How many players are in the National Basketball Association (NBA)? The premier men’s professional basketball league is made up of 30 teams of 15 players. As that’s 450 athletes, the NBA is always on the lookout for rising talent.
Since the annual NBA draft began in 1947, it’s been the source of athletes for NBA teams—and NCAA college basketball players are often the focus. Of course, LeBron James and Dwight Howard were famously recruited out of high school—but since 2000, 247 NBA players have been drafted from one of 75 colleges.
So what college has the most NBA players and where did most of the first overall draft picks go to school? Find out on the map below.
View Colleges with the Most NBA Players in a full screen map
Where do basketball players prepare to join the big leagues? College. Seventy-five schools have sent at least one player to the pros via the draft—and six have sent players in the double digits to the NBA.
- Duke (20 players)
- Kentucky (20)
- Kansas (14)
- North Carolina (12)
- Arizona (10)
- UConn (10)
In total, 86 NBA players attended Duke, Kentucky, or one of the other colleges listed above. NCAA basketball fans will find it unsurprising that most draftees were alumni of Kentucky or Duke before going into the NBA.
In addition to sending 20 players each since 2000, both colleges top the charts with the number of first overall draft picks, which we’ll cover in the next section. They also rank among the top for NCAA championship wins, though Kentucky has a few more W’s under their belt, as we found in NCAA Tournament Map: Who Has the Most Wins?
First draft pick Andrew Wiggins is an alumn of Kansas, along with 13 other collegiates-turned-NBA-players. And while no number 1 draft picks—at least in this century—have come from North Carolina, 12 Tar Heels were chosen in various draft picks from the college. Top NBA franchises have also selected 10 players from both Arizona and UConn—while Texas is just one pick away from joining a three-way tie.
These colleges are most frequently attended by basketball players who move on to the NBA. Now let’s see if they continue to stack up when it comes to #1 draft picks.
The NBA draft consists of two rounds of 30 picks, so when a player is selected first, it’s an indication of desirability and skill. Many #1 draft picks go on to earn the Most Valuable Player Award, play in an All-Star Game, or are Hall of Famers. Let’s take a look at the colleges with most NBA players chosen first in the draft
At least one player from each of the following colleges has been selected #1. And while Duke and Kentucky tie with total NBA players, there’s a clear winner when it comes to #1 draft picks, as shown in the following table.
|School||#1 Draft Pick Player(s)||Draft|
|Kentucky||John Wall, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns||2010, 2012, 2015|
|Duke||Kyrie Irving, Zion Williamson||2011, 2019|
|Ohio State||Greg Oden||2007|
|Oklahoma State||Cade Cunningham||2021|
Consider this a win for Wildcats basketball. Kentucky boasts three first draft picks—all within the past 20 or so years—and more than any other NCAA college in the U.S. John Wall was drafted first to the Washington Wizards while Anthony Davis was selected to play for the New Orleans Hornets and Karl-Anthony Towns traveled to Minnesota to play for the Timberwolves. All three of these Kentucky alumni have played in an All-Star Game or All-NBA Team.
As for Duke, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson were selected first in the draft. Irving was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New Orleans Pelicans had their eye on Williamson. Like Kentucky, all of the first picks from Duke earned themselves an All-Star Game or All-NBA Team spot. While two first overall draft picks came from Duke this century, Art Heyman and Elton Brand were both chosen first in their respective draft classes, though not on the map.
Finally, Kansas, LSU, Memphis, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, and Utah each had alums picked first overall. Moreover, these particular picks have all been selected at least once for an All-Star Game or All-NBA Team.
To visualize more professional basketball stats, check out NBA Finals on a Map: Most Appearances, Most Wins or WNBA Champions Mapped. Or, to see Where College Football Players Come From, check out our map of their hometowns.