NCAA Championship 2012: Ranking Top 50 Best Players Ever in Title Game
Magic: This is who I'm guarding today? This guy? Now that's funny.
There are some outstanding players that will be lacing up in the 2012 NCAA Championship between Kentucky and Kansas. Will they pan out in the NBA or become the next big busts? I don't know that answer yet, but the questions have been answered of my top 50 players to ever play in a title game.
In order to qualify, the player had to serve significant time in the NBA—with the exception of a few players that were taken down with injury. We will never know how those guys would have panned out.
I started with the best of the best and worked my way back. Eventually, I ran out of players that were successful in the NBA and had to go with a few that were expected to be more than what they turned out to be.
That said, let's roll back the clock.
50. Greg Oden, Ohio State 2007
Watch those knees, Greg.
Greg Oden may go down as the biggest bust in the history of the NBA. The 7' center from Ohio State had the size and athleticism that had many scouts thinking he would be the next giant star.
Oden scored 25 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and swatted four shots in their loss to Florida in the 2007 NCAA Championship.
Oden left after his freshman season, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Buckeyes.
After being taken first overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, Oden missed his entire rookie season with microfracture surgery on his knee. When he finally played the next season, he was only in his debut game for 13 minutes before injuring his foot.
Since, Oden has chipped his knee cap, fractured his left patella and had two more microfracture surgeries. With another season in the dumps, Portland decided to waive him from the team in March.
Oden has played a total of 82 games in his NBA career—the equivalent of one NBA regular season.
49. Sean May, UNC 2005
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Sean May was dominant on the inside in his final season as a North Carolina Tar Heel. During the 2004-05 season, May averaged 17.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
UNC took out Illinois in the 2005 NCAA Championship, and May earned the honor of Most Outstanding Player for the tourney.
The Charlotte Bobcats drafted him 13th overall, hoping he would become their franchise player. Much like most of the Bobcats' picks, that was not the case.
Sean May caught the injury bug and could never shake it. In four seasons, he only averaged 15.7 minutes per game—putting up 6.9 points and four rebounds in that time.
May is currently playing in Italy and is looking to return to the NBA.
48. Juan Dixon, Maryland 2002
Juan Dixon's 164-pound frame was more than enough to dominate the college game. The slashing guard averaged 20 points per game and was an excellent shooter. Dixon shot 40 percent from the arc and 90 percent from the charity stripe.
With Dixon leading the charge, Maryland won its first NCAA championship in 2002. Dixon averaged 25.8 points per game in the tournament.
Juan Dixon was also the only player in NCAA history to rack up 2,000 points, 300 steals, and 200 three-pointers.
After being drafted by the Wizards in the first round, Dixon did a disappearing act. Dixon only averaged 8.4 points per game through his seven NBA seasons. His highest average was 12.3 points per game with Portland in 2005-06.
Dixon played 14 games in Turkey last year.
47. Jay Williams, Duke 2001
Jay Williams was probably the best point guard I have seen come out of Duke. In his last two season, he averaged over 20 points per game.
As a sophomore, Williams led the Blue Devils to a title over Arizona in 2001. He averaged 25.7 points per game in the tournament.
Williams also earned the Naismith and Wooden awards in 2002.
In desperate need of a point guard, the Chicago Bulls drafted Jay Williams second overall in 2002.
Williams played 75 games in the 2002-03 season, splitting time with Jamal Crawford at the point. He averaged 26 minutes, 9.5 points and 4.7 assists per game and was showing marked improvement.
On June 19, 2003, Jay Williams crashed his motorcycle and sustained injuries that would end his NBA career.
The Bulls drafted Kirk Hinrich just weeks later to take his place.
46. Greg Anthony, UNLV 1990
Greg Anthony wasn't an outstanding player, but he was fundamentally sound—and a pesky defender. In his junior year, he helped lead UNLV past a strong Duke team in the 1990 NCAA Championship—playing most of the season with a broken jaw.
While at UNLV, Anthony averaged 12.6 points, 6.9 assists and 2.4 steals per game. Those numbers would fall off in the NBA.
I remember him most for his days with Pat Riley's New York Knicks. He fit well with that irritating team of outstanding defenders. It would only last for four years, though.
Greg Anthony's best statistical season was in 1995-96 with the Vancouver Grizzlies. He averaged 14 points and 6.9 assists per game that season.
45. Christian Laettner, Duke 1992
Though Christian Laettner wasn't a complete bust, he certainly didn't live up the expectations from his years at Duke.
Laettner started in four Final Fours and sank the game-winner in the 1992 NCAA Championship. In that game, Laettner was a perfect 10-of-10 from the floor and 10-of-10 from the free throw line.
Not only does he hold the record for three-point percentage at Duke—at 48.5 percent—he also holds tournament records for most points, free throws, free-throw attempts and games played.
Christian Laettner only mustered 12.8 points per game during his NBA career and he never could knock down the three like he did in his college days. Laettner only made 26 percent of his three-point attempts. He did manage an 18-point average three times over his NBA career.
44. Shane Battier, Duke 1999, 2001
He'll even take on one of the best defensive ends in the NFL—Julius Peppers.
Shane Battier is just a hustler—always has been.
Battier played in two national championships with Duke, losing to Connecticut in 1999 and beating Arizona in 2001. He also earned National Player of the Year in their championship season—and his third NABC Defensive Player of the Year.
Battier averaged 19.9 points with Duke in 2000-01. His highest NBA average was 14.4 points per game—and has only reached a double-figure average two more times in the NBA.
Currently, Battier's career average sits at 9.3 points per game and is coming off the bench for the Miami Heat.
43. Udonis Haslem, Florida 2000
It's hard to find a good spot for Udonis Haslem, and I'm not sure I'm satisfied at No. 43. However, he isn't a starter, and the numbers don't support a higher ranking—but you just have to love the guy.
Haslem was the center for Florida when they lost to Michigan State in the 2000 NCAA Championship. He didn't put up crazy numbers with the Gators, but he does rank third on their all-time list in points.
Haslem went undrafted and put on some serious weight in the offseason, blowing up to 300 pounds. He was cut by the Hawks in the preseason and moved on to play in France.
Haslem managed to shed his weight during his stay in Europe and got back in the NBA with the Miami Heat. He saw time as a starter, until Miami picked up Chris Bosh to take over at power forward.
Even as a bench player, Haslem still plays an important role with the Heat and may play a key role if they make a championship run this year. For his NBA career, he is shooting 50 percent from the floor and is averaging 9.7 points and eight rebounds per game.
42. Emeka Okafor, Connecticut 2004
Emeka Okafor is another questionable player at his spot on my list.
In 2004, Okafor received the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after their title win over Georgia Tech. That season Okafor averaged 17.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 4.3 blocks per game—and that was good enough for the Bobcats to snatch him up with the second pick of the draft.
Okafor has shown signs of his UConn days but still hasn't lived up to expectations. Then again, who does in Charlotte?
Okafor is averaging 12.7 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in the NBA.
41. Kirk Hinrich, Kansas 2003
I wonder when they'll do a Sports Science on those ears.
Kirk Hinrich may not show a lot of flash, but the guy is a baller at the point position. He had shifted to shooting guard his last two years at Kansas, but the Bulls needed a point and they also felt he was too short to play the 2.
Hinrich had a great tournament in 2003, but it didn't end so peachy. He only managed to sink six of his 20 shots in a three-point loss to Syracuse in the championship.
The Bulls drafted him seventh overall and he played solid for the franchise, helping them back to the playoffs for the first time since the dynasty was broken up. His best year was in 2006-07, when he averaged 16.6 points and 6.3 assists per game.
Hinrich is still playing a starting role with the Atlanta Hawks.
40. Ben Gordon, Connecticut 2004
Ben Gordon isn't much of shot creator, but the guy can shoot the ball with the best—and in the clutch too.
During the Huskies' title run in 2004, Gordon led all tournament scorers with 127 total points—a 21.2 points-per-game average. He put up 36 on Alabama.
Gordon was drafted third overall to the Bulls, where he became their biggest scoring threat. He became the first rookie in history to be awarded the NBA Sixth Man Award.
Like Hinrich, Gordon saw his career high in 2006-07 when he scored 21.4 points per game. He also tied an NBA record that year with nine consecutive three-pointers.
Gordon has fallen off since the move to Detroit. This year he is only scoring 12.3 points per game. However, he did come up with a 45-point game against Denver in March.
39. Raymond Felton, North Carolina 2005
Raymond Felton went down as one of the top point guards in North Carolina's history. He owns the single-game record at Carolina with 18 assists.
Sean May got a lot of the glory in the 2005 season, but it wouldn't have been possible without Felton. In their win over Illinois in the championship, Felton scored 17 points and dished out seven dimes.
Felton was rewarded for his play at point with the Bob Cousy award—given to the top point guard in the country. That year, Felton averaged 12.9 points and 6.9 assists per game. He was also lights-out from beyond the arc, knocking down 44 percent.
Raymond Felton is still trying to find a solid home in the NBA. He was drafted by the Bobcats and has been bounced around from Denver to New York and now Portland. Felton is averaging 13.4 points and 6.7 assists per game.
38. Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina 2009
Putting it on the Griff. Literally.
Tyler Hansbrough was a part of one of the most dominating teams in NCAA history. The Tar Heels pounded their opponents into the ground, and that didn't change in the championship. Michigan State never had a chance.
Hansbrough was a major piece of the puzzle, leading the Tar Heels in scoring in each of his four years. For his collegiate career, Hansbrough averaged 20.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He also had a nice touch from the free throw line, shooting 84% in his final season.
Tyler Hansbrough is the ACC's all-time leading scorer and UNC's all-time leading rebounder. He is also the ACC's leader in 20-points games and has made more free throws than anyone in NCAA history.
With all the accolades, it was a no-brainer for the Indiana Pacers to snatch him up at 13th overall. Hansbrough has had trouble staying healthy and playing with the consistency he did at Carolina.
Tyler Hansbrough averages 10 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, over 21 minutes.
37. Kemba Walker, Connecticut 2011
Another winner of the Bob Cousy Award, Kemba Walker had a stellar final season with Connecticut.
After taking out Butler in the championship, Walker earned the honor of Most Outstanding Player in the tournament. In that season, Walker averaged 23.5 points and 4.5 assists per game.
Charlotte drafted him ninth overall and he is currently averaging 12 points and 4.2 assists per game in his rookie campaign. A great shooter in college, Walker has only managed to shoot 37 percent this year.
It's yet to be determined the impact he will have on the NBA, but he is gifted and I expect him to perform better as his career progresses.
Then again, he's a Bobcat.
36. Mike Bibby, Arizona 1997
Mike Bibby was an excellent point guard in college and for a good part of his NBA career.
In the 1997 title game, he led Arizona to the win over Kentucky with 20 points. For his career in Arizona, Bibby averaged 15.4 points and 5.4 assists per game.
Mike Bibby was chosen second overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies. His NBA numbers nearly match those from his collegiate days, with 15.4 points and 5.4 assists per game. His career-high came during the 2005-06 season with the Sacramento Kings, when he averaged 19.6 points per game.
Bibby is still playing in the league with the New York Knicks.
35. Danny Manning, Kansas 1988
Danny Manning is still considered one of the NCAA greats. He did a little bit of everything on the court—especially when he got his opportunity to win a title.
Kansas beat Oklahoma in the 1988 NCAA Championship with the help of Manning's 31 points, 18 rebounds, five steals and two blocked shots. Domination is the word that comes to mind. And it should come as no surprise that he earned Most Outstanding Player for the tourney.
Manning was drafted first overall by the Clippers following that season.
For his career, Danny Manning averaged 14 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. His best season came in 1992-93, when he scored 22.8 points per game.
34. Carlos Boozer, Duke 2001
Carlos Boozer was a part of the 2001 Duke team that beat Arizona in the title game.
While at Duke, Boozer averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. A decent scorer but lacking on the defensive end, Boozer wasn't taken until the second round of the draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers failed to hold on to him, and he made a name for himself in Utah with Deron Williams. Eventually, he would part ways with the Jazz and become a Bull.
Through his NBA career, Boozer is averaging 17.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game—one of the few players on this list that had improved numbers in the NBA.
His numbers could earn him a higher spot on my list, but he just doesn't have what I consider a complete game.
33. Arron Afflalo, UCLA 2006
Arron Afflalo is a player who I'm assuming will continue to get better at the NBA level. He may not be a centerpiece, but he is a very solid all-around player.
Afflalo was playing for UCLA when they lost the championship to Florida in 2006. The first-team All-American put up 14.8 points per game and knocked down 37 percent of his three-point attempts with the Bruins.
He was actually drafted 27th overall with the Detroit Pistons but was sent to Denver two years later. Denver was the better fit anyway.
This year, Arron Afflalo is averaging 14.3 points per game and is shooting the three-ball better than he did at UCLA—sinking them at a 39 percent clip.
32. Mike Conley, Ohio State 2007
Mike Conley is another solid point guard on this list—and another that took a loss to Florida in the title game.
After making it to the championship and averaging 11.1 points and 6.1 assists per game as a freshman, Conley decided to leave for the NBA.
He was picked up fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies. This year, Conley is averaging 12.8 points and 7.1 assists per game.
31. Al Horford, Florida 2006, 2007
Oh, now you're just showing off, Al.
Al Horford experienced championship wins over UCLA and Ohio State in 2006 and 2007.
In his final season with Florida, Horford averaged 13.2 points and 7.9 rebounds—and buried 61 percent of his shots.
A very talented and athletically gifted center, the Atlanta Hawks chose to snatch him up third overall. He has played very solidly for the Hawks in his time there.
This year, Horford is averaging 12.8 points, seven rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 2.4 assists and his converting 55 percent of his shots.
30. Joakim Noah, Florida 2006, 2007
You should see him when he's excited.
Joakim Noah didn't make it this high on talent and numbers alone—and certainly not his shooting form—it's his fiery competitiveness that gave him the extra push.
Noah earned Most Outstanding Player, with his 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots—a championship record.
Noah was selected ninth overall to the Chicago Bulls and quickly became an emotional leader and fan favorite.
This season, Noah is closing in on a double-double season, averaging 9.8 points and 9.8 rebounds. He also dishes out nearly three assists and blocks one shot per contest.
29. Elton Brand, Duke 1999
Unfortunately for Elton Brand, he wasn't one of the Dukies on the list that got to cut down the final nets.
Duke was favored to win the championship, but UConn spoiled their plans in an upset. Elton Brand earned National Player of the Year, averaging 17.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. He also shot 62 percent from the field.
The Bulls selected Brand first overall but would soon give him up for Brian Skinner and the rights to draft Tyson Chandler—despite Brand averaging 20 points per game in his first two seasons. I think the Bulls front office actually used to enjoy wasting draft picks.
But hey, that was the same front office that let Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson go—after their sixth title. Brilliant.
Now Elton Brand is playing for the Philadelphia 76ers. For his NBA career, Brand is averaging 18.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
28. Sam Perkins, North Carolina 1982
The original Stretch Armstrong.
Sam Perkins never panned out to be at the level of Jordan and James Worthy, but he was a solid player throughout his NBA career—and a stud at the college level.
In 1982 Sam Perkins played on the UNC team that took out Georgetown in the championship.
Perkins ranks second on North Carolina's all-time list of rebounders and shot blockers. He also earned All-American honors his last three years at UNC. Perkins finished up his senior year averaging 17.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and two blocks per game.
The Dallas Mavericks selected Perkins fourth overall in 1984, but he would see his best year with the Los Angeles Lakers. In the 1991-92 season, Sam Perkins averaged 16.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
27. Mookie Blaylock, Oklahoma 1988
It's sad the best pic I could find from his Sooner days was black and white. From the late 80's? Really?
Blaylock's 1988 Oklahoma squad lost to Kansas in the championship.
A hard-nosed player and a ball hawk extraordinaire, Blaylock averaged 20 points, 6.7 assists and 3.7 steals per game as a senior.
Mookie Blaylock was selected 12th overall to the Nets and continued to pester opposing players on both sides of the court. For his career, Blaylock averaged 13.5 points, 6.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
26. Ty Lawson, North Carolina 2009
We have ourselves another Bob Cousy Award winner here.
In 2009, Ty Lawson led the Tar Heels to a championship over Michigan State—where he put his name in the NCAA Tournament record books with eight steals.
Lawson also earned ACC Player of the Year honors with the help of his 16.6 points, 6.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Ty Lawson was drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves but was immediately sent to Denver. He has now earned the role as the starting point guard and is reaching the level of expectation I have for him.
This season, Lawson is averaging 15.8 points, 6.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He also became the first player in NBA history to sink his first 10 threes in a game. He finished that contest with 37 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
25. Jason Terry, Arizona 1997
Jason Terry is one of those players you just can't put a finger on. But it is hard to deny his shooting ability.
In 1997, he helped Arizona take out Kentucky in the national championship. He had an outstanding year as a senior, scoring 21.9 points and dishing out 5.5 assists per game—along with burying 40 percent of his threes.
Terry was taken as the 10th overall pick to the Hawks and has put up 16.1 points and 4.7 assists per game. He has averaged 19 points three times, but has yet to break 20 points per game.
24. Jalen Rose, Michigan 1992, 1993
Jalen Rose was a part of Michigan's Fab Five in the early 90's. If anything, we can at least thank them for getting rid of the short shorts.
Rose made it to two championships with that Michigan squad but came up empty on both accounts—losing to Duke and UNC.
In his final season with Michigan, Rose averaged 19.9 points and 3.9 assists per game as the operator of the Wolverines' offense.
Rose was taken 13th overall to Denver. He struggled early in his career and didn't last long in Denver. He had his best year as a Chicago Bull in 2002-03, when he averaged 22.1 points and 4.8 assists.
23. Juwan Howard, Michigan 1992, 1993
Juwan Howard is the only Fab Five player that is still in the NBA.
In his final season with the Michigan Wolverines, he averaged 20.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per game—helping earn a fifth overall selection to Washington.
Since he is riding the bench in his final years, his averages have gone down. But don't be fooled by his final averages—he had some outstanding years as a pro.
In just his second season in the NBA, Howard put up 22.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Now you will find him coming off the bench in Miami for about five minutes per game.
22. Larry Johnson, UNLV 1990
Grandmama was a stud back in the day.
In two years with UNLV, Larry Johnson averaged 21.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game—and shot 64 percent from the field. And he was a big part of UNLV's championship run that went through a tough Duke team, scoring 22 points and snagging 11 rebounds in the title game.
His performance in 1991 earned both the Naismith and the Wooden awards.
Johnson was selected first overall to the Charlotte Hornets and dominated the game until he started having back problems that cut his career short. His finest year came in 1992-93, when he averaged 22.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
21. Richard Hamilton, Connecticut 1999
Another player that got to take out a Duke team in the championship was Richard Hamilton. He was also awarded the tournament's Most Outstanding Player for 1999.
Hamilton is a legend in Detroit, but he became a legend in Connecticut first. He became the fastest UConn player to reach 1,000 points in their history—in just 55 games. By the end of his collegiate career, Hamilton was averaging 21.5 points per game.
He was taken seventh overall by the Wizards.
Through his NBA career, he has averaged 17.5 points per game. His high came in 2005-06 when he scored 20.1 points per game and shot an astounding 46 percent from beyond the arc.
Currently with the Bulls, Rip Hamilton has been fighting off health issues and has yet to put his stamp in Chicago.
20. Chris Webber, Michigan 1992, 1993
His final season with Michigan came as a sophomore, where he scored 19.2 points and snagged 10.1 rebounds per game.
Webber was selected first overall by the Magic and was immediately traded to Golden State. He had his best seasons with the Kings—especially in 2000-01 when he averaged 27.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.
19. Grant Hill, Duke 1991, 1992, 1994
Even as a North Carolina fan, I never hated on Grant Hill. The guy was everything you wanted in a player—up until he injured his ankle.
Duke managed to go to three national championships with the talent of Grant Hill—and won two of them. He was also the one who threw the bomb to Christian Laettner to win the 1992 championship.
In his senior season with the Blue Devils, Hill averaged 17.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. He also sank 39 percent of his three-point attempts.
Grant Hill was selected third overall by Detroit in 1994. His NBA average of 17.1 points and 4.3 assists per game is a testament to what he was able to do before the ankle injury. His best season came in 1999-00 when he averaged 25.8 points, 5.2 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Though his production fell off after the injury, he is still playing a significant role with the Phoenix Suns.
18. Glen Rice, Michigan 1989
Glen Rice was just an amazing shooter in his day.
Rice earned Most Outstanding Player for his performance in the 1989 NCAA Tournament. Michigan took out Seton Hall in the title game and by the end, Rice had tallied 184 points for the tourney—an NCAA record.
In his senior year with the Wolverines, Rice put up 25.6 points per game and made 51 percent of his three-pointers.
The Heat couldn't pass up on this stud, and he was taken fourth overall. He had some great years with the Heat, but his best came with the Hornets, when he averaged 26.8 points per game. He also shot 47 percent from the arc on 5.6 attempts per game.
17. Bill Walton, UCLA 1972, 1973
Bill Walton was a part of the John Wooden run and was able to snatch up two championships in his time at UCLA, beating Florida State and Memphis.
As a Bruin, Bill Walton put up some big numbers. His averages were 20.3 points and 15.7 rebounds per game—and shot 65 percent from the field.
Walton was selected first overall to the Blazers. He averaged a double-double throughout his career, but the best season came in 1976-77 when he put up 18.6 points, 14.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game.
16. Clyde Drexler, Houston 1983
Clyde “The Glide” Drexler helped Houston to a title game in 1983, but they would lose to NC State.
Drexler was a smooth operator, and his nickname explains his ability to take flight pretty well. He had good numbers in Houston but would only get better in the NBA.
Portland picked Drexler 14th overall, and he provided the Trail Blazers with some outstanding years. In 1987-88 and 1988-89 he managed 27 points per game. For his career, Drexler averaged 20.4 points, 5.6 assists, two steals and 6.1 rebounds per game.
15. Deron Williams, Illinois 2005
What? Did you think it would just be old guys in the top 15? If this guy ever plays for a team you actually want to watch, you will understand where I'm coming from.
Deron Williams' Fighting Illini lost to UNC in a close 2005 title game. Williams averaged 12.5 points and 6.8 assists that year and went on to the NBA Draft.
Williams was selected third overall by the Utah Jazz, where he had some great years matched up with Carlos Boozer. Eventually he was moved to the New Jersey Nets, where he is putting up numbers nobody knows about. This season, he is averaging 21.6 points and 8.6 assists per game.
I love a point guard that dishes out the double-digit dimes and he has averaged that five times, with a high of 12.8 assists per game in 2010-11.
14. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse 2003
Can he play with Jeremy Lin? Who cares! Leave the guy alone. All he does is ball.
Carmelo Anthony only played one season with Syracuse, but his 20 points and 10 rebounds helped seal a title win over Kansas in 2003. Anthony received Most Outstanding Player for the tournament.
In his only season with the Orange, Anthony averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds per game.
He was selected third overall by Denver in 2003.
Through his NBA career, Melo has averaged 24.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. His highest scoring average was 28.2 in 2006-07.
Carmelo Anthony remains one of the purest shooters in the game today.
13. Derrick Rose, Memphis 2008
I'm not sure if I put Derrick Rose above Carmelo Anthony because of his amazing athleticism or my slight bias. Either way, I'm sure the haters will come out.
In 2008, Rose led Memphis to a title game against Kansas. Though they lost, his 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and six assists in the tourney was enough for the Bulls to jump on him with the first pick of the 2008 NBA Draft.
Derrick Rose is still refining his skills as a shooter, but his ability to get in the lane and make acrobatic shots just blows my mind. Through his short career in the NBA, Rose is averaging 21.1 points and 6.8 assists per game.
12. John Havlicek, Ohio State 1960, 1961
John Havlicek was overlooked for most of his career as a Buckeye, at 14.6 points per game. During his career at Ohio State, the Buckeyes beat Cal and lost to Cincinnati.
The Celtics saw something in him and were definitely right to take Havlicek as the seventh overall pick of the draft.
Before his career was over, John Havlicek became the Celtics' all-time leading scorer, averaging 20.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. None of his seasons matched up to the one he would have in 1970-71, when he scored 28.9 points per game. On top of the points, he also dished out 7.5 assists and snagged nine rebounds per game that season.
11. James Worthy, North Carolina 1982
People who weren't watching basketball during this era don't really understand how good James Worthy really was. You may not even know that he was the leading scorer in the 1982 NCAA Championship against the Georgetown Hoyas with 28 points.
His tournament performance earned a Most Outstanding Player, and he also shared Player of the Year with Virginia's Ralph Sampson.
Worthy was taken first overall to the Lakers, where he played his entire NBA career. In that time, he averaged 17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and three assists per game—on a pretty loaded Lakers team.
10. Patrick Ewing, Georgetown 1982, 1984
Aw yeah! The Ewing knee pads.
Being one of the best college players of the time wasn't enough for Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas to take down UNC in 1982. Ewing made his presence felt from the jump, goaltending five times in the first five possessions.
Ewing did finally win a title in his last year with the Hoyas, beating Houston and Hakeem Olajuwon—someone he saw much more of at the NBA level.
Patrick Ewing was taken first overall by the New York Knicks, where he spent all but two years of his career. Ewing averaged 21 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game through his career.
Only in his last four seasons did he average less than 20 points per game. His best season came in 1989-90 when he put up an average of 28.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and four blocked shots.
9. Bill Russell, San Fransisco 1955, 1956
They get harder to find in the 50's.
Bill Russell may not have been much of a scorer in his NBA career, but the man could rebound like nobody else.
At San Francisco, Russell was averaging 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds per game to help his team to championships over La Salle and Iowa.
Russell was chosen second overall by the St. Louis Hawks and his rebounds only went up from there.
Bill Russell never reached 20 points per game, but he averaged 20 rebounds or more in 10 of his 13 seasons as a pro—with a high of 24.7 in 1963-64.
8. Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston 1983, 1984
His Houston team may have lost to NC State and Georgetown in the 1983 and 1984 championships, but Hakeem Olajuwon would soon become one of the best post players in NBA history.
In his final season at the University of Houston, Olajuwon averaged 16.8 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Following that season, he was selected first overall by the Houston Rockets.
The man didn't even have to move! And that's actually why he went into the draft early.
Through his NBA career, Hakeem Olajuwon averaged 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.
Olajuwon actually went to Moses Malone in the summer of his early years to get help with his post game. Now people go to Olajuwon for help.
7. Isiah Thomas, Indiana 1981
Isiah Thomas doesn't get much love in many people's rankings, and I don't really understand why. The guy was an outstanding point guard.
His 1981 Indiana Hoosiers took out North Carolina in the title game. Soon he would move on to the NBA, where he established himself as a legend in the Motor City.
For his career, Thomas averaged 19.2 points, 9.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game. His best season was in 1984-85, when he put up 21.2 points and 13.9 assists per game. If that isn't top 10 material, I don't know what you want.
6. Jerry West, West Virginia 1959
Jerry West is one person I wish I could have seen play.
Though West and the West Virginia Mountaineers lost to Cal in 1959, he still earned Most Outstanding Player for the tourney with his 32 points and 14.6 rebounds per game.
As a Mountaineer, Jerry West averaged 24.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
West played forward in college, but when he was taken second overall by the Lakers in 1960, they decided they wanted him to be a guard.
As a guard in the NBA, Jerry West put up an average of 27 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game. He also averaged 30 points or more in a season four times.
5. Larry Bird, Indiana State 1979
Larry Bird I did get to watch, and he was amazing. He wasn't enough to beat Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans, though. It's kind of funny how the two ended up on rival teams in the NBA.
While at Indiana State, Bird averaged 30.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. With those numbers, the Celtics had no problem taking him sixth overall.
Through his NBA career, Larry Bird put up 24.3 points, 6.3 assists and 10 rebounds per game. His highest scoring average was 29.9 in 1987-88.
4. Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas 1957
Wilt Chamberlain is another player I would have liked to see. How does one person put up 100 points in a game? I still can't fathom that.
Chamberlain's Jayhawks lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the title game of 1957—their first ever. During his career at Kansas, The Stilt averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds per game.
He was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors in 1959 and became one of the most iconic players in NBA history.
As a pro, Chamberlain averaged 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds per game. Now I'm sure we can all agree that's pretty good.
But it's not quite as good as the 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds he averaged in 1961-62. It should come as no surprise that was the season he scored 100 points in a game—March 2, 1962 to be exact. During that season, Chamberlain attempted nearly 40 shots per game.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, UCLA 1967, 1968, 1969
I can totally understand folks who want to put Chamberlain above the next two players, but they were pretty darn good too—and played against more talent.
In Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's career at UCLA, he managed to bring home three championships—beating Dayton, UNC and Purdue. In that time, he put up 26.4 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. He also sank 64 percent of his shot attempts.
Abdul-Jabbar was selected first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969, but he is probably best known for his stint with the Lakers—though his numbers were better in Milwaukee. In 1971-72, he averaged 34.8 points, 16.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists with the Bucks.
For his career, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar put up 24.6 points, 2.6 blocks, 3.6 assists and 11.2 rebounds per game. And he also had the best sky hook you will ever see.
2. Magic Johnson, Michigan State 1979
What can I say? I love point guards—and Magic Johnson was arguably the best to set foot on the hardwood. It's a shame his career was cut short.
As I said before, Johnson and the Spartans took out Larry Bird's Indiana State in 1979. Magic averaged 17.1 points and 7.9 assists per game.
The Lakers took Magic Johnson first overall in 1979. Is anyone else noticing how many first overall picks the Lakers got over the years? Sheesh.
Magic had special size for a point guard at 6'8”, but that didn't make him any less athletic—only more dangerous. During his career, Magic Johnson averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, 1.9 steals and even 7.2 rebounds per game. Size matters.
Johnson also had a high in assists with 13.1 per game in 1983-84.
1. Michael Jordan, North Carolina 1982
Being a North Carolina and Bulls fan, it feels so good to be able to put Michael Jordan at the top because that's one pick nobody will question. If you do question it, forgive me for calling you an idiot.
Well, maybe I won't go that far, but don't expect a reply from me.
His Airness put himself on the map with his game-winner against Georgetown in the 1982 title game. At 17.7 points and five rebounds per game, his numbers at UNC were nothing to gawk at. But the Chicago Bulls looked beyond the numbers and saw the potential two other teams missed out on.
Michael Jordan was selected as the third overall pick by Chicago, and he would soon become the deadliest player in the game—especially with time winding down.
What people sometimes forget is that he wasn't just amazing in flight or late in the game. He was also one of the best defenders in the NBA. He was only recently surpassed by Jason Kidd in steals. Jordan is now second on the all-time list.
During his career, Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 2.3 steals, 5.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game. His best scoring season was in 1986-87, when he racked up 37.1 points per game.
Sometimes numbers lie, but in this case they do not. Jordan was the best player the NBA has ever seen. Though I hate to admit it, someday he will probably be taken over by someone else as the best.
For now, there is no question and I will continue to bask in the glory of Michael Jordan.