Winner’s Outs Month of March Madness continues this week with an article on who we consider to be the Best MOPs (Most Outstanding Players of the Tourney) of All-Time. We’ve opened this up to any MOP, even the real greats who went onto Hall of Fame NBA careers. And, we’ll count it down to our #1 MOP of All-Time.
As always, we’ll let you vote in our Poll on who you think should be #1. Don’t forget to comment and let us know who and why you think is the Best MOP of All-Time. Let the Debate Begin!
Greatest MOPs of All-Time
10. JERRY WEST. Our number ten spot goes to the man who went on to become the NBA logo. The MOP of 1959, West makes our list because not only was he an outstanding college player, he carried his small school of West Virginia to the title. This was in the day of the much smaller NCAA tourney which was dominated by the UK’s, Kansas, etc. This is before the word “parity” ever entered the NCAA vocabulary. West could drive, shoot and defend and he led his small school team to the title.
9. WILT CHAMBERLAIN. The MOP of 1957, Wilt started a streak of 3 MOPs that would eventually win a championship together as LA Lakers in the NBA. Elgin Baylor would take the MOP in 1958 followed up by Jerry West in 1959. But Wilt started it all in 1957, even though he couldn't bring the title home for his his Kansas Jayhawks (UNC won that year.) Wilt was simply unstoppable in college and there was no one like him that could match his size and strength. He literally seemed like a player from the 1990’s who time traveled to the early days of hoop. Only college zones could slow him down and barely. He was a force in college, a real man among boys.
8. BILL RUSSELL. We couldn’t leave the NBA’s winningest player off our list because he was a winner in college as well. Young and even leaner than his pro days, Russell simply won at every level he competed. He led his team not only on the defensive end but had touch around the rim and strong post moves. He was the MOP in 1955 when he led San Francisco to the title. He makes our list on his college merits because San Francisco went up against the powerhouses of the college game and has done nothing before or since Russell.
7. CARMELO ANTHONY. What other freshman really led his team to a title? And, in the modern era? I mean, our first 3 MOPs on our list are from the early days of college hoops. But Melo did it in 2003, leading Syracuse to the title versus stiff competition. And, did I mention, Melo was a freshman. He had game even though young, with strong post game, great range, and speed. He could take bigger players off the dribble with a fierce face up game and he could school smaller players in the post.
6. CHRISTIAN LAETTNER. In the last 20 years, has there been a more dominate run and team than the early 1990’s Duke Blue Devils? (I mean, UCLA’s 3 straight Final Fours is super impressive but it lacked a title.) Laettner was the MOP only in 1991 but his team won again, back to back, in 1992 with Bobby Hurley taking the MOP honors. But Duke also played for the title in 1990, though they got killed by UNLV. But Laettner was the leader and, arguably, Duke’s best player on all 3 of those teams. In today’s world of one and done to the NBA, he would never have played in 3 straight title games today. But, he did back then because of being a leader and making shots when they counted (remember UK Wildcat fans??)
5. PATRICK EWING. Ewing was the MOP in 1984 but, like Laettner, played in 3 title games. He lost to North Carolina, led by James Worthy and Michael Jordan (who hit the winning shot) in 1982, won the title in 1984 (the year he was the MOP), and then lost in one of the greatest upsets of all time, in 1985, when Villanova shocked the world and Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas. But for his 4 years of college, Ewing rivals college’s best big men for domination and winning.
4. JERRY LUCAS. This guard from Ohio State was the MOP in both 1960 & 1961. But Lucas only won the championship in 1960 and lost a close one the next year to Cincinnati in 1961. He is one of only a handful of players including the last to do it, Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon, to take MOP honors and not win the championship. In college, Lucas was a scoring machine, a true modern player with an all-round game. He could score off the dribble, take it deep into the paint against the big men, and he had massive range.
3. BILL WALTON. Continuing UCLA’s unheard of and unmatched streak of championships, Walton led his UCLA Bruin’s to the title in 1972 & 1973, the same years Walton was the MOP. Walton dominated college basketball and was part of the 88 game win streak that UCLA hung up on college basketball, a streak that started and ended with loses to Notre Dame. That win streak rivals DiMaggio’s hitting streak as something that may not be broken. Walton had it all in college, including health (which wasn’t always the case in the pros) and, as a result, is a legend in college hoops.
2. LEW ALCINDOR/KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR. Kareem could arguably be in the top spot but not to us because our #1 not only was our top MOP but ushered in the modern NCAA tourney and TV. But back to our #2. Kareem was truly a force in college. He won the title for UCLA in 1967, 68, & 69, and was the MOP in all those years. He surely would have 4 titles and 4 MOPs if not for the fact in those times that freshmen couldn't play. And, don’t forget, the NCCA went out of their way to curtail Kareem by outlawing the dunk in those days. It is actually hilarious to watch old video of Kareem at the rim and then having to lay the ball softly in. But that never mattered because Kareem is the first high school player, like Lebron James in today’s time, to live up to the hype. Outside of King James, Kareem was the most anticipated and recruited player out of high school in history, and Kareem delivered. That's because Kareem had all the offensive skills, including the weapon of all weapons, the “Sky Hook” and he was a fantastic defender. He blocked shots, snatched rebounds and ran the floor.
1. EARVIN “MAGIC” JOHNSON. The Magic Man of Michigan State gets our top spot with only one title and only one MOP, in 1979. But, here’s the reason. Magic ushered in our modern era of college hoops. He brought us into the TV age. His 1979 battle against Larry Bird of Indiana State is still the most watched Title Game on TV. And, Magic might of won more titles and more MOPs but he also led the way of modern times by going pro at 19. Magic was the clear leader and conductor of his Spartan team and while everyone thought that year Larry Bird was on the team of destiny, Magic got the best of him. So, Magic’s our MOP of All-Time because he literally ran the show, could score when needed, passed and defended. He brought the NCAA tourney to what it is today and we all stand on his shoulders. Magic’s our Man and #1 MOP.
Let the Debate Begin!!
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