When you talk about college basketball, there are so many players that have gone on to shape history, and this will continue to be the case as long as basketball is the best-loved sport in America (in our opinion). Debates rage on as people try to figure out the best team and the most outstanding players.
Without further ado, here’s our list of top contenders for our collegiate GOAT awards (greatest of all time) – starting with Bill Bradley.
Bill Bradley – Princeton
Bradley went to Princeton University and played basketball there while earning his degree in politics. Bill Bradley is the only college player to win an Olympic Gold Medal, National Championship, and become the Number 1 draft pick all in one year. He also holds the distinction of being on two of Sports Illustrated‘s “NCAA All-Century Team.” A true testament of dominance over your competitor – Bradley is our prize GOAT.
Bill Bradley was awarded the James E. Sullivan Award in 1965. This annual award – for the United States’ top amateur athlete – made Bradley the first basketball player to win the honor. After his professional basketball career Bradley became a US senator representing the state of New Jersey as a Democratic Party nominee. This GOAT is genuinely one of a kind for his on and off-court accomplishments.
Elvin Hayes – Houston
Elvin Hayes played collegiately at The University of Houston. He was awarded the honor of being inducted into the Basketball Hall Of Fame (not bad, considering he wasn’t even first on his team).
Hayes became a professional player with the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA) after being drafted second overall in 1968. He ended up playing just five games before joining the NBA’s San Diego Rockets, for whom he averaged 16 rebounds and 17 points per game over seven seasons.
He would then play in the American Basketball Association (ABA) for five years before playing with the Washington Bullets (now Washington Wizards). A truly dominant player, Elvin Hayes is one of our top contenders for GOAT, just pipped to the post by Bradley.
Larry Bird – Indiana State
Larry “Legend” Bird, ranked #1 in the top 100 college basketball players of all time, is another contender for placement on our GOAT awards table.
Larry Bird led his NCAA championship team to unprecedented wins winning three straight championships from 1979-1981. In addition, he made it to the NBA Finals six times throughout his career.
Bird holds the record for most 3 point shots made in a season, consecutive games with double-digit points scored, and has also been named NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player three times. This man’s legacy speaks volumes about his contributions to the game of modern basketball.
Pete Maravich – LSU
Pete Maravich is possibly the most gifted shooter to ever touch a basketball and one of the greatest scorers in college and professional basketball. He also holds the record for highest career scoring average (44.2)—a truly remarkable man with brains and talent to match.
Maravich fulfilled his career dreams as a professional player with the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Jazz. Unfortunately, his career was cut short by a reported heart attack.
However, we cannot take away his accolades; he made it to the NBA All-Star Game five times and helped the Jazz make it to their first-ever playoff season (in 1981).
Oscar Robertson – Cincinnati
Oscar Robertson is yet another legend who helped shape this game into what it is today. Oscar won an Olympic Gold Medal and NCAA championships at The University of Cincinnati. He also achieved several NBA titles during his 13-year career and multiple trophies and awards, out of which eleven were earned consecutively – simply phenomenal.
Lew Alcindor – UCLA
Alcindor played under legendary coach John Wooden and led the UCLA Bruins to three consecutive championships. Lew Alcindor had an extraordinary career at UCLA, where he holds multiple records, including most points in a single game, highest career scoring average (26.4), and highest rebounding average (17.8).
Alcindor continued to play until he retired in the early ’80s and was inducted into the FIBA Hall Of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame. He similarly holds several records, including most rebounds in an NBA game, highest career scoring average (24.6), and won NBA All-Star Game MVP twice.
Alcindor is yet another true legend on our list of GOAT contenders.
Jerry West – West Virginia
Jerry “The Logo” west is a fascinating choice for our list due to his impressive collegiate years. Unfortunately, we cannot find many stats about his time at WVU, which makes it hard to rank him higher than some other players; however, this does not take away from Magic Johnson’s point that “Jerry West may be one of greatest pure shooters of all time.” Let’s face it, if anyone knows, Johnson knows.
West joined the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played in 14 All-Star Games, was named All-NBA First Team ten times, and won NBA Finals MVP three times. Jerry West is another legend who contributed much to the game of basketball that still lives on today through his legacy.
Bill Walton – UCLA
Bill Walton only played for John Wooden during his college career leading up to winning an NCAA championship. This is why John Wooden is considered by many as the Greatest Coach of all time. Bill went on to win two NBA titles in 1985 and 1986 with The Boston Celtics after spending 12 seasons in the NBA, making it to 5 final games with three different teams.
You may disagree with our round-up, so you’re always welcome to add your choice of top X college basketball players of all time too!