by Shannon Boy
August 15, 2017
It’s a rainy day here in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. A day good enough to really think about a question that I was posed with recently. The question that I was asked was this: “If you had to choose an all time college basketball team, ….. who exactly would you choose?”
Now college basketball….. well….the game of basketball in general is my passion. It is the game that I have loved from the time I was in elementary school until now. I spent many a day out behind the house on the newly laid concrete driveway shooting baskets in the sun, in the rain and in the snow. I spent hot summers playing best of seven 2-on-2 games with my brother and two cousins. I spent days alone in a gym at King University in Bristol, Tennessee shooting baskets to relax my brain before a final exam or a big test. I spent many days shooting basketball following the death of members of my immediate family and the divorce of my parents to reflect on great memories of the past with my family. Now as a high school basketball coach these days, I watch a lot of film and look for ways to prepare my teams for the upcoming seasons to be great players as well as great human beings.
What does all this have to do with my picks for college basketball’s all time team? Because for many of the years that I mentioned above, I pretended to be these very players. They were the guys that gave me hope and gave me inspiration not just to be a great basketball player, but to be a great impactful human being in life. It was their passion for the game that I watched on television that made me want to be apart of this beautiful game and its relevance to being your best in life everyday… in the good days and the bad.
With all this said, I would now like to give to you my All Time College Basketball Team for the Ages. Now with any team, there will be many others who would be included on this list. The people on this list are the very ones who to me showed me the greatness of the game and what having energy, passion and desire to be the best in life was all about.
My NCAA College Basketball All Time Greatest Team
Michael Jordan (University of North Carolina)
Ok. Just saying the greatest isn’t good enough…but back then no one knew how great he would become. After being cut from his high school varsity team, the man did nothing else but win ACC Freshman of the Year in 1982. The same year that his UNC team faced Georgetown for the National Championship in New Orleans and won the game when on a pass reversal he knocked down the game winning basketball for the Tar Heels and gave Dean Smith his very first national championship. He didn’t stop there. He also became a Consensus NCAA First Team All-American his sophomore and junior years at UNC. Yet having these accolades never stopped him from wanting more. He went on to an NBA career in which he won 6 out of 6 NBA Finals that he played not to mention numerous MVP, NBA First Team Honors and Defensive Player of the Year awards. There is a reason he is the greatest of all time. His impact and work ethic is endless and it started in his college game.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson (Michigan State)
Do you know the Magic Man? Many people became familiar with him during the 1979 NCAA Tournament Championship Final in which he played against a team from the Hoosier state that was led by some hick from French Lick, Indiana. Why choose Magic Johnson for this list? Ok. He could have went to Indiana and played for Bobby Knight. He could have went to UCLA and continued the Bruins success story, but it just wasn’t time to go to Los Angeles. Not yet. He chose Jud Heathcote and the Michigan State Spartans because Coach Heathcote said he could play point guard. Why is that a big deal? Ok. You are playing a game in a gym somewhere in America and you see this 6’9 athletic guy coming down the floor at you handling the ball like Bob Cousy. What do you do? Exactly. The Big 10 didn’t know either. Magic Johnson averaged 17 ppg, 7 rebounds and 7 assists per game in two full years with the Spartans leading them to the Elite Eight and the National Championship respectively. His impact was not felt just in wins though. His impact would be felt by his energy, his passion and ability to make the game of basketball fun to watch. The 1979 National Championship game was the highest watched game of all time and helped give the spark to the March Madness we know today. Johnson’s impact would not be limited to college. He also would continue his impact in the NBA by being an All NBA First Team, NBA MVP and a 5 time NBA Champion. Many of those championships of which he would win with the huge help from a rivalry that began in Salt Lake City in the National Championship game. It was with the help of a bad dude named……..
Larry Bird (Indiana State)
Coming out of high school, Larry Bird thought he wanted to become a Hoosier and play under Bobby Knight. Bird wasn’t your average player. He was a humble homebody. A guy whose love for the game overcame a lot of personal struggles in his life. He came from a blue-collar life and lived a blue collar lifestyle. Playing at Spring Valley High School, he averaged 31 points, 21 rebounds and 4 assists. He went to IU for a month and got homesick and came home to French Lick to work some local city jobs before enrolling at Indiana State for his remaining three years. While at Indiana State, he averaged 30 points, 13 rebound and 4 assists a game and won Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year honors. This wasn’t just your average Bird. This Bird helped Indiana State fly under the radar in 1979 and reach a 33-0 record before facing the Magic from Lansing in Salt Lake City, Utah for the championship. His impact didn’t stop there. He went on to win many NBA MVP awards as well as NBA First Team and All Defensive Team awards and lead the Celtics to three NBA championships continuing a rivalry against Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers that helped spark a rebirth in the NBA game.
Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas)
The legend of “Wilt the Stilt” began in Philadelphia at a high school name Overbrook. He averaged 37 points a game and had three consecutive games in which he scored 74, 78 and 90. So with all the hoopla that a player such as this would probably generate in the City of Brotherly Love…. what big city or big time place did “The Stilt” go to? He went to the University of Kansas. Wheat fields and Phog Allen. Freshman were unable to play varsity ball in that day so when Wilt took the floor for the first time it was against the Jayhawks varsity basketball team. Against his older teammates as a freshman, Chamberlain registered 42 points, 29 rebounds and 4 blocks. Needless to say that when he made his debut on the Jayhawk varsity team a year later as a sophomore, his impact on college basketball was felt immediately. Chamberlain recorded 52 points and 31 rebounds against Northwestern University smashing the Jayhawks all time records in one game. He was a First Team All American and the NCAA Tournament MVP in a year that his Jayhawks lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the National Championship game. In two years playing for the Jayhawks he averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds a game totaling nearly 15oo points and 900 rebounds in two years for Kansas. His impact would not stop in college. He would go on to lead the NBA in scoring 7 times, win the NBA Championship twice and be solely responsible for the widening of the lane from 12 to 16 feet. This was not the only change to the game Wilt was responsible for. When he was in high school, he had a very unique way of shooting free-throws. He would stand at the top of the key, throw the ball up toward the basket, take two steps, jump toward the rim and jam the ball through the net. This is the reason that players cannot cross the free throw line until the ball hits the rim after they have shot the ball. Wilt the Stilt….. what a career.
Lew Alcindor (UCLA)
You may know him now as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But before the change in name, he was Lew Alcindor from New York City. Before the Skyhook became a household name, it was him and John Wooden dominating the floor in Pauley Pavilion. Wooden snatched him from New York City in which Alcindor led his high school team to a 79-2 overall record and a national championship finish his junior year and a national runner-up his senior year. So what all did he do at UCLA? Not much his freshman year since freshman were ineligible. So for the last three years of his career at UCLA, he led the Bruins to an 88-2 overall record, was twice named Player of the Year (in 1967 and 1969). He was a three-time First Team All American from 1967 to 1969. He played on three NCAA basketball champion teams from 1967 to 1969 and was honored as the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament (1967, 1968, 1969). Alcindor was also honored as the very first Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year in 1969. His impact like the others above would not end there. He would go on to become a 6 time NBA Champion, a 6 time NBA MVP as well as a 19 time NBA All Star and the NBA’s All Time Career Scoring Leader. His signature goggles look came from an incident in college in which his cornea was scratched and he decided to wear the goggles to prevent further damage to his eyes.
“Pistol” Pete Maravich – (Louisiana State University)
Maravich, like Alcindor and Chamberlain, played in a time when freshman were ineligible to be on their college varsity teams. On the freshman team at LSU, Maravich began to make his “pistol” like persona a reality in which in averaged 43.6 ppg and totaled 741 points. Many people do not realize that the school that Maravich first wanted to attend was not LSU….but West Virginia. His dreams of becoming a Mountaineer did not come about as he was offered a spot at LSU where his dad was the head coach. So how did it turn out for this guy? Let us take a look. He was a 3 time NCAA First Team All-American, 3 time SEC Player of the Year, 3 time NCAA Division I Scoring Leader. In three years at LSU, he totaled 3,667 points averaging 43, 44 and 44 his sophomore, junior and senior years respectively. While he may not have had much talent around him at LSU to make a run through the NCAA Tournament, Maravich left his mark on the college game simply by his ability to become as great as he possibly could be as a player and through his ability to make others better in the process. Many people do not understand the type of player that Maravich was. It is said that former LSU head coach Dale Brown got out all of the game film of Maravich and his days at LSU and charted all of the “Pistol’s” shots from long range. Brown stated that had the NCAA had the 3 point line in effect during those days, Maravich would have easily averaged 57 points a game. His impact would not only be left in college. His game easily translated to the NBA and was ahead of its time. It was a game in which he was a 5 time NBA All Star, a 2 time NBA First Team and a NBA scoring champion. Maravich is long overlooked by many people as one of the greatest today but his game highlights and his Homework Basketball would be the stuff of legend in today’s YouTube technology age. He could easily be one of the starting five on this team for me but with a guy with his great ability, I had him coming off the bench because he could replace anyone.
Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati)
Robertson came to Cincinnati from Crispus Attucks High School in Indiana where he won two straight Indiana State High School Basketball Championships; a state where there was only one classification and it was winner take all. While at Cincinnati, he kept winning as he led the Bearcats to a 79-9 overall record and two Final Four appearances. While he may not have won an NCAA championship, he left the NCAA as its career scoring leader with 2,973 points (until Maravich broke the record at LSU). Robertson also recorded 10 triple doubles while in college and had six games in which he scored 50 or more. He went on to have a great NBA career and was named as one of its 5o Greatest Players Ever.
Christian Laettner (Duke)
Laettner may not have gained a lot of fanfare but he did do one thing while at Duke. Win! While at Duke, Laettner led the Blue Devils to four NCAA Final Fours winning two national championships and a national runner-up finish. He is known as one of the most competitive and clutch Blue Devils to hit the floor in Durham hitting game winning free throws against a powerhouse UNLV team in the national championship game and also hitting last second game winning shots against Connecticut and the Kentucky Wildcats in the famed 1992 East Regional Final in Philadelphia… a game that is regarded as one of the best college basketball games ever played in history.
Len Bias (Maryland)
Ok… I am going to make a statement that may make a few people shake their heads but its true. Had Bias not passed away so soon, Michael Jordan would not be the only big name we talk about these days. Len Bias was domination to the college game in his day like LeBron James is to the NBA game today. Some of Bias games are legendary. He came to the University of Maryland as a raw talent and left it as someone who people better watch out for. To put it in the words of the Boston Celtics scout Ed Badger at the time, “He’s maybe the closest thing to Michael Jordan in Chicago right now. I’m not saying he’s as good as Michael Jordan as of today, but he’s an explosive and exciting kind of player like that.” Now at the time Jordan was just in his second year of playing with the Bulls and making his mark on the league. Bias would have been a dominating force but we will never know what he could have truly been. We do know what he was though. He was a First Team All American in 1986, he was a two-time ACC Player of the Year and First Team ACC in 1985 and 1986.
John Wooden (UCLA)
10 time NCAA National Champion in basketball at UCLA
12 NCAA Final Fours
Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
5 time NCAA National Champion in basketball at Duke
12 NCAA Final Fours
Dean Smith (North Carolina)
2 time NCAA National Champion in basketball at North Carolina
11 NCAA Final Fours
Shannon Boy is a high school boys basketball coach at Gate City High School in Southwest Virginia where he will be beginning his 23rd year coaching. He resides in the mountains of East Tennessee in Kingsport.