basketball-men-d1 flag

Molly Sequin | October 4, 2018

The 9 Naismith Award winners who also made the Basketball Hall of Fame

Watch Bird and Magic battle for the '79 championship

The Naismith Player of the Year award is given annually to the country's most outstanding men's and women's college basketball player based on votes from a national group of college basketball experts. You can read here how the Atlanta Tipoff Club narrows the field from 50 at the start of the season to the eventual winner. We wondered how many of the men's winners have also gone on to have hall of fame careers in pro basketball. 

These are the nine players who won the Naismith in college and were later inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

NCAA Photos Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1967 Final Four.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1967 Final Four.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — then known as Lew Alcindor — was named the first-ever Naismith Player of the Year after his 1968-69 season at UCLA. During his prolific career with the Bruins, Adbul-Jabbar won three national championships, was a three-time consensus All American and was the NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player in 1967, 1968 and 1969. Abdul-Jabbar was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks as the first overall pick and finished his NBA career with six championships and six MVP titles. He is also the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points. Adbul-Jabbar was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. 

RELATED: 13 names we might see in a future Naismith Hall of Fame class

Pete Maravich

Pete Maravich plays with the Utah Jazz in 1977."Pistol Pete" was chosen for the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1987.

Pete Maravich, also known as "Pistol Pete," won the Naismith in 1970 while playing for LSU. The Tigers' basketball arena is now named Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Maravich scored more than 1,000 points each year he played for the varsity team — 1,138, 1,148 and 1,381, respectively — making him the NCAA DI leading scorer with 3,667 points. Pistol Pete also holds the NCAA records for highest scoring average with 44.2 points per game and most career 50-point games with 28. In 1970, Maravich was drafted third by the Atlanta Hawks. While there, he scored 23.2 points per game and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team. He also played for the Jazz and Celtics before retiring. Maravich was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. 

RELATED: College basketball teams who could have their best rosters ever

Bill Walton

NCAA Photos Bill Walton in the 1973 Final Four.Bill Walton in the 1973 Final Four.

Bill Walton was named Naismith Played of the Year three times for his performances at UCLA in the 1971-72, 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons. He played in 30 games each season, scoring 633 points, 612 points and 522 points, respectively. After a college career that brought him recognition including consensus All-America, NCAA All-tournament and NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player, Walton was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers. Walton won the NBA Most Valuable Player award while playing for the Trail Blazers in 1977-78. He played 13 years in the league and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

David Thompson

NCAA Photos David Thompson shoots over Bill Walton in the 1974 Final Four.David Thompson shoots over Bill Walton in the 1974 Final Four.

David Thompson was awarded the Naismith at the end of his 1974-75 season with NC State. He helped lead the Wolfpack to their first national championship in 1974. Thompson was known as "Skywalker" for his incredible vertical leap. Thompson was the first overall draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks in 1975 but elected to play for the Denver Nuggets in the ABA. He continued to play with the Nuggets after the ABA-NBA merger before being traded to the Seattle Supersonics. Thompson was twice named to the All-NBA team and was selected to four All-Star games. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.

MORE: We picked the best current college basketball player for every jersey number

Larry Bird

NCAA Photos Larry Bird in the 1979 Final Four.Larry Bird in the 1979 Final Four.

Larry Bird was named the Naismith Player of the Year at Indiana State in 1978-79. Bird led his team to the NIT quarterfinals during his All-American sophomore season. In his final year at Indiana State, Bird led the Sycamores to a 33-0 start and the national championship where he met Magic Johnson's Michigan State Spartans. Following his collegiate career, Bird was the sixth overall draft pick by the Boston Celtics in 1978. He helped Boston win three NBA titles, was named the NBA's MVP three consecutive seasons, and was a nine-time member of the All-NBA First Team. After he retired in 1992, Bird returned to Indiana where he was head coach and an executive for the Pacers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.

Ralph Sampson

NCAA Photos Ralph Sampson in the 1981 Final Four.Ralph Sampson in the 1981 Final Four.

Ralph Sampson won the Naismith three times at Virginia. Sampson was only the second player, behind Bill Walton, to achieve this feat. He took home the award from 1981-83, where he posted three straight seasons with more than 500 points scored. Sampson led the Cavaliers to an NIT title in 1980, a Final Four appearance in 1981 and an Elite Eight appearance in 1983. He was the first overall draft pick by the Houston Rockets in 1983 and was named NBA Rookie of the Year with 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game for his first three professional seasons. Sampson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

Michael Jordan

NCAA Photos Michael Jordan in the 1982 Final Four.Michael Jordan in the 1982 Final Four.

Following Sampson's Naismith streak, Michael Jordan won the award in 1984 while at North Carolina. Jordan was a member of the national championship team in 1982 and was named ACC Freshman of the Year after making the game-winning jump shot against Georgetown. He played two more seasons at North Carolina, averaging 17.7 points per game and was named to the NCAA All-American First Team both years. Jordan was the third overall pick to the Chicago Bulls in 1984. He was a six-time NBA champion, five-time NBA MVP, 10-time All-NBA First Team member and two-time Olympic gold medalist. Jordan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

RELATED: Michael Jordan's greatest moments as a Tar Heel

Patrick Ewing

NCAA Photos Patrick Ewing goes for the dunk in the 1984 Final Four.Patrick Ewing goes for the dunk in the 1984 Final Four.

Georgetown's Patrick Ewing was player of the year in 1984-85. Ewing helped the Hoyas capture three Big East titles and reach three national championship games in his four seasons. He was also named a first-team All-American three times during his collegiate career. Ewing was the first overall pick by the Knicks in 1985. He also played in Seattle and Orlando during his NBA career. Ewing earned Rookie of the Year and All-NBA First Team honors, as well as two Olympic gold medals. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. Ewing now enters his second year as head coach at his alma mater. 

RELATED: These current coaches (including Ewing) had the best playing careers

David Robinson

NCAA Photos Indiana fans with Robinson before the 1987 Final Four.Indiana fans with Robinson before the 1987 Final Four.

David Robinson, nicknamed "The Admiral," was awarded the Naismith in 1987 while playing at Navy. He started all 32 games that season and scored  903 points. During his last two years at Navy, Robinson was named consensus All-American. In 1987, Robinson was the first overall pick to the San Antonio Spurs. He stayed with the team for the entirety of his professional career, gaining Rookie of the Year, MVP and All-NBA First-Team honors. Robinson is a two-time NBA champion and three-time Olympian. Robinson made the Hall of Fame in 2009.

Colleges with most players in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

UCLA leads all schools with seven basketball players in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The top newcomers in FCS football halfway through the season

These are the newcomers— both freshmen and transfers — who have made an impact through the first half of the 2022 FCS football season.
Presented by

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners