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NBA Players turned Politicians

With the recent unrest in America, a lot of current and former NBA players have made comments online and let their feelings and opinions be known. For some, this is seen as the players stepping out of their industry; for most it is just the players exercising their 1st Amendment rights. But, players getting political is nothing new. Many former athletes have left the court and gone on to have very successful political careers.

Most people will recognize that several former football players have made some very high profile runs of office. The most famous of these, and successful, is former University of Michigan star Gerald Ford. Ford served 25 years in the House of Representatives, before in 1973, being nominated by Richard Nixon to become the Vice President. When Nixon resigned the office following the Watergate scandal, Ford became the 38th President of the United States. Ford would lose his re-election bid in 1976 to Jimmy Carter.

Another famous football star, Jack Kemp ran for the office of vice-president in 1996 as the Republican challenger to Bill Clinton. Kemp, was a star quarterback for the Buffalo Bills who lead the Bills to two AFC championships, Kemp was selected by Bob Dole to be his running mate in 1996

Kemp and Dole would lose to Clinton, but it would not be the last time a former athlete would run for the nations highest office. In 2008 former Occidental guard, Barack Obama would run for the presidency and become the first African-American to be elected President of the United States.

Obama's basketball career was short-lived, if it existed at all, and he was not a star like Bill Bradley, Ford or Kemp. He is the most high profile politician who used to play basketball, but others have come before him and many more will come after.

Bill Bradley is one of the most high profile former NBA players to go on to have a successful political career. After serving in the military he went on to play for the Knicks from 1967-77, being a one-time all-star and winning two titles with the Knicks. After his career was done, he ran for office and in the political disgust following Watergate eventually was elected as a US Senator from New Jersey, serving from 1979 until 1997.

Another NBA star who went on to have a political career is former Pistons Star Dave Bing. Bing a hall-of-famer and 7 time all-star played in the NBA from 1966-1978. Following his career he stayed in the Detroit area and started a steel business. In 2009, following a corruption scandal involving the Mayor, Bing was one of several candidates who ran for the position. Bing won election as mayor of Detroit, but performed poorly in his duties and was not re-elected in 2013.

Another former NBA all-star that became a mayor is former Phoenix Suns guard Kevin Johnson. KJ was a 3-time all-star in his 12-year career with the Suns, and after his playing career he got into politics. In 2008 he ran for, and won, the mayor of Sacramento, California. Johnson would serve two terms as mayor and was a key player in the cities bid to retain the Sacramento Kings, by helping fund a new arena.

The US House has been represented by former NBA players as well. Tom McMillian played 11 years in the NBA, mostly with the Hawks and Bullets, as a role player. Following his career in 1986 he immediately ran for an open Maryland House seat, and narrowly won election. He would run 3 more times before finally being defeated in 1992. At 6'11" McMillian is believed to be the tallest Congressman Member ever, taller than Bradley and former Illinois House Member Abraham Lincoln who are both thought to be 6'5"

Former NBA players joining politics is not a new thing either. One of the games early pioneers, Morris King Udall, started a political dynasty in the west. Udall, who played for the Denver Nuggets during their NBL days, was a US House of Representatives member from 1961 until 1991. His son Mark was a senator for Colorado and his nephew Tom is currently a Senator from New Mexico

A lot of former players have less ambitious political asperations than Mayors, Senators or Presidents. Some just want to help their community, such as former NBA player Terry Dehere. Dehere had a brief NBA career lasting from 1994-1999, and immediately got into politics after his career was over. In 2001 he ran for a community council seat in New Jersey. He lost, but in 2007 ran again and was elected. He did not win re-election and has not ran for anything since.

Many other former players have thought about running, and some have and successfully too. But like Dehere, most run for smaller community offices where they feel that they can be more effective and held their communities.

With the platforms current players have it is likely that many more will run for office in the near future once their playing careers finish up.