Arizona Wildcats’ 5 Best-Ever NBA Products

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The University of Arizona is a member of the college basketball elite.

A deep tradition of great teams, players and coaches that rival many of the nation’s best programs. The Wildcats reached the NCAA Tournament for 25 straight years beginning in 1985, second only to the University of North Carolina’s 27 consecutive appearances. The ‘Cats have punched their ticket to the dance a total of 30 times dating all the way back to 1951 under legendary coach Fred Enke.

Enke coached Arizona for 35 years and amassed over 500 victories and finished with a .611 winning percentage. He led the Wildcats to 12 Border Conference Championships and the schools first Sweet Sixteen. Enke’s most notable player was not a player who made it big in the the NBA, but in the United States Congress. Mo Udall was a congressman for 30 years in Arizona’s second district in southern Arizona.

The winningest coach in school history, Lute Olson came to Arizona in 1983 and within only one year, he began his legendary streak and along the way coached many of the school’s and the league’s great players.

The University of Arizona has produced seven Pac-10 Players of the Year, five National Players of the Year, 10 consensus All-Americans and six First-team All-Americans.

However, being great at the college level is not all it’s cracked up to be, you need to be able to prove yourself at the next level to truly make the cut.

The Wildcats have had 16 first-round picks with 10 of them coming in the top 10. There are currently 13 NBA Championship rings won by former Wildcats, three NBA All-Stars, a Sixth-man award winner as well as a Rookie of the Year award winner.

Here are the Wildcats’ five best-ever NBA products.

Honorable Mention

Portland Trail Blazers v New York KnicksWith so many great players coming out of “Point Guard U” it would be a disservice to mention only five when countless others have made their presence known in the NBA.

Andre Igodaula was selected ninth overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2004 NBA Draft and went on to be named to the NBA All-Rookie first team in 2005 and followed it up with the Rookie Challenge MVP the following year. He was traded in 2012 to the Denver Nuggets after eight seasons in Philly and was named team captain and garnered his first All-Star recognition.

Damon Stoudamire (pictured) played 15 seasons for four teams and reached the playoffs six straight years with the Portland Trail Blazers. He was named the 1996 NBA Rookie of the Year after being drafted seventh overall by the Toronto Raptors. He has spent the past five years coaching and has recently returned to Tucson as an assistant coach under Sean Miller.

Channing Frye was signed as the eighth overall pick by the New York Knicks and played seven seasons before being sidelined with an enlarged heart. Frye was named to the NBA All-Rookie first team in 2006 and was a huge contributor to the Phoenix Suns’ 2010 playoff run.

Richard Jefferson was drafted 13th overall by the Houston Rockets in the 2001 draft and was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team. Jefferson has played for 13 NBA seasons with four different teams. He is also a proud recipient of a bronze medal while playing for the USA men’s basketball team in the 2004 Summer Olympics.

  • Jud Buechler has three NBA Championship rings with the Chicago Bulls in 1996-98.
  • Luke Walton has two NBA Championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers 2009-10.
  • Bison Dele (Brian Willams) has one NBA Championship ring with the Chicago Bulls in 1997.

Mike Bibby

Sacramento Kings v Seattle SuperSonicsMike Bibby may have been the best player that the University of Arizona has ever seen and he only played two years.

As a freshman, he led the Wildcats to the promised land in the 1997 NCAA Championship scoring 20 points against Kentucky. His sophomore year was more of the same as he led the ‘Cats to a 30-win season and a regular season conference championship at 17-1. Bibby was named a consensus All-American and the Pac-10 Player of the Year. The Wildcats unfortunately lost to Utah in the Elite Eight that year and Bibby was ready for the NBA.

He was selected No. 2 overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1998 NBA Draft and was selected to the NBA All-Rookie first team in 1999. Bibby played for the Grizzlies for two more seasons before being traded to the Sacramento Kings.

In Bibby’s first season with the Kings, he and Chris Webber dominated the basketball landscape and took the Pacific Division title from the Los Angeles Lakers. Their 61-21 record was the best in the NBA and they looked to face the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. He nailed the game-winner in Game 5 and was huge in the next two games although they eventually fell to the Lakers.

He started all but two games the next four seasons but the Kings never returned to the Western Conference Finals.

Bibby was traded to the Atlanta Hawks where he played for four years and then bounced around to Washington, Miami and New York before hanging it up after 15 seasons.

Steve Kerr

Michael Jordan #23Steve Kerr was the consummate team player.

For 17 seasons, he gave it his all coming off the bench on some of the greatest dynasties of the game. He was drafted No. 50 overall in the second round by the Phoenix Suns in the 1988 draft and was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers the following year.

After starting 29 games in 3 1/2 seasons in Cleveland, he was traded to the Orlando Magic and then released. It could have been a low point in his short career, but instead it was the best thing to ever happen.

In 1993, Kerr signed with the Chicago Bulls and in his six years in Chicago, he played in the postseason each year including three straight NBA Championships. It was Kerr’s last-second shot in Game Six of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz that secured the victory.

Kerr was traded to the San Antonio Spurs after the 1998 season and as luck would have it, the Spurs went on to win the NBA Championship that year giving Kerr his fourth consecutive ring. He also became only the second player in NBA history to win rings with different teams in back-to-back years.

After two more seasons with the Spurs, Kerr signed with the Portland Trail Blazers and then returned to the Spurs just in time to win his fifth ring in the 2003 NBA Finals.

Kerr was best known for his perimeter shooting. He won the 1997 Three-Point Shootout during the All-Star competition and twice led the NBA in three-point proficiency.

He retired as the league’s all-time leader in three-point percentage in a career at 45.4 percent and the second best season at 52.4 percent in 1994-95.

Gilbert Arenas

ArenasAgent Zero is the ultimate “could’ve been” in Arizona basketball history.

Arenas entered the league with a chip on his shoulder after falling into the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft and was out to to prove himself. He was selected 30th overall by the Golden State Warriors and played 30 games in his first year. He blossomed in his second year in the Bay Area being named the NBA Most Improved Player and MVP of the Rookie-Sophomore team on All-Star Weekend.

On the heels of such accolades, he signed a six-year, $60 million contract with the Washington Wizards and soon everybody would know the name Gilbert Arenas. In the 2004-05 season, he led the Warriors in scoring with 25.5 points per game and was dogged on defense finishing sixth in the league with 2.24 steals per game.

His prolific scoring entitled Arenas to be named to three consecutive All-Star teams and led his team to the playoffs in 2005 & 2006. He currently holds three Wizards’ franchise records and two NBA records and is one of only 20 players to have scored 60 or more points in a game. Also to his credit are three 50+ point games, 26 regular season games of 40 or more points and one playoff game of 40+ points.

Arenas only played 15 games over the next two seasons due to injuries but was back with a vengeance in the 2009-10 season starting the first 32 games averaging 22.6 points per game.

Then came the weapons charges.

Arenas was suspended for the remainder of the season by the NBA Commissioner and convicted of carrying an unlicensed firearm, a felony to which he had to serve two years’ probation and 30 days in a halfway house.

He would never be the same again. The Wizards traded Arenas to Orlando after only 21 games the following season and he started only twice in Orlando before being released. He signed with the Memphis Grizzlies in March, 2012 and played out the season before being released.

Jason Terry

Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat - Game SixJason Terry was a member of the 1997 National Championship team with the aforementioned Mike Bibby. He was drafted 10th overall in the 1999 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks.

Like most other players on this list, Terry came out banging. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team in 2000. Over the next four seasons with the Hawks, he started all but eight games and led the team in scoring, assists and steals. After five productive seasons in Atlanta, Terry was traded to the Dallas Mavericks and his true potential was about to be realized.

In his first season with the Dallas Mavericks, Terry started 57 games and had a great playoff run hitting 49-percent from beyond the arc. He would return stronger than ever the following season averaging nearly 19 points per game en route to their first NBA Finals appearance, losing to the Miami Heat.

Five years later, in 2011, the Mavericks returned to the NBA Finals—against the Miami Heat. This time, the Mavericks and Terry would emerge victorious in six games.

Terry played eight seasons with the Mavericks garnering a number of accolades including the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2009 and a NBA Championship ring in 2011. He also tied a NBA playoff record by draining nine three-point baskets in 10 attempts against the Los Angeles Lakers on May 8, 2011. He currently ranks fourth all-time in three-points baskets made.

He is currently a member of the Boston Celtics after signing a three-year $15 million contract.

Sean Elliott

Spurs at BullsIs Sean Elliott the best player in Arizona basketball history?

Is he the proverbial face of the franchise?

Although he never won a NCAA Championship with the Wildcats and “only” has one NBA Championship ring, you’ll be hard pressed to find somebody who wouldn’t put him at the top of the list.

A Tucson product through and through, Elliott was born and raised in Tucson and attended Cholla High School, graduating in 1985. After high school, he stayed home and attended the University of Arizona leading the Wildcats to the school’s first Final Four appearance.

He is the school’s only two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year and two-time consensus All-American. His numerous collegiate accolades after his senior season include the NABC Player of the Year Award, the Associated Press Player of the Year Award, the Adolph Rupp Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award. He broke the previously vaunted Pac-10 career scoring record held by Lew Alcindor and is still the school’s all-time leading scorer.

Elliott was drafted third overall in the 1989 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1990. He played 11 of his 12 seasons in the silver and black and was named an All-Star in 1993 and 1996.

The 1999 season brought the first conference and NBA Championship to Elliott and the San Antonio Spurs defeating the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden.

Elliott played sparingly the following two years but his career was a rousing success ranking third all-time in three-point field goals made and attempted in Spurs history. His name litters the Spurs record books being ranked in the top ten in six different categories including fourth all-time in points scored.

He is the only player in University of Arizona history to have both his college and professional jerseys hanging from the rafters.

I think that alone is sufficient proof.

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