Don Nelson: Career, Net Worth & More

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Don Nelson, also known as Donald Arvid Nelson, is a former American professional basketball player born in Muskegon, Michigan.

Nelson is one of the players who used to play in his mid-90s career. The Chicago Zephyrs drafted Nelson in round 3 of the 17th overall pick. In 1962, the sportsman started his career as a professional basketball player in the small forward position.

The former player held the record for most wins for almost 12 years during his career. Now he is continuing his career as a coach.

Don Nelson, a former player and coach
Don Nelson during his international career (Source: Twitter)

On the other hand, Nelson also represented himself in his national team career apart from his international career. He grew up with his family and two sisters learning basketball and shooting in the chicken yard.

Apart from this, can you guess the net worth of a person who has been in a basketball career for a long time?

Well, Nelson’s net worth is million of dollars. He is currently earning $15 million annually.

Let’s quickly jump into interesting facts about Don Nelson without further due. 

Quick Facts 

Full Name Donald Arvid Nelson
Known As Don Nelson
Birth Date May 15, 1940
Age 84 years old
Place of Birth Muskegon, Michigan 
Country United States
Profession Former Basketball Player, Coach
Horoscope Taurus
Nationality American
Father’s Name Arvid Nelson
Mother’s Name Agnes Nelson
Siblings Two siblings
High School Rock Island
College Lowa University
Height 6ft 6 in (approx 1.98 m)
Weight 95 kg (approx 210 lbs)
Body Type Athlete
Position Small Forward 
Draft 1962
Marital Status Married
Spouse Joy Wolfgram 
Children Name Donnie Nelson
Net Worth $30 Million
Salary $15 Million 
Active Years (As Player) 14 Years
Social Media Not Available 
Merch Don Nelson Signed Card
Last Update June 2024

Early Life, Parents & Education 

Don Nelson, a former American basketball player, was born on May 15, 1940. He was born to Arvid Nelson (father) and Agnes Nelson (mother). His father, Arvid, used to work at the Rock Island Arsenal. 

As mentioned earlier, he grew up with his two sisters in Sherrard, Illinois. Nelson started playing basketball in the chicken yard during his childhood.

Moreover, he was very passionate about basketball. He also made a spokeless bicycle wheel as a basket where he could practice shooting.

An former coach in family picture
An American former coach, Don Nelson, with his family (Source:

On the other hand, Nelson completed his school at Rock Island High School. During his school, he used to go to the YMCA for practice.

Nelson used to learn basketball under the guidance of coach Bob Riley. As a junior, 12.6 was the average score of Nelson. He also played against Moline High School and Ottawa High School. 

Besides that, his father always wanted him to become a watch repairman. Arvid didn’t see any potential in basketball in Nelson. But Nelson kept on chasing his dream to be an international basketball player. 


College Career 

After playing throughout his school career, Nelson started playing in his sophomore year. He started playing under coach Schuerman at Lowa University. 

Nelson had an average score of 15.8 points and 10.0 rebounds during his first season at Lowa. But he was also involved in the 1961 college basketball gambling scandal and was compelled to left Lowa for some time.

However, Nelson was never charged with the crime but later was reinstated by the NBA. On the other hand, he finished second in the Big Ten Conference with an 18-6 record in Lowa. 

He was also a responsible player for his teammate and was always praised for his brilliant gameplay. 

In conclusion, Nelson became the all-time leading scorer for Lowa University. 21.1 points and 10.9 rebounds were the scores during his college career.

Professional Career 

Nelson started his professional career with the Chicago Zephyrs in 1962. However, he played only one season for the Zephyrs averaging 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. 

Then Nelson was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. He played 80 games for the Lakers under the guidance of Fred Schaus.

He also played with the hall of fame players like Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. 

On October 28, 1965, Nelson signed with the Boston Celtics as a free agent. He also helped the Celtics to win many championships. 

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In 1968, he averaged a score of 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists, taking the Celtics to win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Championship. 

In addition, Nelson helped the Celtics secure to 11th title in 13 seasons, including Nelson’s third title with the Celtics. 

Boston Celtics was the last international team Nelson played for. Between 1974 to 1976, he successfully won the fifth title of the NBA championship with the Celtics. 9.1 points and 2.9 rebounds were the average scores of Nelson in the playoffs. 

Coaching Career

After announcing his retirement from the international team as a player, Nelson decided to continue his career as a coach. 

He began his assistant coaching career with his former 1974 NBA final opponent Milwaukee Bucks. A year after coaching, Nelson was promoted to general manager of Bucks.

Don Nelson as a coach
Don Nelson as a head coach in his career (Source:

He started dealing with players with the first trade of Swen Nater with Marques Johnson. On November 25, 1977, he managed to hit the greatest comeback in NBA history. Nelson’s team made the difference of 29 points win in the last quarter.

Soon after coaching 11 seasons for the Bucks, he decided to leave the team. Besides that, he was named the NBA Coach of the Year in 1983 and 1985. 

Moreover, he became the third coach to win 1000 games in NBA history on December 29, 2011. Nelson also broke the record victory of 1333 career games, passing Lenny Wilkens.

To sum up, Nelson finished his career with a regular-season victory of 1335 games. 

Honors about Don Nelson’s Career 

  • 1973, Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame (as a player)
  • 1983, Des Moines Sunday Register’s Iowa Sports Hall of Fame 
  • 1989, Nominated to the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012 

Don Nelson | International Teams

As a Player  

  • Chicago Zephyrs (1962-1963)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (1963-1965)
  • Boston Celtics (1965-1976)

As a Coach

  • Milwaukee Bucks (Assistant Coach – 1976)
  • Milwaukee Bucks (1976-1988)
  • Golden State Warriors (1988-1995)
  • New York Knicks (1995-1996)
  • Dallas Mavericks (1997-2005)
  • Golden State Warrior (2006-2010)

Awards and Achivements 

As a Player 

  • 5x NBA champion (1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976)
  • No. 19 was retired by Boston Celtics
  • Third-team All-American – AP, NABC, UPI (1962)

As a Coach 

  • 3x NBA Coach of the Year (1983, 1985, 1992)
  • 2x NBA All-Star Game head coach (1992, 2002)
  • Top 10 Coaches in NBA History
  • Top 15 Coaches in NBA History

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Don Nelson | Age, Height & Weight 

The person who spent his entire life in basketball, Don Nelson, was born on May 15, 1940. Every year he celebrates his birthday in May. Currently, he is 84 years old.

According to the reports, Nelson stands tall at 6ft 6 in (approx 1.98 m). 

With the perfect height as an athlete and maintaining a good balance diet, his body weighs around 95 kg (approx 210 lbs). 

Net Worth & Property

One of the richest former coaches, Don Nelson, has spent most of his life playing basketball. Nelson has earned most of his income from the same field. Currently, he has a whopping net worth of $30 million and an annual salary of $15 million. 

Besides that, Nelson has also listed his stunning Hawaii home to get sold for $15 million. The house was located on Haena Point. This has also helped him to earn extra income. 

Now, Nelson spends most of the time on Maui, where he also owns his property in the town of Paia.  

Relationship and Affairs

Ex-Wife | Sharon Nelson 

Don Nelson, an American former professional basketball player, and head coach, also had to face marriage controversy in his life. 

Nelson first got married to Sharon Nelson, an American politician from the state of Washington. The couple together also have one son, Donnie Nelson.

Due to some circumstances, the couple got divorced in 1989. According to the documents, Nelson has made an annual installment worth $50,000 to Sharon Nelson since they divorced. 

The divorce issues remained active until 2013 as Nelson tried to reduce the money he sent to his ex-wife, Sharon Nelson. 

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Present Wife | Joy Wolfgram 

After the divorce from Sharon Nelson, Don Nelson got married to Joy Wolfgram at the Oakland Coliseum in 1991. 

With that, the couple is blessed with six children. However, the children’s names are not revealed on the internet except for Donnie Nelson. 

A former coach with his wife
Don Nelson with his beloved wife, Joy Wolfgram (Source:

Besides that, Don Nelson also has fifteen grandchildren. 


What is the profession of Don Nelson’s son Donnie Nelson? 

From the first marriage with Sharon Nelson, he has a son, Donnie Nelson. Donnie also followed in his father’s footsteps, and he is working as general manager for Dallas Mavericks. 

What is Don Nelson doing after retiring from basketball as a head coach? 

After spending many years on the basketball field as a player and a coach, Nelson now has a farm to grow flowers, coffee, and cannabis in Maui. 

Moreover, he also hosts local poker games with some celebrities like Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson, and Owen Wilson. 

Is Don Nelson also a social worker? 

Apart from his basketball career, Nelson also established the Don Nelson Fund along with the Milwaukee Bucks to help struggling farmers in Wisconsin. 

In addition, Nelson donated $11000 1986 NBA Playoffs bonus compensation to the Wisconsin dairy farmer. 

Sanjib Sah
Sanjib Sah
Sanjib Sah is an engineer and content writer passionate about sports and athletics. With a background in engineering and a love for all things active, Sanjib brings a unique perspective to the world of sports writing. Whether he is covering the latest trends in sports technology or sharing tips on improving your game, Sanjib's words are always rooted in a deep appreciation for players' hard work and dedication everywhere. In his free time, you can find him hitting the courts or hitting the trails, always looking for new ways to challenge himself and improve his skills.

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