The Top 5 Most Influential Cleveland Celebrities

Now the 48th largest city in the U.S., Cleveland, Ohio is best known for its diehard fans. This city goes all out for their NBA and NFL teams, the Cavaliers and the Browns, respectively. While most people at least know basic sports information when it comes to this metropolitan city, located on the southern shore of Lake Erie, that is too frequently where the knowledge stops.

But don’t be too quick to dismiss Cleveland, because it’s where many celebrities call home. Be on the lookout and you could get lucky and spot a few, recognizable faces. Famed actors Jon Lithgow and Hal Halbrook are both from Cleveland, as well as TV show hosts Drew Carey, Steve Harvey, and Phil Donahue.  Toni Morrison, a native of Lorain, is a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, having also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the U.S. government’s highest civilian honor.  Television actress Patricia Heaton, NFL legend Jim Brown, and Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor are all natives of this Midwestern gem.

These five Cleveland-area natives—or former residents—top our list of living legends.

Lebron James

Lebron James By David Herrera, CC BY 2.0, Link

How could we not name Lebron James as number one on the list of top Cleveland celebrities. Probably one of the city’s most well-known and popular celebrities, the small forward on the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team was born and raised less than an hour away in Akron, Ohio.

How could we not name Lebron James as number one on the list of top Cleveland celebrities. Probably one of the city’s most well-known and popular celebrities, the small forward on the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team was born and raised less than an hour away in Akron, Ohio.

James has won more NBA awards than you can count and two Olympic gold medals. He was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA draft immediately after graduating from high school in Akron. But starting in 2010, #23 left his beloved home to play for the Miami Heat, which proved to be a rather controversial decision.

He has since returned home and recently won the 2016 championship against the Golden State Warriors. Ranked as one of America’s most influential athletes, Lebron has dominated much more than the court in his career, being featured on television and in films. Even if you’re not planning to attend a Cavs game on your next trip to Cleveland, standing at 6’8”, Lebron shouldn’t be hard to spot.

Halle Berry

Halle Berry

By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Valerie S. Guffey (RELEASED) – [1] (cropped and gamma corrected), Public Domain,

Bet you didn’t know that this Academy Award winning actress was a Cleveland native. Although Berry now resides in Los Angeles, the 1986 Miss Ohio USA spent a fair amount of time in our beloved city. Formerly, Maria Halle Berry, until she legally switched her first and middle names at age five, what inspired the A-List actress’ name was a local, Cleveland landmark at that time, Halle’s Department Store.

Along with her Academy Award win for her performance in Monster’s Ball in 2001, you may have also seen her starring in the X-Men series. Known for making her way back to her old hometown, you should make sure to keep an eye out for the mom of two who may be showing her kids where she grew up.

Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi performing
By Sellahremy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Historically, Toni Morrison and Jim Brown have had a bigger influence on American culture. But Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi, or as we know him, Kid Cudi, shouldn’t be ignored. Cudi has had a tremendous influence on Hip Hop music and culture. Cudi first began rapping towards the end of his high school career, which inspired him to move to New York City to further pursue a career in music in 2004. Upon arrival, he met his uncle for the first time who opened his home to Cudi in the South Bronx while he found his footing.

While working in retail in the big city, Cudi met his future mentor, Kanye West, after accidentally leaving an anti-theft device from a jacket West had purchased. Shortly after, Cudi released the popular “Day ‘n’ Nite” and even collaborated on albums with West as well as famous rapper and mogul, Jay-Z.

Whether you’ve been a Cudi fan since day one or you’ve just recently been turned on to his unique sound from his album released in December 2016, you never know when this hip-hop artist and Cleveland native could be back for a visit. And as his fans know, Cudi never misses a chance to praise his hometown, both on stage and in the studio.

Tom Hanks

a young tom hanksPhoto by Alan Light [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Can Cleveland claim Mr. Hanks? Believe it or not, the legendary actor and filmmaker known for his powerful roles in everything from the American classic, Forrest Gump to Toy Story to his recent performance in Sully, recounting the details of the “Miracle on the Hudson” in 2009, spent some of his earlier years in Cleveland. Not actually moving to Cleveland until reaching young adulthood, Hanks was born and raised in California.

While studying theatre, he happened upon the head of the Great Lakes Theater Festival, Vincent Dowling. Hanks spent about three years interning at the festival, which later led to his award-winning performance as Proteus in a Shakespeare play recognized by the Cleveland Critics Circle.

Now known for a long-lasting, successful film career, such as his collaborations with director, Steven Spielberg and his number of award wins, including Academy Awards and Golden Globes, Tom Hanks is definitely one of America’s favorite actors.

Even though Hanks ended up returning to his home state of California, we’re proud to know he spent what some would say were some of his most important developmental years as an actor right here in Cleveland.

Stephen Curry

stephen curry playing basketball
By Noah Salzman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

That’s right. Another NBA MVP that came straight out of our very own neighborhoods. Wardell Stephen Curry, point guard for the Golden State Warriors, has frequently been called the greatest shooter in NBA history. Curry was born just outside of Cleveland in Akron, Ohio. Sound familiar?

First Lebron, then Curry? We can’t help but wonder who Ohio has in store for us next. Curry is the son of former NBA player, Dell Curry, who was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers at the time, and also, the older brother to Seth Curry, who plays for the Dallas Mavericks. Those are some stellar sports genes.

Due to his father’s NBA career, while growing up, Curry and his family were relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina and even briefly to Toronto, Ontario. Curry later moved on to play college ball at Davidson where his skills were recognized and ultimately, brought him to his current home at Golden State in the 2009 NBA Draft.

The city may not seem as glamorous or celebrity-filled as L.A. or New York, but Cleveland has its fair share of big names, too. Have you spotted any?

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