Angel Blog

From the Court to Combat: NBA Players Who Have Served in the Military

In the fast-paced world of professional basketball, athletes are often idolized for their prowess on the court, their skillful maneuvers, and their dedication to the game. But beyond the confines of the basketball arena, some NBA players have shown exceptional courage and commitment by serving in the Military. These individuals not only excel in their athletic endeavors but also embody the values of service, sacrifice, and honor.

As March Madness sweeps the nation, we can’t help but wonder if any future players may make their mark on both the court and in combat. Keep reading to take a closer look at some past NBA players who have proudly served their country in the Military.

David Robinson

DoD official photo: David Robinson NBA player in the Military

David Robinson, famously known as “The Admiral,” is a basketball legend who played his entire NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs. Before dominating the hardwood, Robinson attended the United States Naval Academy, where he distinguished himself as a student-athlete. Upon graduation, he fulfilled his Military obligation by serving two years of Active Duty in the Navy. Despite his commitment to the Armed Forces, Robinson’s talent on the basketball court was undeniable, and he went on to have a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, winning two championships and numerous accolades.

Coniel “Connie” Norman

Connie Norman, though less known than some of his NBA counterparts, made significant contributions both on the basketball court and in the Military. Norman, a talented basketball player, played college basketball at Jackson State University before being drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the 1974 NBA Draft. However, before he could pursue his professional basketball career, Norman felt a calling to serve his country. He enlisted in the United States Army and served as a Green Beret in the Special Forces. Though his time in the NBA was brief, his legacy as a patriot and a basketball player serves as a testament to his character.

Elgin Baylor

Elgin Baylor is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, known for his remarkable scoring ability and innovative playing style. Before making his mark in the NBA with the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers, Baylor served as a Reservist in the United States Army. Despite his Military commitments, Baylor managed to play basketball during his service, competing for the Fort Lewis Army team and showcasing his extraordinary talent even before his professional career began.

Bill Bradley

Former US Sentor, NBA player, United States Air Force Reservist Bill Bradley

Bill Bradley’s illustrious career spans both the basketball court and the political arena. After a successful collegiate career at Princeton University, where he earned the nickname “Dollar Bill,” Bradley went on to play for the New York Knicks in the NBA. However, before joining the professional ranks, Bradley was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and served in the Air Force Reserve. Throughout his NBA career, Bradley balanced his military obligations with basketball, demonstrating his commitment to both service and sports.

Mike Silliman

Mike Silliman, another NBA player with a Military background, left an indelible mark both on the basketball court and in service to his country. Silliman, a standout athlete at the United States Naval Academy, where he played basketball, was known for his tenacity and skill. Following his college career, Silliman served in the United States Navy as a Lieutenant. Despite the demands of his Naval duties, Silliman’s passion for basketball persisted. He briefly played professional basketball for the Baltimore Bullets (now the Washington Wizards) before returning to serve in the Navy Reserve.

Honorable Mention: Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo is not only known for his shot-blocking prowess on the basketball court but also for his humanitarian efforts and commitment to service. Before embarking on his NBA career, Mutombo attended Georgetown University, where he played basketball and earned a degree in linguistics and diplomacy. Following his success in the NBA, Mutombo became heavily involved in charitable work and served as a global ambassador for the sport. In addition to his philanthropic endeavors, Mutombo has worked with various international organizations, including the United Nations, to promote peace and development. While he did not serve in the United States Military, we think his diplomatic efforts are worth the shout-out.

These NBA players who also served in the Military show that greatness extends beyond athletic achievement. Through their Military service, they have demonstrated courage, resilience, and a deep sense of duty to their country. Their stories inspire not only basketball fans but all who value service and sacrifice. As we cheer for our favorite players on the court, let us also remember and honor their contributions to something greater than the game itself.

If you work within the NBA and would like to learn more about opportunities to serve through support of Soldiers’ Angels programs, check out this blog post highlighting support from the 76ers.