryant was a role player, at times an important one, especially with the Sixers after they added Julius Erving and became contenders. He played eight seasons in the league, then several more in France and Italy, where he raised his son, whom he gave the middle name “Bean.”

Kobe? He has a statue in Los Angeles.

6. Tim and Tim Hardaway Jr.

This is another case of father and son playing different positions that catered to their separate strengths as players.

The Hall of Fame father is on the Mt. Rushmore of tricky dribblers. He didn’t invent the crossover but he perfected it and influenced all who followed him. Tim Sr. was one-third of Run-TMC, the most entertaining hoopers post-Showtime Lakers, and later teamed with Alonzo Mourning in Miami to form a 1-2 punch.

The son carved a different path and became a 3-point shooter. At one point he was among the finest sixth men in the league, averaged double digits in nine of his first 10 seasons and was at his finest with the Mavericks.

7. Jerami and Harvey Grant

This isn’t your typical father-son combo because Jerami shares the bloodline of an NBA father and uncle, Harvey’s twin brother Horace.

While Horace was the more visible Grant brother, playing with Michael Jordan and the Bulls on three championship teams, Harvey was quietly productive on lesser teams. At his peak, he averaged 18-plus points in three straight seasons with the team then known as the Bullets.

Jerami reinvented himself from a low-post player and garbage-bucket collector to a dangerous 3-point shooter and No. 1 option, now with the Blazers.

8. Dolph and Danny Schayes

One of the earliest father-son combos, Dolph and Danny were centers at a time when that position held steeper value in the NBA.

Dolph was a legendary big man during his peak in the 1950s: 1954-55 NBA champion, 12-time All-Star and eventual member of the 75th Anniversary Team and Hall of Fame.

Danny was mainly a career backup center, but enjoyed a respectable stretch with the Nuggets and lasted 18 years in the league.

9. Larry Nance and Larry Jr.

When Larry Jr. wore his father’s Cavaliers jersey and competed in the 2018 dunk contest, there was no better way for a son to pay homage; Larry Sr. won the contest in 1984.

The father had two very good stretches, first with the Suns, then the Cavaliers, where he was a key member of those Lenny Wilkens-coached teams that beat everyone except Michael Jordan.

The son is a well-respected role player now with the Pelicans who’ll play at least 10 years in the league.

10. Rick and Jalen Brunson

Knicks star guard Jalen Brunson (right) has the unique advantage of learning from his father Rick, a former player turned assistant coach.

The beauty of this combo? Rick is on the Knicks’ coaching staff, enjoying a front-row seat to witness the rapid and unexpected star turn involving his son.

Rick was a backup for much of his nine-year career, never commanding big minutes but showing enough floor generalship to earn the trust of his coaches.

His best leadership came when grooming Jalen, who had a solid high school career in Chicago, then won a pair of NCAA championships at Villanova. He was a second-round pick because scouts were wary of his shooting, crazy in hindsight for someone who averaged more points this season (28.7) than any American-born player and made All-NBA 2nd Team.

The next five: 

11. Greg and Cole Anthony

A pair of prolific point guards and perky personalities.

12. Tito and Al Horford

Tito had a short career — just under three seasons — while Al just completed his 17th.

13. Mitchell and Andrew Wiggins

Mitchell lost to the Celtics in the 1986 NBA Finals with the Rockets; Andrew beat the Celtics in the 2022 Finals with the Warriors.

14. Gary and Gary Payton II

The Glove didn’t fall too far from the hand, from a defensive standpoint.

15. Bill and Luke Walton

Hall of Fame father won a pair of titles, as did the son.

Who got next: Carlos, Cameron and Cayden Boozer; Erick Dampier and Erick Jr.; Peja and Andrej Stojakovic.

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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