Countdown: The Top 5 NBA players drafted from the University of Kansas

Kansas top NBA players

It’s no secret, the Kansas Jayhawks have one of the best basketball programs in the history of college basketball. They have the second-most wins and the most first-team All-American selections in Division I history. Plus KU basketball has five national championships. In fact, many of the All-Americans and other players that lead the program to such success have continued to succeed in the NBA. Some of the best players in the history of the NBA started in Lawrence, Kansas. Here’s our look at the best Jayhawks to be drafted into the NBA.

Honorable mention: Bill Bridges, Kirk Hinrich, Markieff Morris, Andrew Wiggins, Mario Chalmers, Drew Gooden, Wayne Hightower

Kansas Basketball to NBA #5: Danny Manning

Played for KU 1984-88, 1st overall pick in 1988, Played in NBA 1988-2003

Better known for his part in the Jayhawks 1988 national championship win, Danny Manning carried that momentum into the NBA. Manning became the first Jayhawk to be drafted first overall and went on to have a good, 15-year NBA career, despite his knee problems. His best years happened as a Los Angeles Clipper, where he spent six seasons before being traded to Atlanta. Both of Manning’s All-Star selections came during his time in LA and it’s where he had his best season in 1992-93, averaging 22.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. Manning then won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in the 1997-98 season as a Phoenix Sun. That would be the last of Manning’s best seasons, being the last time he averaged above 10 points per game, and spent his last five seasons with five different teams. By the end of his career, Manning had a career per-game average of 14.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Manning proved through his basketball career to not only be one of the best in college basketball history, but also one of the best NBA players from KU.

Kansas Basketball to NBA #4: Clyde Lovellette

Played for KU 1949-52, 9th overall pick in 1952, Played in NBA 1953-64

Clyde Lovellette was one of the first “big men” to enter the NBA, measuring in at 6’9”, and proved to be dominant in the post with his size and physical style of play. Through his 11-year career, Lovellette had a strong presence down low both in scoring and rebounding, having seven seasons averaging over 18 points per game and six seasons averaging at least 10 rebounds a game. Lovellette accomplished all this with multiple teams around the NBA, playing for five different teams. It didn’t matter where he went, Lovellette still found a lot of personal success, being a four-time All-Star and one-time All-NBA. He also played a large part in three NBA championship teams, the 1954 Minneapolis Lakers and the 1963 and 1964 Boston Celtics, finishing the last two years of his career as an NBA champ. By the end of his career, Lovellette had a career average of 17.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. With everything he accomplished through his career, Lovellette got the ultimate award by being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988 and easily has one of the best NBA careers by a former Jayhawk.

Kansas Basketball to NBA #3: Jo Jo White

Played for KU 1965-69, 9th overall pick in 1969, Played in NBA 1969-81

One of the best guards in Celtics’ history, Jo Jo White also stands out as one of the best NBA players to have started in Lawrence. During his 10 seasons in Boston, White made a name for himself coming off the Celtics’ dynasty in the 1960s, being a great scorer at the point by averaging 18.4 points per game as a Celtic. In fact, White’s time in Boston was easily the best of his career, being where he went to all seven of his All-Star games and was named second-team All-NBA twice. With his help, the Celtics won two NBA championships in 1974 and 1976, the only two of White’s career, and he was also named the Finals MVP in 1976. In the 1978-79 season, the Celtics traded White to the Golden State Warriors, where he spent two seasons and then finished up his career with one season as a Kansas City King. White finished his playing days with a career average of 17.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists. And to top it all off, the Celtics retired White’s jersey number 10 and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, giving him a great case as one of the best NBA players from KU.

Kansas Basketball to NBA #2: Paul Pierce

Played for KU 1995-98, 10th overall pick in 1998, Played in NBA 1998-2017

Another one of the best players in Celtics’ history, Paul Pierce became a star and one of the best Jayhawks to play in the NBA. In the 15 years Pierce played in Boston, he shined and became the driving force in the Celtics’ success through the 2000s. Starting his career first-team All-Rookie, Pierce only continued to progress as an NBA star. Every season after his rookie year, Pierce averaged at least 18 points a game in Boston, including leading the league in total points in 2002. In 2008, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Pierce in Boston to push them over edge to win the 2008 NBA championship against the Lakers, with Pierce still standing out among his teammates by being named the Finals MVP. By the time Pierce left the Celtics in a trade to Brooklyn, he was named to all 10 All-Star games and 4 All-NBA teams of his career and left as the franchise leader in 3-point field goals, free throws, and steals. On top of that, Pierce is also second in franchise history in points scored and in the top-10 of many other categories. At the tail-end of his career, Pierce spent a season with the Nets, then the Wizards, and called it a career after two seasons as a Clipper. Although his numbers slowed down a bit after his time in Boston, Pierce will still be remembered as an NBA great and one of the great scorers of all-time, being 15th on the list of the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Pierce will no doubt have a bust in the Hall of Fame soon, making him an easy choice as one of the best NBA players from KU.

Kansas Basketball to NBA #1: Wilt Chamberlain

Played for KU 1956-58, Territorial pick by Philadelphia in 1959, Played in NBA 1959-73

Not only is Wilt Chamberlain the best Jayhawks to play in the NBA, he is one of the best to play the game of basketball. The types of accomplishments Chamberlain had, the only 100-point game in NBA history and a season average of 50 points per game, may never happen again in the history of the league. Even from the start, Chamberlain was a superstar on the court as the 1960 Rookie of the Year, averaging 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds per game that season. Chamberlain would continue to be one of the most dominant forces in NBA history through the rest of his 14-year career for the three teams he played for. His best seasons came while he was a Philadelphia/San Francisco Warrior, averaging 41.5 points and 25.1 rebounds per game as a Warrior. Chamberlain’s numbers slowed down a bit when he went to the 76ers and Lakers, but he found more team success over individual success during those nine seasons. He went to five NBA Finals in that time (he went to one as a Warrior), winning two NBA championships in 1967 with the 76ers and 1972 with the Lakers, where he was also the Finals MVP. While rings are impressive, what sticks out most about Chamberlain’s career are his awards and accomplishments. Chamberlain is a 13-time All-Star, 4-time MVP, 10-time All-NBA, and 2-time All-Defense, just to name a few of his accolades. Chamberlain’s career has still stood the test of time by his amazing stats, as he is still the NBA leader in career rebounds and currently fifth on the list of career scoring leaders. With his type of career, Chamberlain was a shoo-in to the Hall of Fame, being inducted in 1978, had his number 13 retired by the Warriors, 76ers and Lakers, and named one of the top 50 NBA players of all-time. By being such a dominant, game-changing, once-in-a-lifetime player and having one of the most decorated careers in NBA history, Wilt Chamberlain is no doubt the best NBA player from the University of Kansas.

What do you think? Do you agree with this countdown? Did we leave one of your favorite Jayhawks off the list? Let us know in the comments!

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