Best of the Best: The Top 20 All-Time NBA Players with an NCAA Championship
It is rare for a professional athlete to dominate their sport for a prolonged period of time. There have been numerous cases of college superstars not panning out professionally, and professional players who could not capture that illusive championship in their college days.
This is the list of the best and most successful professional basketball players who have also hoisted the NCAA Championship trophy.
20. Carlos Boozer
Boozer was a highly recruited player going into college, deciding to play for coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. He helped the Blue Devils win the 2001 National Championship, defeating Arizona.
Boozer has had a successful NBA career as a two-time All-Star.
19. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony made a name for himself in Syracuse’s run for the National Title in 2003. He was then drafted by the Nuggets, where he played seven-plus seasons before being recently traded to the New York Knicks.
An NBA championship has so far eluded that four-time All-Star selection.
18. Richard Hamilton
“Rip” Hamilton won his National title at the University of Connecticut in 1999. Hamilton would also be a key piece in the Detroit Piston’s NBA Championship in 2004.
The three-time All-Star is still playing for the Pistons.
17. K.C. Jones
K.C. Jones, along with Bill Russell, led the University of San Francisco to two NCAA Championships in 1955 and 1956. Jones would go on to win eight NBA Championships with the Boston Celtics.
Jones would also coach the Celtics to two more titles in the 80s.
16. Glen Rice
Glen Rice was an essential part of Michigan’s one and only NCAA title in 1989. Rice scored 184 points that year in tournament play, the highest point total ever, and a record that still stands today. He won an NBA Championship with the Lakers in 2000.
Rice will stay atop the record books until he is outscored.
15. David Thompson
“The Skywalker” is undoubtedly the best player in North Carolina State’s history, leading the Wolfpack to its first National Title in 1974. Thompson had a successful NBA career, eventually becoming a four-time All-Star.
He is widely considered one of the greatest players in the history of the ACC.
14. Grant Hill
“G-Money” played all 4 years under Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski, winning the title in his first two seasons in 1991 and 1992. He would lead the Blue Devils to the title game in 1994, only to come up short against Arkansas.
The seven-time All-Star has yet to capture a title in the NBA.
13. Jerry Lucas
Jerry Lucas won his NCAA championship with Ohio State in 1960, in what is still their only championship to date. The perennial NBA All-Star would also win an NBA title in 1973 with the New York Knicks.
Lucas is widely considered one of the greatest players of his time.
12. Clyde Lovellette
Clyde Lovellette was the first basketball player in history to win an NCAA Championship, an Olympic gold medal and an NBA Championship. He captured his NCAA title with Kansas in 1952.
The four-time All-Star won three NBA Championships in his career.
11. Bill Walton
Bill Walton was the big man for the “Wizard of Westwood,” John Wooden, in their 1972 and 1973 National Championships. Walton went on to have a successful career in the NBA, winning an NBA Championship with both the Portland Trail Blazers and the Boston Celtics.
Walton was the NBA MVP in 1978.
10. Tom Gola
Tom Gola was one of the best all-around players of his generation, and won his National Title at La Salle University in 1954. He went on to have a successful career in the NBA, capturing a championship with the Philadelphia Warriors in 1956.
The five-time All-Star was an elite defender in his day.
9. James Worthy
“Big Game James” Worthy captured his NCAA title in 1982 alongside Michael Jordan at the University of North Carolina. While Jordan overshadowed Worthy, the seven-time All-Star and three-time NBA Champion held his own as one of the best in the league.
Worthy played his entire career as a Laker, and is one of the franchise’s best.
8. Patrick Ewing
Ewing was one of the most highly recruited freshmen at the time, and for good reason. Ewing decided to join coach John Thompson at Georgetown, where he led the Hoyas to a National Title in 1984.
He then went on to join the NBA, garnering 11 NBA All-Star selections.
The long-time Knick was never able to win an NBA Championship.
7. Bob Cousy
Cousy will be remembered for his run with the Boston Celtics in the 50s and 60s that includes six championships.
He will also forever be remembered at Holy Cross, as he helped the school capture it’s only National Title in 1947.
The 13-time All-Star is a legend of the sport of basketball.
6. Isiah Thomas
His sophomore season at Indiana under Bob Knight was all Thomas needed to vault himself into the NBA. The 1981 champion Hoosiers were led by their star Thomas, who received the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.
Thomas went on to the NBA, and enjoyed 12 NBA All-Star selections and a pair of championships with the Detroit Pistons.
5. John Havlicek
Havlicek’s lone National Championship in 1960 with Ohio State is overshadowed by his eight NBA Championship titles with the Boston Celtics in the 1960s.
Overlooked at Ohio State for then star Jerry Lucas, Havlicek had the last laugh.
Havlicek is on the shortlist for the greatest NBA players of all time.
4. Bill Russell
Russell did not receive one letter of interest until Hal DeJulio of the University of San Francisco gave him a chance. Two National Championships later (one in 1955, another in 1956), it's pretty obvious DeJulio made the right choice.
Russell overcame adversity to become a once in a generation player for the Celtics in the late 50s and early 60s.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem captured not one, not two but three NCAA Championship titles under legendary coach John Wooden at UCLA from 1967-1969.
Wooden would not be the only legend to make a name at UCLA, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would go down in history as one of the most successful NBA athletes ever.
2. Magic Johnson
Johnson earned his Championship in 1979 in what was the most watched NCAA Final to date. Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Larry Bird and Indiana State in an epic clash between the two combatants in a rivalry that would continue for years in the NBA.
Johnson is widely considered one of the best players ever to play the game, if not the best.
1. Michael Jordan
"His Airness" is the greatest basketball player of all time, winning championships at every level. Jordan grabbed his NCAA Championship playing with the University of North Carolina in 1982, playing under Dean Smith.
Jordan may be the greatest player to ever grace the NBA.