The 7 NBA stars who love to play poker

Pierce is starting to make waves in the world of pokerThere are basketball players who have made the leap (pardon the pun) into the movies and there are even those that got into music with, shall we say, interesting results – we’re looking at you Mr. Shaquille O’Neal.

Then there the players who have taken up another sport. No, we’re not going to mention Michael Jordan’s questionable foray into the world of baseball. What we’re talking about today are the NBA stars, current and former, who excel at poker and casino games, or at the very least, love to put some money on the line. 

Yes, we know you’re thinking is poker considered a sport? We can understand why there’s some confusion around it, but none of these players have actually turned pro at the tables yet so, until they do, we’ll leave the ‘did they cross-over from one sport to another?’ debate for another day. 

For the sake of this post, we’re calling poker a sport. We’re expanding on our NBA players that love poker post from a few years ago and adding a few other hoopers that have a passion for poker  

David Lee

A 2015 NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors, Lee has achieved what many pro basketball players have not in their relatively short careers. Now retired from the game, Lee has a little more time to focus on his other notable skill which is playing poker. 

We say notable skill because Lee is a pretty damn fine poker player. In fact, he once took $32,000 off poker legend Phil Helmuth. In case you don’t know, Helmuth holds the record for most World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets, with 15 to his name, so taking him down for $32k is quite the impressive feat. 

Shawn Marion 

Here with fellow NBA’er Mike Bibby, Marion is using his status and love of poker for a good cause

We know him as The Matrix, the man who helped the Dallas Mavericks to their first ever NBA championship, but he’s also a bit of a poker fiend in his spare time. Marion has played in quite a few poker tournaments across the states. There was a time when we thought he might turn pro, but he seems happy enough to just have some fun. 

Marion has used his celebrity status and love of poker for good by hosting celebrity charity poker events through his Shawn Marion Foundation. It’s always good to see stars using their status to help those in need. 

Earl Barron

Barron’s basketball career didn’t follow the usual draft route. He played in Turkey, the Philippines and the D-League before he finally got his big break with Miami Heat. He won a championship ring in 2006 and, interestingly enough, it was at this point that he discovered his love for poker. 

Since retiring from the NBA, Barron has dedicated himself to poker and now plays regularly at World Poker Tour events. He played in the WSOP Millionaire Maker event, finishing 613rd out of 7,275 entries. Not bad if you ask us. He’s still working hard at his poker and could easily enter the ranks as a pro in the not too distant future. Watch this space. 

Pierce is starting to make waves in the world of poker

Paul Pierce

Pierce is a Boston Celtics legend. Having won the NBA with the Celtics in 2008, he cemented himself in Boston folklore forever more. He spent the final three seasons of his career at three different teams, the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, and the Los Angeles Clippers before hanging up his boots. But that doesn’t mean the 10-time NBA All-Star is taking it easy. Since retiring, Pierce has made the poker table his own. 

He has been spotted playing poker everywhere, and even played on the TV show Poker After Dark. He won the pot of $40,000 in a high stakes all-cash game of Texas Hold’em. He also took $30,000 off Hollywood producer Randall Emmett on the same show. During his playing days, Pierce even managed to enter the WSOP main event in 2014, and made it through to the 3rd day before busting out. Impressive stuff from ‘The Truth’. 

Tony Parker

TP and wife now spend most of their time in Europe

The French-American former pro is a four-time NBA champion, winning all of his championships with the San Antonio Spurs. Interestingly, having represented France at the highest level, Parker now owns a share in French team ASVEL and has recently become the majority shareholder in Lyon Basket Feminin of the French women’s basketball league. He also released a hip-hop album in France (watch out Shaq). 

But what about the poker? Well, Parker is really into his poker and has been spotted playing the game everywhere from Vegas to Paris. He became so enamored by the game that he even signed a sponsorship deal with a poker provider in, yes you guessed it, France. It may be some time before we see him at any WTP events though, as the man is seriously busy with all of ventures. 

Tim Duncan 

The assistant coach at San Antonio Spurs, Duncan spent his entire career at the Spurs, where he won five NBA championships, four of which were alongside Tony Parker. He also won a bronze medal at the Olympics for the US national team and is pretty much as close to being a basketballing legend as you can get. 

But those four NBA championships aren’t the only things he shares with former teammate Parker. Duncan is a massive poker fan and spends a lot of his free time at the tables, or playing home games with his buddies. His skills are so impressive that Phil Helmuth (him again) labeled him as one of the best poker players in the NBA. High praise indeed from a living poker legend. 

Russell Westbrook 

But perhaps the highest praise possible goes to Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook. Helmuth says that the eight-time NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medal winner is one of the most professional amateur poker players he has ever come across. 

Indeed, Westbrook spends a lot of his time away from basketball looking for card rooms where he can indulge his passion for poker. At only 30 years of age, Westbrook still has plenty to offer the NBA, but with his poker skills clearly setting him apart from other basketball pros, it’s possible that we might see Russell in the WSOP at some point in the future. 

Honorable mentions go out to Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Andrew Bogut, who have all been known to get involved in charity poker events, but who have yet to show the same dedication to the sport (yes, it’s a sport) as the players above. 


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