Greatest College Basketball Players of all Time (Part VII)

November 7, 2019

The talents of these amazing players left an impact both on and off the courts.

Walter Berry (San Jacinto Junior College and St. John’s University, 1983-1986): This 6-foot-8 southpaw was one of the only individuals to be the best player on two separate collegiate levels. He had one of the greatest JUCO seasons ever at Jacinto and was a Wooden Award winner for St. John’s. He also had the craziest scoring attacks of the ’80s — he ignored his right hand completely, twirled incessantly, and showed extreme disinterest in developing anything as dull as a jump shot.

David Thompson (North Carolina State, 1973-1975): David Thompson built Michael Jordan.

Bill Walton (UCLA, 1971-1974): Deadheads in downtown Portland might quibble with Walton’s inclusion on this list, but the dude defined both the hippie collegiate experience and the NCAA style of play. Judging from his own statements, I’m relatively certain he’d give up half his injury-plagued pro career just to spend five more minutes in a bomb shelter with John Wooden.

Pete Maravich (LSU, 1967-1970): The free thinker/lunatic who averaged 44.2 a game during his three-season career; everyone who follows basketball knows this, because there’s just no corollary for that kind of offensive production. It’s doubtful anyone will average 40 points again, and there’s zero chance someone will do it three times in a row. But here’s something even crazier: Maravich averaged 44.2 points per game while shooting 43.8 percent from the field. His career scoring average was higher than his career shooting percentage.

Lew Alcindor (UCLA, 1966-1969): This, I cannot deny, is a form of cheating that even Sam Gilbert would find egregious. Alcindor changed his name in 1971 and had a decent pro career. One could make the argument that seeing “Lew Alcindor” as a separate entity from “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar” is basically a question about the definition of personhood.

The fact that UCLA won the national title during all three seasons Alcindor played is merely the third-most interesting detail of his college career; the fact that the NCAA outlawed dunking due to his dominance is probably second.