Michigan Basketball: The Biggest NBA Success Stories in Wolverines History

Daniel StackContributor IIJune 16, 2014

Michigan Basketball: The Biggest NBA Success Stories in Wolverines History

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    Whether it was members from Michigan's dream championship team in 1989, the Fab Five or even the earlier success of players like Cazzie Russell, the Wolverines have not been short on players who have made a huge impact in the NBA.

    The Wolverines have had a well-decorated past of sending players to the NBA. This sideshow will include the cream of the crop. Of the 43 players who have ever played in the NBA from Michigan, this list will count down the 10 best.

    Realize that this list is solely based on their NBA accomplishments and not what they achieved in college. So while a player like Rumeal Robinson is a hero in Michigan lore for his clutch free throws in the 1989 championship, he did not make a splash in the NBA necessary to be mentioned with the following 10 players. Also excluded from this list, for obvious reasons, will be young players just starting to get their feet wet (i.e., Tim Hardaway Jr, Trey Burke) in the NBA.

Honorable Mentions

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    • Tim McCormick
    • Gary Grant
    • Phil Hubbard
    • Terry Mills
    • Ollie Darden
    • Roy Tarpley
    • Maurice Taylor


10. Loy Vaught

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    When you describe Loy Vaught, the words tough and tenacious immediately come to mind.

    Although he wasn't a gifted scorer, Vaught always brought his lunch pail and hard hat every night, and it resulted in a fine 10-year (1991 to 2001) NBA career.

    Vaught, who was an important member of the 1989 Michigan championship team, averaged 10.1 points and 7.1 rebounds for his career while playing for the Clippers, Pistons, Mavericks and Wizards. Vaught was a scrappy, hard-nosed defender who, in his prime, would routinely put up double-doubles.

9. Jamal Crawford

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    The criminally underrated Jamal Crawford has spent time in the NBA on plenty of teams. He currently plays for the Clippers, which is his sixth team after previous stops in Chicago, New York, Golden State, Atlanta and Portland.

    Crawford, who is the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, can score just as well as set up his teammates, as his 3.7 career assist average can attest to. Crawford, who owns a 15.6 career scoring average, seemingly never gets his due, but he has carved out quite a niche for himself as instant offense off the bench for whatever team he plays for.

    Crawford is very versatile and can play multiple positions. And at age 34, he doesn't appear to be slowing down.

8. Campy Russell

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    While not as beloved as his other Michigan Russell namesake, Cazzie, Campy Russell had quite the career in the NBA, too.

    Drafted with the eighth overall pick in the 1974 draft, Russell went on to play nine seasons in the NBA with the Cavaliers and Knicks. Russell, who made the 1979 All-Star team, would end his career averaging a steady 15.8 points, 4.8 rebound and 3.0 assists.

    The personable Russell is now a co-host on the Cavaliers' pregame and postgame show. While Russell did not achieve some of the college success as some on this list, he will still go down as one of Michigan's best.

7. Rickey Green

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    Not many young folks will remember Rickey Green, but he too had a long-distinguished NBA career.

    After being selected with the 16th pick in the 1977 draft, Green would go on to play 14 years in the NBA while playing with the Warriors, Pistons, Jazz, Hornets, Bucks, Pacers, 76ers and Celtics while racking up 8,870 points and 5,221 assists. Green, a dynamite point guard back in his days at Michigan, was selected to the 1984 NBA All-Star team as a member of the Jazz. That year, he averaged 13.2 points, 9.2 assists and a league-leading 2.7 steals per game.

    Green was also famous for scoring the NBA's five millionth point in 1982 while part of the Jazz. He would ultimately be replaced at point guard in Utah by NBA legend John Stockton.

6. Juwan Howard

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    While perhaps overshadowed by his Fab Five teammates Chris Webber and Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard goes unmatched when it comes to longevity.

    Howard ended his playing days in 2013 after a lengthy 18-year NBA career (which is the most years spent in the NBA of any former Michigan player), while playing for Washington, Dallas, Denver, Orlando, Houston, Charlotte and Portland before ending his career by winning back-to-back championships in Miami. Howard wound up averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in his career.

    In his prime, Howard was as dependable a big man as there was, and while not overly athletic, his workman-like attitude won over coaches and fans alike.

5. Cazzie Russell

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    Old-school Wolverines fans will remember Cazzie Russell for being one of the first impact players from Michigan in the NBA.

    Russell would end up being the first overall pick in the 1966 NBA draft by the New York Knicks. Russell entered the NBA after a phenomenal career at Michigan in which he led the Wolverines to three consecutive Big Ten titles and to back-to-back Final Four appearances in 1964 and 1965.

    Russell would spend time with the Knicks, Warriors and Lakers (yes that's him in the No. 32 jersey, as he was the last Laker to wear No. 32 before Magic Johnson) before ending his career in his hometown by finishing up with the Chicago Bulls. He would end his 12-year career scoring 12,377 points (15.1 scoring average), while also being part of the Knicks' 1970 championship team.

4. Jalen Rose

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    The well-traveled Rose had himself quite a ride in his 12-year NBA career.

    With stints on the Nuggets, Pacers, Bulls, Raptors, Knicks and Suns, Rose went on to average a healthy 14.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists for his career while being a fantastic complementary player. Rose was actually an integral part of the last Pacer team that went to the NBA Finals in 2000, by averaging 18.2 points (which led the team and a shade more than Reggie Miller's 18.1 points), 4.8 rebounds and four assists.

    While he is now well known for his gig as an ESPN NBA analyst and a founding member of the Fab Five, Rose had himself a very underrated NBA career.

3. Rudy Tomjanovich

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    Although perhaps more renowned for his coaching acumen, being head coach of the Houston Rockets squad that won back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995, Rudy Tomjanovich was one heck of a player as well.

    Tomjanovich had himself a fantastic NBA career, averaging 17.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while also playing for the Rockets' franchise as well. He unfortunately, though, forever will be known for being punched in the face by Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers in a 1977 brawl that resulted in Tomjanovich facing life-threatening head injuries and a broken jaw. This scrum has been well documented for years and was even the inspiration for a book by John Feinstein titled The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever.

    While that incident and his coaching accomplishments are what he'll be remembered for most, Tomjanovich should also be defined for his brilliant playing career. Tomjanovich was a five-time All-Star selection and is the third all-time leading scorer (13,383) in Rockets' history.

2. Glen Rice

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    Forever remembered for his heroics in Michigan's historic run to the 1989 NCAA Championship (where he earned NCAA Most Outstanding Player), Glen Rice followed up that momentum into quite a career in the NBA.

    Known as a deadly assassin from three-point range, Rice would average 18.3 points in his career while playing for the Heat, Hornets, Lakers, Knicks, Rockets and Clippers. Rice, a three-time All-Star, knocked down 1,559 three-point field goals—which is good for 16th all-time in the NBA. Rice also won the 1995 three-point shooting competition.

    There were few shooters in his time who matched Rice's clutch genes. And when you combine his college exploits with the success he had in the NBA, there are few players who are more admired by Michigan fans than Rice.

1. Chris Webber

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    Although well known for his ill-advised timeout in the 1993 NCAA Championship, Webber quickly put that mistake behind him to become arguably Michigan's most productive player in the NBA.

    For his career, which spanned 14 seasons, Webber averaged 20.7 points (best scoring average of any Michigan player to play in the NBA), 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Webber would go on to make five All-Star Game appearances while coming in 82nd on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 17,182 points.

    Webber was one of the more complete power forwards in the game, as he could score, rebound and pass with the best of them.

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