By William Bixby
1. Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) – One of the most physically gifted basketball talents ever to touch a court. One of the most skilled bigs to ever play basketball. It is widely believed that dunking was outlawed by the NCAA because of his arrival, and instead of handicapping him, it polished his skills. One of the best prep stars in basketball got better. That rule change forced Alcindor to develop one of the most unstoppable shots in basketball history, the sky hook. His freshman squad actually beat the varsity team, the reigning National Champions, in a scrimmage. He became a 3-time NCAA champion succeeding that freshman year. In addition to winning the National Championship in all 3 of his varsity seasons (freshman weren’t allowed to play), he also had a college record of 88-2. Big Lew is the only person ever selected as Most Oustanding Player of the Final Four 3 times. He was Consensus Player of the Year 3 times, and 1st team All-American 3 times. His college averages are 26 points/game and 15 rebounds/game, but his impact overwhelmed his numbers. He won everywhere he went, literally. He won championships at Power Memorial (HS), he won at UCLA, and he won in Milwaukee and L.A. in the NBA. Lew Alcindor was college basketball’s most dominant force.
2. Oscar Robertson – Shooting his patented, one-handed jump shot, he hit the history books running. Before college, he won 2 state titles at Crispus Attucks High. This was a prelude to 2 Final Fours at the University of Cincinnati while carrying overall averages of 34 points and 15 rebounds per game. He was the first person to lead the nation in scoring in all 3 varsity seasons. He finished his college career as the all-time leading scorer with a record of 79-9. He was the progenitor of today’s big guard. Robertson went on to be a NBA Most Valuable Player and champion with Kareem Abdul Jabaar.
3. Bill Russell – Most people know about his exploits in the NBA. With 11 rings in 13 seasons, he has more rings than he has fingers. He also has 5 MVP’s, but what people don’t know is that Russell was just as dominant in college. He holds career college averages of 20 points and 20 rebounds. He won 2 national championships at the university of San Francisco despite the implementation of “Russell’s Rules”; the widening of the lane to 12 feet and making it illegal to block a shot when the ball is on a downward arc.
4. Pete Maravich – the “Pistol” holds the highest career scoring average in college history and the most points scored, at 44.3 and 3667 respectively. He could dribble around, shoot in front of, and/or confuse any defender with ease. He had range out to nearly half court and he proved it nightly in games. Maravich played with more style and substance than any player before or after him. Though it didn’t translate into many wins, no one could do it better than the “Pistol”.
5. Bill Walton – “Big Red” was the other UCLA great. Considered by many to be the best passing big man ever, he dominated college basketball, culminating it all by shooting 21-22 on field goals during the Final Four to help UCLA win 2 of 3 national championships during his stay in Westwood.
6. David Thompson – David Thompson is known for his hops, but he won too. His rare athletic ability helped him past the UCLA behemoth. During his tenure at North Carolina State, he was a 3-time selection as a 1st team All-American, the National Player of the Year, and the Most Outstanding player of the Final Four. We knew that David Thompson could score; he has career college averages of 26 points and 8 rebounds. But, he used his famed athleticism to block the shots of several Bruins, including All-American center (that’s right the biggest guy on the court) Bill Walton. He stopped Walton from winning his 3rd title in as many years. Yes, David Thompson could jump, but more so, he could play basketball.
7. Larry Bird – One of the most prolific college basketball players ever. Lead the nation in scoring at small, unknown Indiana State. Bird won Player of the Year and several other college basketball awards in his senior year, and the only reason that he did not win a national title is because he faced Magic Johnson, another Hall of Fame basketball player in the final game of the NCAA tournament.
8. Wilt Chamberlain – One of the most physically gifted athletes ever. “The Stilt” could stretch and score, rebound and finish, and/or do anything he wanted on the court. Wilt dominated basketball like no one has ever done before him or since he left. He faced gimmick defenses, triple teams in the post before he touched the basketball, and a litany of illegal ploys to stop him. None of it worked.
9. Elvin Hayes – The “Big E” is one of a handful of players to average 30 points and 15 rebounds in college. He dominated college basketball and was the only person to outplay Lew Alcindor in a college basketball game. Hayes and the Houston Cougars are credited with making college basketball popular across the nation with their win over the undefeated UCLA Bruins.
10. Jerry West – The toughest, most determined and athletic forward of his era. The only guy in his class was Oscar Robertson. He scored at will and played defense on every possession. Jerry West was the epitome of hustle and determination mixed with natural talent and basketball IQ.