Best of the best
All-time players, team, moment winners honored in Atlanta
ATLANTA – Bird. Magic. Kareem. Household names for their prowess on the hardwood, and now all are part of the NCAA’s All-Time Players. Tipping off the celebration of the 75th Final Four, the all-time players, team and moment were revealed Friday as part of the 2013 Final Four.
The NCAA will honor the all-time team -- the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers -- and the all-time moment -- Christian Laettner’s game-winning shot against Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional final -- at halftime of the Wichita State-Louisville national semifinal on Saturday night.
The 15 all-time players will be recognized at halftime of the Syracuse-Michigan semifinal on Saturday night.
“Never did a group of kids represent college basketball any better than these guys did,” said Bobby Knight, coach of the 1975-76 Hoosiers, which remain the last DI team to finish undefeated.
Knight was joined at Friday’s announcement with Tom Abernathy, Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner, Jim Crews, Scott May and Bobby Wilkerson from that championship team.
“To think over the last 75 years of NCAA basketball, to be selected for this honor is tremendous,” Benson said.
“We’ve all had our share of success, primarily because we went through that experience,” Buckner said of the players’ time at Indiana under Knight, culminating with the undefeated season. “We all expect -– if we’re going to have success -– we have to be willing to pay the price for the success.
“We learned that at one place. That’s why we are part of whatever we are today.”
Knight -– sporting a green sweater, not the trademark red so often associated with the coach during his 29 seasons at the IU helm –- heaped praise on the team for its athletic ability and, maybe more importantly, headiness.
“They were smart. They were all good students,” Knight said. “We were playing up at Minnesota one night and Scott [May] is guarding a kid named Williams. He scored 22 points in the first half against us and we’re ahead three during that undefeated season.
“I walked in the locker room and I said, ‘Scott, Williams has 22 points.’ Now, I’m not sure I ever heard Bobby Wilkerson say a word; he just played. Bobby is kind of sitting in the back of the locker room. I’m on Scott. I said, ‘Alright, Scott, when the hell are we going to get on Williams? When are we going to stop him?’
“From the back of the room I hear Bobby say, ‘When you put me on him.’
“I looked down at Scott and I said, ‘Scott, what do you think about that?’
“Scott looked up at me and said, ‘Coach, I think it’s a damn good idea.’
“That’s how smart these guys were.”
UCLA and Duke placed two players on the all-time list. Bruins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton were integral parts of UCLA’s championship run from 1964-72. Grant Hill and Christian Laettner were key members of Duke’s back-to-back championships in 1991-92, the most recent time a school has won consecutive DI titles.
The all-time list also includes Indiana State’s Larry Bird and Bill Bradley of Princeton. Bird led the Sycamores to the memorable 1979 championship game, while Bradley holds several Ivy League records, including average points per game (29.83).
Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing and Earvin “Magic” Johnson were honored for their March Madness achievements. Ewing was the centerpiece for John Thompson’s Hoyas in the mid-1980s, including the 1984 championship team. Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Indiana State in the 1979 title game.
Guards Michael Jordan and Jerry Lucas were go-to guys for their schools, North Carolina and Ohio State during their time on campus. Jordan’s game-winning jumper led the Tar Heels past Georgetown in the 1982 championship game. Lucas the only player to record a “30-30 “ -– 33 points and 30 rebounds -– in a tournament game, against Kentucky in 1961.
Kansas’ Danny Manning, Hakeem Olajuwon of Houston, Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell of San Francisco and West Virginia’s Jerry West round out the 15 all-time greatest players.
“Danny and the Miracles” were Kansas’ 1998 championship team, and Manning remains the Jayhawks’ all-time leading scorer (2,951 points) and rebounder (1,187 boards). Olajuwon led Houston to back-to-back championship games – losses to Jim Valvano’s NC State team in 1983 and Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas in ’84.
Robertson’s Bearcats were 79–9, including two Final Four appearances, with “The Big O” – including a 32.4 ppg average during March Madness. Bill Russell’s Dons won consecutive championships in 1955-56, while West and West Virginia lost a heartbreaker to Cal in the 1959 title game; nonetheless, West was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
The all-time team and moment were selected by fan voting. The players’ roster was chosen by members of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association; the College Sports Information Directors of America; the National Association of Basketball Coaches; current and former members of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee; the Final Four Coaches Club; and NCAA media partners.