It’s the middle of September and we’re mired in the deadest dead of the NBA calendar, when guys are just trying to get their last few moments of training and relaxation in before the grind of the season. If it weren’t for Twitter and guys keeping us updated with all the dumb things they’re doing, we’d have nothing but the classic “15 pounds of muscle” and “looks better than ever” to talk about around these parts. No fun. Instead, we get to giggle at guys enjoying their final weeks of partying and a basketball internet filled with completely subjective and utterly meaningless lists.

All of which is to say, I hope you enjoy this completely subjective and utterly meaningless list.

When we talk about what makes a player cool, it’s basically impossible to describe. That’s going to make this paragraph really fun to read, I know, but I think we all have a basic grasp on the concept. It’s some combination of charisma, accolades, talent, personality and mystique. On-court performance and style play in to this to, but as FreeDarko explained for years, probably not as must as you’d think. Simply put, there are just some guys in the league that are cooler than others. You know who the coolest guys in the league are even if you can’t explain it.

For instance, LeBron James was at his coolest when he was coming in to the NBA, before he took so much criticism and (more importantly) responded to that criticism. It’s hard for the best player in the league to be the coolest player in the league, since there is so much spotlight on them that it’s hard to be anything other than a superstar. Shaquille O’Neal was never the coolest player in the league and neither was Kobe Bryant. Michael Jordan was, even though Sam Perkins was a pretty close second. The sometimes unfair demands of being the top player in the NBA — mass marketability, grace in the media, not outwardly being a jerk or goofball — make it basically impossible for that guy to double as the coolest player in the league.

Trying to be the coolest player in the league doesn’t help either, which is why Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t at the top of this list. For whatever reason, consciously courting cool just doesn’t work. To be cool, you just have to be cool (shoutout to Uma Thurman) without really trying. As Channing Tatum said in “21 Jump Street,” trying hard is for nerds, which I understand is the least cool reference that could possibly be made with the exception of that Uma Thurman/”Be Cool” one from earlier. But then again, the concept of this whole thing is pretty uncool. C’est la vie.

Nonetheless, here is one bro’s guess at who the 10 coolest players in the NBA are, with some reasons for their selection.

1. James Harden — This is kind of an easy pick for me, as he’s at the peak of his power in every way, shape and form. He’s a great player who is fun to watch and didn’t even take that big of a beating for not showing up in the Finals, he looks awesome and he is a 23-year-old enjoying being 23 years old as much as possible. Does James Harden care if you see him wearing a leopard print cowboy hat and dookie chain while partying shirtless with a dozen women? No, because he’s wearing a leopard print cowboy hat and dookie chain while partying shirtless with a dozen women. And unlike a lot of the other swaggy bros in the league, he’s actually pretty well-dressed.

2. Dwyane Wade — Feels like he would have topped this list for a few seasons during his prime, but injuries and constantly complaining to referees has hurt his cause just a little bit. But still, he’s dating Gabrielle Union, which is a major coup, and he’s kind of the first guy to have made it his mission to outdress the other guys in the league. Sure, that sometimes leads to him looking like a putz, but that’s just collateral damage.

3. Stephen Jackson157 players played more minutes per game last season than Stephen Jackson did, but I guarantee you think about StackJack way more often than guys like Alonzo Gee, Elton Brand and Ben Gordon. Of all the players in the league, he might be the one who cares the least what anyone thinks about him. Plus, he’s also the guy who’s most likely to get in an honest-to-goodness fight, which certainly helps.

4. Kevin Durant — Do you realize how hard it is to be one of the best players in the league, want to release a rap mixtape and not have everyone roll their eyes? Especially during a summer when you made a movie that somehow didn’t lead to you being a joke around the league. When Shaq did both of those things in the early stages of his career, he got blasted for not being serious enough about basketball AND for making horrible entertainment choices. It was a two-pronged blasting. Somehow, that hasn’t happened with Durant.

5. Rajon Rondo — I don’t even like Rajon Rondo, but I’ll admit that the way he carries himself and seems to hate every other person associated with the league who is not Josh Smith is kind of awesome. He’s like a 1970s Clint Eastwood character.

6. Manu Ginobili — Chalk this one up wholly to mystique. Manu showed up as a 25-year-old rookie after being a 57th draft pick and then immediately became one of the league’s most exciting and effective players, all while rocking a legitimate bald spot. Who does that? A decade in to his career, he’s still an almost completely unique player who has only been replicated once, by the guy who’s No. 1 on this list. Mad props, even if the flopping pushes him down the list a bit.

7. Tony Allen — Once upon a time, Tony Allen blew out his knee dunking after buzzer, immediately becoming a laughingstock around the league. Now, he gets interviewed about what the nonsensical ramblings on his Twitter really mean and makes All-Defensive first teams while guarding the league’s best scorer with his hands literally behind his back, just because it’s more fun that way. He is our generation’s Ron Artest and might not even be the coolest Tony Allen in existence.

8. Steve Nash — Steve Nash is the undeniable all-time face of the Phoenix Suns’ franchise to the point that when you think of the Phoenix Suns, you think of Nash first. Of course, this summer, he accepted and encouraged a trade to the Suns’ archrival in order to chase a title and people were OK with it. Sure, they might think it’ll be weird to see Nash in a Lakers uniform, but at the same time they’re like, “Good for him. You get that title, Steve.” You have to have massive street cred to be able to pull that off.

9. Russell Westbrook — Our third Thunder in the top 10, which should tell you something about their team. For me, Russell is here because of the way he’s become more and more Russell Westbrook as people have been calling for him to tone it down. That takes some brass. The wacky shirts and pants are already kind of tired, but everything else is pretty tough.

10. Joakim Noah — Bit of a homer pick, I’ll admit. However, I can’t imagine too many people will disagree that Noah’s entire urban hippy, doesn’t-care-what-anyone-thinks approach to everything is pretty refreshing. You might hate him on the court and the way his hair looks and the way he dances, but that’s of no concern to him. Also, during the summers, he does things like this all the time because that’s what he wants to do.

Honorable mention: LeBron James, Josh Smith, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Jamaal Tinsley, Quentin Richardson, Nick Young

So those are my 10 coolest players in the league, the ranking of which is an inherently uncool exercise. Let’s hear yours in the comments.

Comments (81)

  1. completely disagree about Wade

    • Agreed. He should be an Honourable Mention at best.

    • Completely agree with you. A few years ago he was mad cool. He had a ring, scoring title, gabriel union and rumors about crazy orgies in his boat. Now he’s writing about parenthood. And how crappy must his lawyer be? He got full custody! Before divorce he was probably rockin 50% coverage 30% of the time, now he’s rocking 100% coverage 100% of the time

  2. Snubbed: Roy Hibbert. Boring center, ya, but still hangs out with the Parks & Rec staff. Well, Chelsea Peretti. Chill bro in my book.

  3. blake griffin’s not even honorable mention worthy? that one kia commercial with the creepy electric mirror mimic should at least have him in the 9-10 range.

  4. The definition of coolness seems pretty loose (extremely loose, in fact) in this top 10, but it’s entirely excusable because it’s a very tough thing to explain, being cool.

    I probably would’ve had Steve Nash closer to the top, but the rest of the selections, if we don’t care about the order, is pretty solid.

  5. Kevin Love is hilarious- he should be on here. By the way, this would be an outstanding Blank Jones podcast.

  6. Landry Fields seems like a pretty cool guy….plus he’s got a hot girlfriend

  7. Landry Fields had to be on this list since he sells hiy own jersey
    And hes a great singer as well c’mon

  8. The correct answer is Dirk Nowitzki.

  9. Yup. Props to harden for making hipster work in the nba. And good call on lebron. A year ago, he would’ve qualified for that ‘trying hard to be cool’ list as he was trying desperately to regain his league darling status. But then this season he said ‘fuck public opinion’ and went on to dominate the entire basketball world, which would make him pretty cool by your definition, but not top 10 worthy (yet).

    I would put nash a little higher on the list, though, as BaraChat suggested. And give blake griffin a mention.

  10. Great list Trey, though, naturally I have a few quibbles.

    First Dwayne Wade is way way WAY too high on this list. It doesn’t matter how many pairs of skin-tight pink pants you own, you simply can’t bitch to the refs/ fall down after every play and still be cool. So, yeah, no D-Wade. Also when he complains he just looks like a big baby. He should take some pointers from Kobe on this one. When Kobe doesn’t like a call he looks murderous.

    And also there’s no way Lebron deserves an honourable mention. Complete beast? Yes. Destroyers of Worlds? Absolutely. But cool? Hell No! I mean everyone and there dog knows that black guys tend to look pretty damn cool with shaved heads. And yet…well as always the Chuckster said it best:

    I think James Harden deserves to be in the top 10 but not number 1. I think you can only be so cool when you are really trying to be cool, like Harden. This is why hipstas aren’t ever as cool as they think they are.

    I’d probably put Rondo in at number 1, for the same reasons you have him at number 5. Your Clint Eastwood comparison is dead on though I feel like he’s Grand Torino Clint, not Dirty Harry Clint. -Yeah, I keep my mouth guard in my uniform. So what? I’m old and I’ll do what I damn well please! He’s so cranky and he obviously doesn’t give a flying you-know-what about what anyone thinks. Also I feel like he plays basketball to amuse himself. Tip offs are boring and repetitive so let’s make them fun :

    And the scorn, you’re dead on about the scorn I feel that every time he gets someone with one of his ridiculous fakes he says ‘look at that fool’ to himself. So, yeah Rondo at number 1.

    How could you, of all people, leave Derrick Rose of this list? For me he’s top 3, for the same reason Tom Thibodeau is one of the coolest coaches in the league. His decision NOT to dance during the intros (and his explanation afterwards) was easily one of the coolest things from last season.

    One final gripe. Where’s Pretty Tricky Ricky? Are you saving him for your most adorable list? (Ricky takes spots 1-10)

  11. You guys are overrating Blake Griffin and being on the Lakers makes it hard to be cool.

  12. Steve Nash should be higher up in the list only because of that video of the Laker fans handing him a keystone light on the freeway.

  13. Wilson Chandler.

  14. Although I love Tony Allen and thoroughly enjoy every word that comes out of his mouth, I would like to replace either #7 or #9 with a homer pick of my own.

    Dirk is so cool. He’s probably the most laid-back dude in Texas – while Dallas was courting D.Will hardcore, Dirk came on the radio and was like, “Yeah, D.Will, cool, yeah, would be cool.” The future? His last two seasons? Ehh…laid back.

    Not that he cares what you think, but Dirk also majorly upgraded his plus one while you weren’t looking.

    He is also perhaps the greatest color commentator of all time, and he only did it once.

  15. Oh, and what about Pekovic?! He has to crack the top 10. They play the Godfather theme when he scores & I feel like in another life he would have had a successful career in the *ahem* cleaning business.

  16. Harden is all beard … all beard. Amir Johnson is a cool MF.

  17. Jeff Teague is a pretty cool guy. eh runs fast and doesnt afraid of anything

  18. In no particular order:

    James Harden, Ty Lawson, Roy Hibbert, Steve Nash, Iman Shumpert, JaVale McGee, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, and Kevin Garnett.

  19. My homer pic is KG. He’s a pretty bad ass foul-mouth cool mo fo. I disagree with D-Wade, but mostly because I hate him with the white hot passion of a billion suns. Agree w/James Harden being #1.

  20. This list is corny and faux hipster, Kirby.

    I respect you and all, but bleh.

    1. Kobe – most simultaneously respected and hated on player in the entire league. That’s always a hallmark of ‘cool’

    2. Rondo- Doesn’t date models. Plays for Celtics. Quit Team USA. Doesn’t buddy up with other superstars. Doesn’t try to fit in.

    3. Tie

    Blake Griffin – Commercially accessible. Dunks a lot. Tall, muscular, funny, mixed race – very American. Can fit in any circle.

    Russel Westbrook – Fashion crazy, very athletic. Hot head, headstrong. Hated on by many defended by many.

    4. Dirk – Dirk can fit anywhere on this list because NOBODY dislikes him. He parties hard, too hard. He doesn’t seem to care too much about anything, and he beat Lebron at his supposed “most evil” time. Dirk is becoming a legend, personality wise and play wise, the longer he plays in the NBA. You cannot be a “coolest” player in the NBA without being better than most of your peers.

    5. Indie Pick- Ricky Rubio. The new darling of the NBA.

    • You spelled my name wrong, so I’m not reading the rest of your inaccurate list.

      • agreed… soft in the paint with your list tray. your list looks like what david stern calls cool. Harden is a turrrible pick because he fancies himself a hardass but is indiscriminate with the floptacity (floptivity?)… he belongs on the anti-cool team with dwight, lebron, harrison barnes, kg, peirce, bynum, scalabrine, perkins with . all cool team: rondo, kobe, klove, most of the denver nuggets, blake griffin, lamar odom, metta world peace, andray blatche (LAP DANCE CHEWSDAYS)

      • Kerbs you totes disrespected my list because of Kobe!!

  21. ‘Your comment is awaiting moderation’?

    I promise I’m not trying to sell anyone a new (or lightly used and incredibly affordable) vacuum.

  22. Chandler Parsons and Royce White. /thread

  23. Harvard basketball on the rise!

  24. He’s not there yet, but keep an eye on Iman Shumpert. Eye-man Shumpert. (sorry, I couldn’t pass it up) anyways, He’s still got a long career ahead of him, but yeah, I think he’s starting out pretty cool.

  25. Rondo somehow looks really cool when roller-skating, so he’s #1 on my list.

  26. I think CP3 should get a nod here. You love to play with him if he’s on your team, you hate to play against him, yet everyone loves him off the court. He won’t let you pat him on the head. He’s got a grown man style off the court especially when wearing really tall hats. And he’s got great podium game (see: his son’s Blake Griffin face and calling up Swaggy P to clown his outfit).

  27. Missing are Kevin Love and SUPERCOOL BEAS!

  28. Kendall Marshall is going to win cool rookie of the year with ease.

  29. Harden seems like he’d be a cool guy to hang out with, but I wouldn’t call him cool. A big part of being cool is not caring what other people think, and he obviously tries too hard. Same with his teammate Westbrook.

    My pick for # 1 is Stephen Jackson, because he makes love to pressure.

  30. John Wall should be in there with the dance alone! Shumpert should have been in the honorable mentions.

  31. Wow, the NBA’s douch at number 2, odd choice. Harden is clearly not cool – no edge about the guy AT ALL. Jackson is a good choice though, but why no love for Chris Bosh?

  32. Plus, Derrick Rose should get an automatic top 5 placing for refusing to dance at the All Star game.

  33. feel like royce white is already on my list.

    also brandon roy is pretty cool in spite of his weird chin.

    agree with everyone else about dirk. he’s always dressed like he’s just been out snowboarding or something. great aesthetic.

    feel like dwayne wade is the least cool person of all time maybe. such a jerk.

    t-mac is still cool to me. i mean, it’s pretty great that his last name is mcgrady.

    oh and baron davis obviously. so cool. he is cool in the way wade wishes he was. did you see how davis was wearing his knicks uniform last season? he was actually taking the piss. just wearing his shorts real real high and sporting his socks at crazy mid-lengths. real cool guy.

    great call with manu and joakim. the fact that noah is like the only nba player ever to be sponsered by le coq sportiff is reason enough for him to be on the list. and ginobili is a lock given there’s a highlight video of him set to the scientist by coldplay. enough said, right?

    oh and rudy fernandez. so cool. the basketball morrissey.

    you should rank the nba franchises in order of coolness. feel like the timberwolves are making bloody great leaps forward.

  34. I nominate Delonte West and Jason Terry. I also have a soft spot for Nikola Pekovic, who ironically doesn’t have a single soft spot himself .

    This is the uncoolest he gets, and he’s still pretty cool:

  35. Harden? Seriously? Why isn’t Brian Scalabrine on the top of this list? HE GETS MVP CHANTS ON THE ROAD!!!!!!!

  36. Wade is not cool at all.

    Chauncey Billups is still one of the coolest cats in the league.

  37. Ugh. Stupid article & even stupider comments. If you already pointed out that what’s NOT cool is lame teenagers on sports stars’ jock, why write the stupid article at all? Buncha BS Beiberism.

  38. kevin love? the same idiot who just stood there while team usa celebrated? no.

  39. also, canadians and germans are automatically barred from the cool list.

  40. Definitely agree on Rondo and Westbrook. Disagree on Wade.

    No love for Crocodile Kyrie?

  41. what about nick young?
    or is his too much of a douchebag cool

  42. two guys getting slept on in this thread:

    1. “Paul Pierce is the f*cking truth.” Shaq said it better than anyone

    2. Uncle Drew himself, Mr. Kyrie Irving. Guys a baller

    • That is a really good point – Paul Pierce is uber-cool, he has to be on there. The guy looks super chilled at all times, is an absolute assassin on the court, is from LA but Celtics fans love him, he talks s*** on the court and has swagger when he does it, was stabbed and almost died but came back to become one of the best basketball players of the last decade. The guy is just awesome and oozes cool – he may actually be the coolest player in the NBA – to compare James Harden to him is just a joke – like I dare anyone not to laugh at the thought of doing so.

  43. How about Metta World Peace?

  44. Metta World Peace?

  45. Love Stephen Jackson and Westbrook on there. Like you said, they just play their game and don’t care about the criticism

  46. Timmy has to be on this list, nobody cares less about criticism. He just plays his game the way he always played it..

  47. Needs more Kyrie Irving

  48. Nick Young, he gets bitches

  49. LOL The manu description just made me spit out my food. Well done, Well done.

  50. Rondo is the only dude that can be in the top 10 cool list and the top 10 douche list

  51. LeBron’s gotta be number 1. He holds special parties in secret Vegas that he co-host with Kanye AND he’s best friends with Jay-Z. I hate the guy but how can u say a guy that has access to secret Vegas isn’t cool. Before him we didn’t even know there was a secret Vegas.
    Eric Maynor’s gotta be somewhere in this list. He went to high school with J.Cole and Cole’s one of the coolest dudes who ever lived. They were teammates too. The went to the same lame house parties. Some of Cole’s coolness had to rub off on maynor.
    Where’s brandon jennings? The guy had a 55 point game as a rookie. He had an epic flat top in HS and he told the NCAA to f*ck off and went to europe insteam. Most importantly, he’s lead the league in Swagger Doubles since he entered the league

  52. ALL you guys forgot Arthur Fonzarelli.

  53. Scal has to make the list, no Wade, Nash higher.

  54. How can nobody mention Jason Terry?? I mean getting the 2010-11 championship tattooed on your body before the season has even begun while being a MAJOR underdog then winning it while playing awesome has to give a million coolness points. He also has a cool nickname and is one of the few guys proving than a combo guard can be truly successful.

  55. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So good to search out any individual with some unique ideas on this subject. realy thank you for beginning this up. this website is one thing that is wanted on the net, someone with somewhat originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  56. Ray Allen??? And take Wade off and put Nick Young on. Now there’s a list!!!

  57. Once I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there any manner you possibly can take away me from that service? Thanks!

  58. The following time I learn a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I imply, I know it was my choice to read, however I really thought youd have one thing fascinating to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you possibly can fix in case you werent too busy searching for attention.

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