Ohio State Basketball: The Top 10 NBA Buckeyes of All-Time
For a program that ranks sixth all-time in Final Four appearances, Ohio State basketball has not produced a laundry list of NBA legends, a la North Carolina or even UCLA.
For every John Havlicek, there are two Greg Odens or Byron Mullens. While young players such as Evan Turner and Mike Conley, Jr. are trying to change this reality, the Buckeye hoopsters have a long ways to go to reach their gridiron counterparts.
However, that doesn’t mean that the cupboard is bare. With that in mind, here is a list of the top 10 former Buckeyes to lace it up in the NBA. Only NBA statistics and accomplishments were considered, including per game averages, career totals, all-star appearances and NBA championships.
The statistics and facts used in formulating this article were pulled primarily from www.basketball-reference.com.
Honorable Mention: Dennis Hopson (1987-92)
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An argument can be made that Dennis Hopson’s NBA career was somewhat of a disappointment, especially considering his impressive Ohio State resume. Hopson finished his college career as the all-time Buckeye scoring leader, a title he still holds today.
For someone who did nothing but score in college, he finished his NBA career with a solid but not spectacular, 10.9 points per game. The 6’5” guard-forward played for the Nets, Bulls and Kings during his brief career.
He did win a championship during his time with the Bulls, but some would argue a guy named Michael Jordan was primarily responsible for that.
Honorable Mention: Larry Siegfried (1963-72)
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Like Hopson, Larry Siegfried could be considered a solid contributor during his NBA career. As a Celtic, Rocket and Hawk, the forward averaged 10.8 points per game in his career and shot an impressive 85 percent from the charity stripe.
Siegfried was a valuable piece to multiple NBA championship teams when he was in Boston. During his prime, he averaged over 14 points and 4.5 assists per game in two separate seasons, including the Celtics’ 1968-69 championship season.
No. 10: Kelvin Ransey (1980-86)
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Stop me if this pattern is becoming familiar—another Buckeye in the NBA, another baller with respectable (but not unbelievable) statistical production. Ransey was a versatile guard who could play both the point and off the ball for the Trail Blazers, Nets and Mavericks.
He averaged over 11 points per game in his career.
However, Ransey is primarily on this list for his assist numbers, not his ability to score. No retired Buckeye averaged more dimes per game in the NBA than Ransey’s 5.2 (Mike Conley, Jr. currently holds a 5.4 assists per game stat line). Ransey averaged seven assists per game during his time in Portland and probably would rank higher on this list if he had a longer career.
No. 9: Jim Jackson (1992-2006)
Jim Jackson holds one Buckeye distinction that will probably never be topped—he played for an astounding 12 teams during his lengthy NBA career. To take the glass half-full approach, at least someone always wanted him.
Partially due to his prolonged time in the league, Jackson ranks among the top five Buckeyes in total points scored during his career. But at his peak, few Buckeyes were better.
In fact, Jackson averaged 25.7 points per game in 1994-95 as a Maverick, and if a clutch three-pointer was needed from someone on this list, Jackson may be the man to take the shot (Michael Redd may have something to say about that).
Currently working for the Big Ten Network, Jackson would also be in a battle with Clark Kellogg for the best Buckeye announcer on this list.
No. 8: Clark Kellogg (1982-87)
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Speaking of Kellogg, Clark checks in at the eighth position on this list. Kellogg’s NBA tale is one of what could have been since chronic knee problems cut short what appeared to be a promising career.
As a Pacer, Kellogg averaged 18.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, and as a rookie, those averages climbed to over 20 points and 10 rebounds. His outstanding rookie season earned him a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie team, as well as advertisements and a shoe deal.
He has bounced back from his knee injuries post-retirement to become one of the voices of the NCAA Tournament. Even with the health issues, the nickname ‘Special K’ has to be enough to land him on this list, right?
No. 7: Herb Williams (1981-99)
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Herb Williams was the opposite of Jim Jackson—despite playing nearly 20 years, the big man only laced it up for four different teams.
Had Williams not extended his career as late as he did into the 90’s, his per game averages (10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds) would have been much higher. In his prime, Williams averaged up to 19.9 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Among NBA Buckeyes, he ranks in the top 10 in total points (11,994) and top five in total rebounds (6509). However, the most impressive stat line for Williams is his career block total of 1605, by far the most of any Ohio State player and good enough to rank in the top 30 of all-time.
No. 6: Tony Campbell (1984-95)
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Campbell ranks this high on the list because at his peak, he was one of the best NBA Buckeyes to play. However, due to a lack of playing time, this statistical prime did not last very long.
Campbell played on six different teams and won a ring as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, but it was the Timberwolves that gave him his chance to shine. One of the stars of the expansion franchise, Campbell averaged over 20 points per game in two of his three seasons in Minnesota and held the team’s original all-time scoring record.
Campbell still ranks among the top 10 NBA Buckeyes in total career points at 7994.
No. 5: Arnie Risen (1948-58)
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Arnie Risen may not be as well-known as some other players on this list, but he is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame. By an entirely subjective Hall of Fame bonus clause the author just instituted, Risen finds himself just inside the top five rankings of Ohio State NBA players.
The Hall of Famer, who played for the Rochester Royals and Boston Celtics, was a two-time NBA champion, four-time All-Star and finished his career averaging almost a double-double (12 points and 9.7 rebounds a game). However, during his prime, he consistently averaged closer to 15 points and 12 rebounds a game.
Risen was a 6’9” center who would probably struggle today against Dwight Howard, but he was more than a serviceable player during his time.
No. 4: Michael Redd (in League Since 2000)
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One of the stars of the 1999 Final Four team that the NCAA would have you believe never existed, Michael Redd has quietly accumulated an impressive career.
The longtime Milwaukee Buck played for the Phoenix Suns last year and probably benefited from running alongside the ageless Steve Nash. Redd ranks second in Milwaukee Buck history in three-point percentage behind Ray Allen (not a bad guy to be behind) and is the all-time Buckeye leader in the same stat.
Redd’s 19 points per game, which is boosted by six separate seasons of at least 21 points per game (including a high of 26.7), makes him one of the top-three per game scorers of all NBA Buckeyes.
Redd also won a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
No. 3: Neil Johnston (1951-59)
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Like Arnie Risen, Neil Johnston may not be as well-known as others on this list, especially to younger fans. No matter—if you are in the NBA Hall of Fame, you are going to get ranked highly on this list.
Johnston, who played his entire career on the Philadelphia Warriors, was a six-time NBA All-Star, was an NBA champion, had five separate seasons where he averaged over 22 points per game and actually led the association in scoring for three straight years (1952-55).
The center, who only stood at 6’8”, averaged a double-double for his career at 19.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. He ranks among the top three all time for NBA Buckeyes in both of these respective categories.
No. 2: Jerry Lucas (1963-74)
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The New York Knick, San Francisco Warrior and Cincinnati Royal is one of the most highly regarded players in the history of the NBA and was named as one of the league’s top 50 members of all-time.
Among his outstanding career achievements are a gold medal, Rookie of the Year award, seven appearances in the All-Star Game and a well-deserved Hall of Fame induction.
Among Ohio State NBA players, Lucas grabbed by far the most total rebounds (12942) and boards per game (15.6). He also ranks in the top 10 in points per game, top five in total assists and leads in minutes per game.
Throw in the fact that Lucas is deadly in NBA 2k12, and he certainly belongs this high on the list.
No. 1: John Havlicek (1962-78)
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This lifetime Boston Celtic is the undisputed top man on this countdown.
John “Hondo” Havlicek led all Buckeye NBA players in points per game (20.8), total assists (by a large margin: 6,114) and total points (26,395). He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, won eight NBA championships, was a 13-time NBA All-Star and was simply one of the best ever.
In eight different seasons, he averaged over 20 points per game (with a high of 28.9 in 1970-71) and was named the NBA Finals MVP in 1974.
Despite the fact that steals were not kept as an official statistic for much of his career, Havlicek was considered one of the premier defensive stoppers of his time, and one of his infamous steals ranks as one of the most famous play-by-play calls of all-time.
Both Ohio State and the Celtics have retired his number.
John “Hondo” Havlicek clearly deserves top billing when ranking the best NBA players in Ohio State history.