Skip to Content

NBA Players who Served in the Military

NBA Players who Served in the Military

NBA Players who Served in the Military

As we honor Veterans Day, we also wanted to take a look at NBA players who served in the military.  These players not only went beyond the call of duty, serving their nation with excellence, honor, and pride, but also overcame the odds to play in the National Basketball Association.

Having served in the military, these NBA players have made some of the biggest sacrifices, risking life and limb for this great country.  And although their enrollment in the military may have shaved off years from their total time in the NBA, these players understood the importance of serving their nation and placing honor above self.

Today, and every day, we thank these NBA military veterans and all veterans worldwide for their sacrifice and service.  From the staff at Ball Are Life, thank you.

David Robinson, AKA The Admiral

Is there any NBA player better associated with the United States military than David Robinson, AKA The Admiral?  Born in Key West, Florida, David Robinson would be selected by the San Antonio Spurs, where he would remain for his illustrious career.

David Robinson is perhaps the best NBA player associated with the military.  Leading the Navy to one-game of the Final Four, Robinson fulfilled his active-duty obligation with the Navy before departing for the NBA.  In the NBA, he would become a 10-time NBA All-Star, the 1995 NBA MVP, and a two-time NBA champion.

NBA Players who Served in the Military

Michael Barnwell Silliman

Michael Silliman was born in Kentucky and played for West Point, playing for famed coach Bob Knight.  While at the Army, he took the team to the NIT Semi-Finals in 1964, 1965, and 1966.  In 1968, playing as the United States national basketball team captain, he won gold at the Summer Olympics.

Although Michael Silliman had 55 scholarship offers coming out of high school, he chose to serve time at West Point.  And although Silliman’s NBA career was short-lived, playing just one-year, he had a storied college career, where he stands 10th in academy history with 1,342 points scored.

Bernard James

Bernard James is the oldest player to ever be drafted by the NBA, at 27 years and 148 days old.  But before being drafted to the NBA, James’ would drop out of high school, earning his GE and enlisting with the United States Air Force at 17.  He served six years with the Air Force as a security forces specialist.

Bernard James would serve tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  In the 2012 NBA draft, James would be selected with the 33rd overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Although he would see little playing time, James served honorably in the United States Air Force, reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant.

NBA Players who Served in the Military

Elgin Baylor

One of the greatest NBA players of all-time, Elgin Baylor played all fourteen of his seasons for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, appearing in eight NBA Finals.  He was a natural and gifted shooter, a strong rebounder, and an accomplished passer.  As the number 1 overall draft pick in the 1958 draft, Baylor would earn the Rookie of the Year award in 1959 season.  He is also an 11-time NBA All-Star and a 10-time member of the All-NBA first team.

Although Elgin Baylor was a great NBA player, he was also an Army Reservist.  And during the 1961-62 NBA season, he was called to active duty, being stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington.  While on active duty, he could only play for the Lakers on the weekends.  Despite his limited game time, Baylor still managed to score over 1,800 points.  Later in the season, in a playoff round against the Boston Celtics, he would average 40.6 points and 17.9 rebounds per game.

George Yardley

George Yardley was a two-time All-American while at Stanford University.  Nicknamed “Yardbird” for the chores he had to complete at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, Yardley would serve for the United States Navy for two years.  During his time at the navy, Yardley would lead his amateur team to the national A.A.U. championship in 1951.

Drafted by the Fort Wayne Pistons, Yardley was described as an “offensive-minded player with a knack for scoring” and a “scoring machine” by his colleagues and counterparts.  He was also the first NBA player to score 2,000 points in one season.

He would make the NBA All-Star team in each of his NBA seasons, minus his rookie year.  He would also lead the Fort Wayne Pistons to two NBA Finals.  In the 1957-58 NBA season he would lead the league in scoring with 27.8 points per game.

NBA Players who Served in the Military

Bill Bradley

Bill Bradley has one of the most impressive resumes of nearly any professional basketball player.  Born in Missouri, in a small town 45 miles from St. Louis, he excelled at basketball from a young age.  Upon completing high school, he was offered 75 college scholarships, declining them all to attend Princeton University.

While at Princeton University, he would win a gold medal as a member of the 1964 Olympic basketball team and was the NCAA Player of the Year in 1965.  After graduating from Princeton University, he attended Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.  While at Oxford, Bradley would play one season of professional basketball in Europe before joining the New York Knicks in the 1967-68 season.

However, before joining the Knicks, he would serve six months in the Air Force Reserve.  Spending his ten seasons exclusively with the Knicks, Bradley would win two NBA titles in 1970 and 1973.  After retiring from the NBA, he would run for the United States Senate in New Jersey, being reelected in 1984 and 1990.

After an unsuccessful bid for the democratic presidential nomination in 2000, Bradley would author seven non-fiction books.  He would also begin hosting a weekly radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio.  In addition, he is a corporate director of Starbucks and a partner at the investment bank Allen & Company.