From 1950 to 1955 Sharman played professional baseball in the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league system. He was called up to the Dodgers late in the 1951 season but did not appear in a game; as a result of a September 27 game in which the entire Brooklyn bench was ejected from the game for arguing with the umpire, Sharman holds the distinction of being the only player to have ever been ejected from a major league game without ever appearing in one.
Sharman was one of the first guards to shoot better than .400 from the field. He led the NBA in free throw percentage seven times, and his mark of 93.2% in the 1958-59 season remained the NBA record until Ernie DiGregorio topped it in 1976-77. Sharman still holds the record for consecutive free throws in the playoffs with 56. Sharman was named to the All-NBA First Team from 1956 through 1959, and was an All-NBA Second Team member in 1953, 1955, and 1960. Sharman played in eight NBA All-Star games, and was named the 1955 NBA All-Star Game MVP. Sharman ended his career after 11 seasons in 1961.
In 1970-71 he coached the Utah Stars to an ABA title and was a co-recipient of the ABA Coach of the Year honors. The following season he guided the Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West-led Los Angeles Lakers to an NBA record 33 game win streak, a then-record 69-13 win-loss mark, the first Lakers championship in more than a decade, and was named NBA Coach of the Year. He is one of two men to win NBA and ABA championships as a coach; coincidentally, the other, Alex Hannum, also coached a Chamberlain-led team (the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers) to an NBA championship.
Sharman was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976 as a player and in 2004, he was also enshrined as a coach. He is one of only three people to be enshrined in both categories, after John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens. On October 29, 1996, Sharman was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players.
The gymnasium at Porterville High School is named after him.