Scan the list and you see names that are synonymous with greatness in the sport of basketball—Russell, Chamberlain, Baylor, West, Alcindor, Magic and Walton. Look a little closer at the same list and you discover names that you may or may not remember—Cleaves, Kotz, Hogue, Givens and Sheppard.
What all these players have in common is that they were selected as the Most Outstanding Player (MOP) is an NCAA men’s Final Four. We can see that an MOP was a step toward greatness for some, and not so much for others. That’s the beauty of the NCAA tournament; greatness from the expected and the unexpected. Who will be the MOP of this year’s tourney? A player destined for greatness in the NBA, or someone who will have their career moment this weekend?
Here’s a few stat lists regarding the MOPs. First, a look at those MOPs who went on to Hall of Fame professional careers (and those who were also MVPin an NBA Final). Next is a look at those MOPs who played less than 20 games in the NBA. Finally, a quick review of the MOPs this century and where they are today in their careers.
Final Four MOPs who are in the Basketball Hall of Fame
Year(s) as Final Four MOP, Player
1945-46: Bob Kurland
1952: Clyde Lovellette
1954: Tom Gola
1955: Bill Russell
1957: Wilt Chamberlain (MVP of 1972 NBA Finals)
1958: Elgin Baylor
1959: Jerry West (MVP of 1969 NBA Finals)
1960-61: Jerry Lucas
1965: Bill Bradley
1967-69: Lew Alcindor (MVP of 1971 & 1985 NBA Finals)
1972-73: Bill Walton (MVP of 1977 NBA Finals)
1974: David Thompson
1979: Magic Johnson (MVP of 1980, 1982 & 1987 NBA Finals)
1981: Isiah Thomas (MVP of 1990 NBA Finals)
1982: James Worthy (MVP of 1988 NBA Finals)
1983: Hakeem Olajuwon (MVP of 1994 & 1995 NBA Finals)
1984: Patrick Ewing
Fewest NBA games by players who won a Final Four MOP award
NBA games, Player, Year of MOP
0: Bob Kurland, 1945, 1946 (Never played professionally, instead choosing to play AAU ball; is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame)
0: Irwin Dambrot, 1950 (Choose a career in dentistry instead of basketball)
0: B.H. Born, 1953 (Played AAU ball)
0: Anderson Hunt, 1990 (Played professionally overseas)
0: Donald Williams, 1993 (Played professionally overseas)
2: Keith Smart, 1987 (Has been the head coach of two NBA teams)
3: Hal Lear, 1956
5: Miles Simon, 1997
18: Jeff Shepppard, 1998 (Also played professionally in Italy)
So how have the MOPs from this century done in their professional careers? Here’s a quick update.
Kemba Walker, 2011, UConn: Averaging over 12 points and four assists as a point guard for the Charlotte Bobcats.
Kyle Singler, 2010, Duke: Playing for Real Madrid in Spain
Wayne Ellington, 2009, North Carolina: In his third season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Career average of over six points per game.
Mario Chalmers, 2008, Kansas: In his fourth season with the Miami Heat. Averaging just under 10 points per game this season.
Corey Brewer, 2007, Florida: In his fifth NBA season; currently with Denver. Career average of about nine points per game.
Joakim Noah, 2006, Florida: In his fifth season with the Bulls. Key member of the team who averages about 10 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Sean May, 2005, North Carolina: Played 119 games in the NBA. Currently playing in Italy.
Emeka Okafor, 2004, UConn: In his eighth NBA season. Currently with New Orleans. A double-digit scorer and rebounder.
Carmelo Anthony, 2003, Syracuse: Playing in his ninth NBA season. Has a career average of over 24 points per game.
Juan Dixon, 2002, Maryland: Played in 436 NBA games. Last played in the NBA in 2008-09. Playing professionally in Turkey.
Shane Battier, 2001, Duke: Has played in over 800 NBA games. A key free-agent signing for the Miami Heat this season.
Mateen Cleaves, 2000, Michigan State: Played in 167 NBA games in his career. Last played in the NBA in 2006.