The NBA is home, and has been home, to the greatest basketball layers in history. Many coming through the American college system as well as some from of the brightest talents from abroad.
The NBA Draft is where the best American players come through, and attention to the draft board is paid throughout the season while predicting which team will pick at which spot.
The northern state of Montana has had a strong history of producing talent which has gone on to compete in the NBA.
The Montana State Bobcats sit atop the Big Sky Conference this season and after 35 games they had won 27 and lost just eight.
Montana Grizzlies, the side out of the University of Montana, are sitting below them in fifth out of 11. After 36 games they had 18 win and 14 defeats leaving them some way off the front runners in the conference.
There won’t be any players from Montana though in this season NBA finals. The sides who have made it as far as the playoffs do not have a registered player from Montana or drafted out of Montana.
The outright favorites in the NBA finals betting are the Phoenix Suns. They are up against the unfancied New Orleans Pelicans in the opening playoff round. The Pelicans have the lowest win total of all sides to reach the playoffs and face the Suns who have the best record in the NBA with 64 wins and only 18 loses. This was the Suns best ever regular season performance which left them eight wins better than the next best, the Memphis Grizzlies.
He is arguably the most notorious name in Basketball to come out of Montana. Jackson played 12 seasons in the NBA as a player before going on to coach and be an executive in the NBA.
A Power Forward out of North Dakota College, Jackson was selected by the New York Knicks in 1967 in the second round with the 17th overall pick. He was part of the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1968 and went on to win two NBA Championships with the Knicks in 1970 and 1973. He was part of the side from 1967 to 1978 and finished his career with the New Jersey Nets from 1978 to 1980, where he took his first steps into coaching as an assistant coach while playing.
He got his big break as the Chicago Bulls Head Coach in 1989 after two seasons as assistant and then took control of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1999-2011. He has won 11 NBA Championships as a Head Coach, Coach of the Year once in 1996, and was the four time NBA All Star Head Coach.
Jackson is not only one of the most successful people from Montana in the NBA but one of the biggest and most influential names in NBA history. He has won as a player and a coach and coached some of the greats to the levels they reached.
The Missoula native was a 6’9’’ Power Forward who is one of Montana’s other success stories in the NBA. He was selected in the 1986 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls with the fourth pick in the second round.
The start to his career saw him traded to Portland Trail Blazers, then on to the San Antonio Spurs where he made his first appearance in the league in the 1986/87 season. He made 68 appearances before moving on to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1987playing for four seasons before a year at the Utah Jazz, then Orlando Magic, one season at his first side Chicago Bulls in 1994/95 where he played 19 times before a final season for the LA Lakers where he played just three times in the 1996/97 season.
In 2013 Will Cherry went undrafted in the NBA Draft, making him an unrestricted free agent. He is the last player to reach the NBA from Montana after being picked up on a multi-year contract by the Toronto Raptors, though was released before playing a game. He went on to sign for the Cleveland Cavaleirs where he played 8 times in the 2014/15 season. The guard was released after a month and did not sign for another NBA side until the Golden State Warriors offered him an opportunity. Unfortunately, this went the same way as his other contracts, signing at the beginning of October in 2018 and being released a week later.
Since leaving Cleveland in 2014, Cherry has travelled the world and been a league champion in Lithuania with Žalgris Kaunas and Croatia with Cedevita Zagreb. He hasvoted the Croatian Cup MVP during his 2018 season with Cedevita Zagreb before returning to the United States with Santa Cruz Wizards for one season, He went back to Europe to play for Olympiacos in Greece, Pallacanestro Reggian in Italy, Hapoel Eilat of Israel, before arriving at Frankfurt Skyliners in 2021 where he currently plays.