March 04, 2021
Basketball is arguably the most celebrated sport in California. Legendary players like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James put the Golden State on the map, but you don’t have to be a basketball fan to recognize iconic California basketball teams and their contributions to the sport.
There are plenty of significant moments in basketball history that have gone beyond the limits of the sport and into popular culture. With fans from all over the world, recognizing California basketball teams’ contributions is a must for all sports enthusiasts.
California NBA teams
For decades, California’s basketball teams have dominated the National Basketball Association (NBA), garnering worldwide attention and respect. Four out of the 30 teams in the league are located in the Golden State—a staggering number considering that makes up 13 percent of the entire league.
To put that into perspective, if you take away the four California teams, you would have to represent 49 other states with only 26 teams in total. From North to South, here’s everything you need to know about California’s NBA teams throughout their tenure.
California's NBA basketball teams
Golden State Warriors
Based in: San Francisco
Currently play at: Chase Center
First year in NBA: 1962
NBA titles: 6
Notable players: Nate Thurmond, Rick Barry, Chris Mullin, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant
Previously known as the Philadelphia Warriors, the Golden State Warriors relocated to San Francisco in 1962. Throughout their 50-plus years as a California basketball team in the NBA, the Warriors have scored some noteworthy peaks.
Led by Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes, the Golden State Warriors gained their first NBA title after moving to California in 1975. The squad exceeded expectations and squashed the Washington Bullets in a four-game sweep.
Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, and Tim Hardaway worked wonders for the California basketball team in the 1980s. The Golden State Warriors scored another game-changing draft in 2009 when they welcomed Stephen Curry. Curry and Klay Thompson formed a duo dubbed the “Splash Brothers” by fans.
The Splash Brothers brought the NBA title back to S.F. in 2015. After Kevin Durant joined the team in 2016, the Golden State Warriors gained two more titles before moving on to the Brooklyn Nets in 2019.
Los Angeles Lakers
Based in: Los Angeles
Currently play at: Staples Center
First year in NBA: 1958
NBA titles: 17
Notable players: Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol
This California NBA team earned its esteemed reputation fair and square thanks to its rich history dating back to the 1940s. Previously known as the Detroit Gems and Minneapolis Lakers, the team relocated to L.A. in 1960. However, there’s no doubt that the most exciting years in Lakers history took place after this move. Holding the all-time record for wins (3,125) and NBA finals appearances (32), the Lakers’ colorful history is tough to summarize.
We can loosely break down the LA Lakers’ significant eras in NBA history in the following way:
- The Baylor/West/Chamberlain era, which lasted from 1968–1975
- The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Magic Johnson/Showtime era, which lasted from 1975–1996
- The Kobe/Shaq era, which lasted from 1996–2016
- The LeBron James/Davis era, which started in 2016
Across these eras, the Lakers have scored 11 titles.
As a basketball fan, rooting for a team like the Lakers is as good as it gets. Always competitive, constantly on the lookout for the next best draft, and very loyal to their local fans—this California basketball team set a gold standard in NBA history.
Based in: Sacramento
Currently play at: Golden 1 Center
First year in NBA: 1985
NBA titles: 1
Notable players: Mitch Richmond, Oscar Robertson, Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic
The Sacramento Kings are the only team in the major professional North American sports leagues located in Sacramento. Although this California NBA team relocated to Sacramento in 1985, its history goes back further than the 1980s. The Kings were initially known as Rochester Royals, then Kansas City Royals, followed by Kansas City Kings.
This California basketball team has always been in a sort of developmental phase. They’ve only experienced seven seasons with a winning record in their 30-plus years in the Golden State. Their most notable team was the one formed in 2002. However, the year remains in Kings fans’ memories as somewhat bittersweet. Many fans believed that the league actually wanted the Lakers to win the series.
Overall, this California basketball team has had a pretty interesting history full of highs and lows. Shaquille O'Neal—despite the rivalry between the Lakers and Kings—became part owner of the Sacramento Kings when the team was sold back in 2013.
Los Angeles Clippers
Based in: Los Angeles
Currently play at: Staples Center
First year in NBA: 1984
NBA titles: 0
Notable players: Bob McAdoo, Randy Smith, Elton Brand, Blake Griffin, Kawhi Leonard
The Los Angeles Clippers’ most notable years definitely came in 1984 after their big move from San Diego. Similar to the Sacramento Kings, this California basketball team has also been in an ongoing developmental phase—scoring 10 winning seasons in the last three decades.
Still young and growing, the Clippers have shown steady growth and improvement since they drafted Blake Griffin in 2009. The progress continued with the arrival of Chris Paul and the so-called “Lob City” era—a nickname the team earned due to a comment made by Griffin.
The future seems promising for the L.A. Clippers. This California NBA team has one of the best playoff performers in league history, Kawhi Leonard. With him on the team, the Clippers have a bigger chance than ever to win their first NBA title.
College basketball teams in the Golden State
The Golden State has a rich history in producing some of the best talents in the sports industry—including top female and uber-famous Black athletes. What the state is also known for is having one of the world’s best college athletic programs. One of the most exciting sports events in the country is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament taking place in March. The tournament gets so competitive that it earned the nickname “March Madness.”
Nearly 19,000 student-athletes take part in men's college basketball tournaments—over 4,000 players become NBA draft-eligible. However, each year, only 60 players get drafted.
The top college basketball teams in California include:
- University of California, Los Angeles
- University of Southern California
- Stanford University
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of California, Davis
- University of San Francisco
- University of California, San Diego
- Loyola Marymount University
- California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo
- California Polytechnic University, Pomona
You may also like
Whether you’re a San Francisco native or visitor, these unique destinations will keep you entertained with fun rainy-day activities....Read more
Poppies, lavender, and sunflowers adorn the state’s fields and farms, inviting you to admire them in full bloom....Read more
While cheap trips to Disneyland take a bit of extra planning, your time will be well-spent when you save hundreds …...Read more
Whether you're searching for indoor or outdoor climbing adventures, check out the ultimate guide to California's rock climbing spots....Read more