Top 10 Best College Basketball Players Of All Time

Basketball is the one team sport where individual greatness can outweigh a great team. Throughout the different eras of the game, special individuals have dominated the game that separates themselves from all the other greats. This list was made up by not only considering championships and individual accolades but also the effect the players had on the game while they were inking their mark into the record books. With hundreds of guys to choose from, the 10 players mentioned below each brought a trait that separated them from the pack, and these are their stories.

10. J.J Redick, SG, Duke (2002-06)

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A fearless scorer despite his size, Redick may be remembered as the best shooter in the three-point era of college basketball. Although his Duke teams’ fell short of a national title, Redick put together enough spectacular performances to make his way on to the list. During his true freshman season, Redick averaged a nice 15 points while shooting 40 percent from three-point land. After increasing his scoring average to 16 points per game in his sophomore season, and then to 22 points per game his junior season, his career elevated to legendary status in his senior year. Averaging 27 points a game with a 42 percent clip from three, it is easy to see why he is remembered as being one of the most lethal threats the game has seen, especially shooting from beyond the arc. These outstanding numbers also set him up for a National Player of the year award, along with his second, back-to-back, ACC player of the year award.


9. David Thompson, SG, North Carolina State (1972-75)

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Known as the original Michael Jordson, Thompson was one of the most gifted athletes and scorers the game has ever witnessed. With a national championship under his belt, Thompson easily finds his way onto this list. While he was a menace as an on-ball defender, buckets came easily to Thompson as his athleticism was never matched. As a true freshman, Thompson averaged 25 points a game while shooting 57 percent from the floor, and this was without the three-point line. For a guard to shoot that high of a percentage on all two-point field goals, this was simply unheard of. Even more impressive, standing at just 6’4, Thompson averaged at least eight rebounds in every season he played for the Wolfpack. As some of his accolades include national player of the year and three-time ACC player of the year just to name a few, none of his awards triumph his national title run in 1974, when his Wolfpack ended an eight-year title run for John Wooden and his UCLA Bruins.


8. Pete Maravich, G, LSU (1967-70)

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“Pistol Pete” finds himself safely on this list as is widely known as the greatest scorer in college basketball history. While some critics will argue in his era of basketball the competition was comparatively weak, averaging at least 44 points a game in all three of his seasons with the Tigers warrants a spot on this list. Standing at 6’5, Maravich was a nightmare for opposing guards to handle, especially when trying to keep him out of the lane. On top of that, Maravich was also a lights-out shooter, who played without the three-point line. Give him that and he might have been averaging over 60. He was unstoppable at the collegiate level, with the only knock on him being that he could never win the big one. In his final season at LSU, they finished fourth in the NIT (National Invitational Tournament); this was the farthest he and coach “Press” Maravich (his father) took LSU.


7. Wilt Chamberlain, C, Kansas (1956-58)

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In just a two year stint, Wilt the Stilt made his legendary mark felt. Standing at a long 7’1, weighing 275 lbs, Chamberlain was the most unguardable player to ever step foot on the hardwood. After leading the Jayhawks to a national final matchup against the revamped North Carolina Tar Heels in his freshman season, it was clear to see that Chamberlain was born to dominate basketball. In the national final, Mcguire used an unheard of unorthodox style of triple teaming Wilt throughout the entire course of the game. It took one guy in front of him, one guy behind, and another flashing over immediately when a pass was made to him to stop this guy. Not to mention the double overtime and stalling tactics the Tar Heels used to seal the game. In his second season, while seeing the triple team defense that Mcguire implemented, Chamberlain still found a way to manage to score 30 points a game to go along with his 18 board. Unstoppable is putting it lightly, and there is a reason there is an argument to be made that he was the greatest basketball player of all time, at any level.


6. Larry Bird, SF, Indiana State (1976-79)

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A magician with the rock in his hand, Larry Birds’ accomplishments with the Indiana State Sycamores were truly spectacular. Averaging at least four assists, 12 rebounds, and 29 points throughout his three-year collegiate career, Bird was a jack of all trades. His lights-out shooting goes a little unnoticed due to the lack of the three-point line while he was still playing in college. His greatest accolades include Naismith National Player of the Year along with two consensus first-team All-American honors. After improbably leading the Sycamores to a perfect 33-0 record, and a date with Michigan State in the national title, Birds greatness was felt across the nation. Although he fell short to Magic Johnson and the rest of the Spartans, Bird would later get his revenge in the NBA, and be a part of one of the greatest rivalries to ever exist in basketball; Magic vs. Bird, which later evolved into Celtics vs. Lakers.


5. Len Bias, SF, Maryland (1982-86)

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One of the more tragic stories basketball has witnessed, Len Bias’s life was cut short before he could ever take the floor in an NBA game. However, his greatness from his collegiate days will never be forgotten. As a freshman, Bias struggled to find consistency as his coaches often referred to him as raw and undisciplined. Seven points a game, while playing just a hair over 22 minutes a game certainly does not warrant a spot on this list, especially how high he is ranked here, however, it is how he grew as a player throughout the course of his days at Maryland that makes him more than worthy. Standing at 6’9, weighing 210 lbs, Bias had all the physical tools in the world to become great, it was just up to him if he was going to put in the work. His sophomore and junior campaigns put him on the map, but it was his senior season that put him over the top. Increasing his scoring total all the way up to 23 points per game, along with seven board, and a nice 55 percent from the floor, Bias finally lived up to the sky-high expectations coaches put on him when he was just a raw undisciplined freshman. Oozing with potential, Bias was selected second overall by the Boston Celtics, however, due to a tragic cocaine overdose, Bias was never able to take the floor for the Green and White. Think Michael Jordan in a 6’9 body, this one is still tough to swallow.


4. Tim Duncan, PF, Wake Forest (1993-97)

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Accurately recognized as “the Big Fundamental,” Tim Duncan’s legendary basketball career began in Winston-Salem North Carolina. Duncan burst onto the scene in his freshman season for the Demon Deacons, where he was averaging 10 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks. Duncan expanded his offensive arsenal during his sophomore season, upping his points per game total to 17 while retaining his rebounding and defensive prowess. There was a lot of buzz surrounding Duncan during his second year, with many experts talking about him going first in the upcoming NBA draft if he were to declare early. However, Duncan stayed true to his word and decided to stay with Wake Forest for all four years, which was a huge monetary gamble. Usually, when a player stays in school, there’s a good shot his pro stock will depreciate, yet this was not the case for Timmy. Injuries plagued his NCAA tournament runs causing his Demon Deacons to never make it passed the sweet 16. Nonetheless, his individual greatness was on full display. As senior, he put up gaudy numbers with 21 points per game, 15 rebounds, three blocks, and three assists. The king of the fundamentals, Duncan safely finds his spot towards the top of this list.


3. Bill Walton, PF/C, UCLA (1971-74)

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While filling Lew Alcindor’s shoes could be a daunting task, Bill Walton did it with ease. With back-to-back championships in 1972 and 1973, the Bruins didn’t miss a beat. Led by Walton and his ridiculous line of 20 points a game, 15 rebounds, and an incredible 65 percent from the floor, there’s a strong argument that his UCLA teams could have challenged Alcindor’s group but that’s a different story. With such an incredible shooting percentage and a relatively high volume, Walton cruised to three National Player of the year awards, along with three consensus first-team All-American honors. Not to mention the back-to-back 30-0 seasons he anchored. The only argument about Walton being mentioned here is that he could probably be even higher.


2. Lew Alcindor, C, UCLA (1966-69)

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Later known as the great Kareem-Abdul-Jabar, Alcindor burst onto the scene the second he stepped foot on the court for the Bruins. While it may have not been the most competitive era college basketball had seen, Alcindor had no problem cruising to a championship in each of the three seasons he played for the Bruins. Like Walton, Alcindor also had no problem in receiving three straight National Player of the year awards, while leading the Bruins to seasons of 30-0 during his freshmen campaign, 29-1 his sophomore season, which is widely considered the best one-loss team the NCAA’s have ever seen, followed up by another 29-1 championship season his final year. As good as Alcindor was in college, the man that became Kareem Abdul Jabar and dominated the NBA was somehow even better.


1. Christian Laettner, PF/C, Duke (1988-92)

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Arguably the most hated player to play college basketball, Laettner thrived off his villain role. Playing in one of the most competitive era’s of college basketball history, Laettner’s back-to-back titles in ’91 and ’92 along with his clutch killer instincts allowed him to find himself at the top amongst college basketball’s greats. A final four in his freshmen season, followed by a runner-up finish in his second year, finished off with two incredible title runs during his junior and senior seasons, Laettner was made to play college basketball, and be the star when it counted most. In 1990, Duke was matched up against UConn in the elite eight where UConn was leading Duke 78-77 with two seconds to go in the game. Legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski drew up a play that set up Laettner for a turn around jumper, which he drilled as time expired. In 1991, Duke and UNLV were tied at 77 a piece with Laettner going to the free throw line with less than three seconds remaining in the game; he drilled them both and Duke went on to win the championship. In 1992, Duke trailed Kentucky 103-102 with two seconds left in the game. Krzyzewski again drew up a play for Laettner; a full court pass which he had to jump up and grab, and then immediately turn around and shoot as time expired. He drilled it and Duke won its second title in a row. Laettner had a clutch gene like no else, and his ability to thrive when it counted most, all while being the most hated player in the game is what puts him at the very top of the best to ever play the college game.

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