Nepotism in sports is defined by more objective markers than in Hollywood: Can you meaningfully contribute to a team? Are you not just good but able to roll with the best in the world?
Still, second-generation players are more likely than outsiders to access above-par athletic development throughout their lives, get more attention by talent agents and college scouts, and possibly even better first-time deals with teams and sponsors. Nowhere is this a more heated topic than in the NBA, which is positively bursting with the sons of former players (at least 35 by our count). This past summer, Shareef O’Neal, the son of Shaquille, failed to make the draft but ended up getting a six-figure deal with the developmental G League anyway. Some Knicks fans are still groaning over the ballad of Chris Smith, the younger brother of then-key player J.R. Smith, who cost the team about $2 million in a deal. (He ended up playing two games.) Soon, the NBA nepo phenomenon will reach its apotheosis: Bronny James, LeBron James’s son, is slated to declare for the NBA draft in 2024. LeBron, this generation’s eminent GOAT contender, has long expressed his desire to play professional basketball with his son, and that’s almost guaranteed to happen.
But while familial advantages can make entrance to the league easier, staying is a harder proposition. Which NBA sons are making a name for themselves? Here’s how some of the buzziest names stack up.
32, Brooklyn Nets
Son of: Dell Curry, who played 16 NBA seasons and retired as the Charlotte Hornets’ all-time leader in points and three-point field goals.
Known as: An excellent three-point shooter.
30, Minnesota Timberwolves
Son of: Doc Rivers, who played 13 seasons and is currently head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. Also Seth Curry’s brother-in-law.
Known as: A veteran journeyman guard. First player in NBA history to play for his father.
Gary Payton II
30, Portland Trail Blazers
Son of: Gary Payton, a Hall of Famer considered one of the greatest point guards of all time.
Known as: A strong defensive player. On the 2021-2022 Golden State Warriors team that won the championship along with three other nepo babies on this list (Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry).
26, New York Knicks
Son of: Rick Brunson, who currently serves on the Knicks’ coaching staff.
Known as: A stable point guard for the Knicks, who haven’t had one in a while.
34, Cleveland Cavaliers
Son of: Stan Love, who played four seasons and is the brother of the Beach Boys’ Mike Love.
Known as: The elder statesman of the Cavs. Onetime right-hand man to LeBron James.
36, Boston Celtics
Son of: Tito Horford, the first Dominican-born player in the NBA.
Known as: An experienced and wily center and frontcourt anchor. Has what’s called “elite basketball IQ.” Five-time NBA all-star.
27, Golden State Warriors
Son of: Mitchell Wiggins, who played six seasons.
Known as: A former Timberwolves disappointment who has become a key player on the Warriors’ roster.
Jaren Jackson Jr.
23, Memphis Grizzlies
Son of: Jaren Jackson, who won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs.
Known as: A reliable two-way big man. Leading the league in blocked shots this season.
32, Golden State Warriors
Son of: Mychal Thompson, who won two championships with the Showtime Lakers.
Known as: An expert shooter. One-half of the Splash Brothers with Steph Curry. Five-time NBA all-star.
26, Sacramento Kings
Son of: Arvydas Sabonis, Lithuanian NBA Hall of Famer widely regarded as one of the greatest European players of all time.
Known as: A hypercompetent forward. Two-time NBA all-star.
26, Phoenix Suns
Son of: Melvin Booker, who played two seasons.
Known as: A franchise player for the Suns (and Kendall Jenner’s most recent ex).
34, Golden State Warriors
Son of: Dell Curry (and brother of Seth).
Known as: Arguably the greatest shooter of all time. Limitless range.
Photos: Getty Images, National Basketball Association
More on the year of the nepo baby
- We’re Making Nepo-Baby Merch for Actual Babies
- These Magazines Ran on Nepo Babies
- How a Nepo Baby Is Born