Basketball, More Than Any Other Major Sport, Is a Family Affair

Nearly half of all NBA players are directly related to an 'elite athlete'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2016 6:55 PM CDT
Basketball, More Than Any Other Major Sport, Is a Family Affair
New York Knicks' Robin Lopez is defended by his brother, Brooklyn Nets' Brook Lopez, during an NBA game in April.   (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Want to play in the NBA? It definitely helps to have brothers, fathers, or uncles who've blazed that particular trail. A Wall Street Journal study found basketball, more than other professional sports, seems to run in the family. On the Golden State Warriors alone, Steph Curry's father and brother made it to the NBA, as did Klay Thompson's father and two of Brandon Rush's brothers. In fact, the Journal found nearly 49% of NBA players are directly related to an "elite athlete," defined as someone who's played a sport professionally, in the NCAA, or for a national team. That's far more than the 17.5% among NFL players and 14.5% for pro baseball players. And it's not exactly clear why. Though it does explain why NBA scouts tend to gravitate to the sons of former players.

Some possible explanations include physical gifts—jumping ability, arm length, etc.—passed along genetically. Growing up around the game also probably doesn't hurt. “Most NBA players don’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with their family throughout the year, so what we did was bring our kids along,” says a former NBA player with two kids now in the league. “They’d play against me and my teammates before and after practice.” Realistically, though, it likely comes down to height. NBA players on average are about 9 inches taller than the typical American male. “We know that being 6-feet, 9-inches tall greatly increases the chance of having another relative that’s close to 6-9,” a lead genetics researcher with Harvard and MIT says. Read the full story here. (More basketball stories.)

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