Current NBA Stars Who Were March Madness Legends

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2021

Current NBA Stars Who Were March Madness Legends

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    Stephen Curry at Davidson in 2008
    Stephen Curry at Davidson in 2008Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    As if NBA players who have earned "star" status aren't already part of an exclusive club, only a handful are also remembered as March Madness legends.

    The most obvious names are Stephen Curry and Kemba Walker, who each assembled one of the greatest individual runs in NCAA tournament history. They've both developed into All-Stars at the professional level, too.

    The list is subjective but considers March Madness production and career NBA performance. Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin are no longer true NBA stars, but they're worth a mention along with Sacramento Kings standout Buddy Hield.

Former and Borderline NBA Stars

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    Buddy Hield
    Buddy HieldEric Gay/Associated Press

    Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse, 2003)

    Last an All-Star in the 2016-17 NBA season, Carmelo Anthony has become a complementary piece for the Portland Trail Blazers. He propelled Syracuse to a national title nearly two decades ago, averaging 20.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals. Anthony posted 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the Orange's championship win over Kansas.

                 

    Kevin Love (UCLA, 2008)

    Although the Bruins' run ended in the Final Fourat the hands of Derrick Rose and Memphis, incidentallyKevin Love put together a terrific five-game stretch. He collected 19.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.0 blocks and 2.2 assists per game. He and teammate Russell Westbrook were both top-five picks in the 2008 NBA draft.

              

    Derrick Rose (Memphis, 2008)

    Chris Douglas-Roberts led Memphis with 23.3 points per game, but Rose made an excellent all-around impact. The freshman guard averaged 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists while helping the Tigers to a national runner-up finish. Soon after, the Chicago Bulls selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in that same 2008 draft with Love and Westbrook.

             

    Blake Griffin (Oklahoma, 2009)

    The next year, Blake Griffin put Oklahoma on his back. He amassed 28.5 points and 15.0 rebounds per game, carrying the Sooners to the Elite Eight, where they lost to eventual champion North Carolina. Griffin then became the No. 1 pick of the 2009 NBA draft, heading to the Los Angeles Clippers.

                

    Buddy Hield (Oklahoma, 2016)

    Buddy Hield took the Sooners one game further than Griffin before also falling to the future national champion. He averaged 29.3 points with a 47.5 percent three-point clip in OU's four victories prior to a rough shooting night in the loss to Villanova.

Stephen Curry (Davidson, 2008)

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    The 2008 edition of March Madness had several future NBA stars who enjoyed a prolific tournament. Although both Love and Rose advanced further, Stephen Curry had the most iconic run.

    While leading No. 10 seed Davidson, the future two-time NBA MVP keyed upsets of Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin. Curry collected 34.3 points, 4.0 steals and 3.7 assists with only 1.3 turnovers per game in those victories. Most impressively, he knocked down an absurd 52.8 percent of his 12.0 three-point attempts per contest.

    Davidson nearly eliminated No. 1 seed Kansas but fell agonizingly short of the Final Four. Curry still provided 25 points and three assists in that 59-57 loss.

    Add in a 30-point day against Maryland as a freshman in 2007 and Curry averaged 31.6 points in five March Madness games.

Kemba Walker (Connecticut, 2011)

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    Magic Johnson, Danny Manning, Christian Laettner and Kemba Walker all have a claim to the best individual performance in March Madness history. Walker's run in 2011 actually began in the Big East tournament and went through the national title game, though.

    After averaging 26.0 points and 4.2 assists in the conference tournament, he tallied 23.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game in the big dance.

    Walker, a four-time NBA All-Star, hit clutch shots in both the Elite Eight and the national semifinal. In the championship, he scored a game-high 16 points to give UConn its third national title.

Anthony Davis (Kentucky, 2012)

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    In his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Davis won a championship. He did the same at Kentucky in 2012.

    The one-and-done superstar won practically every award on the planet that season, punctuated by Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament. He racked up 13.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.8 blocks and 3.0 assists per game.

    Davis totaled 29 blocks, which is tied for the second-most in a single tournament. The only player with more is Kansas center Jeff Withey, who Davis held to five points and seven rebounds in the national championship. Davis, meanwhile, had six points, 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and three steals.

    He has since become an eight-time NBA All-Star and, fittingly, has led the league in blocks per game three times.

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