Kansas basketball fans, there’s 79 days until Late Night at the Phog and 110 days until the first exhibition game. Yes, that’s far off. Three months will pass by quickly, though. And while most people won’t check in with college basketball until December — maybe even after that because of college football bowl games — some basketball fans (like me) enjoy reading about their team even in the off-season.
So, I broke from my normal “serious” stuff to bring you a list of the 10* best Kansas-turned-NBA ballers. (*I included someone who I think will continue to develop and thrive in the NBA.)
Honorable mention Andrew Wiggins: The one-and-done spent the 2013-14 season at Kansas before declaring for the NBA draft. He was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft and has since earned a spot on the Minnesota Timberwolves as a shooting guard. Wiggins averages 18.8 PPG through the 163 games he’s played so far. Wiggins was awarded the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 2014-15. Wiggins is also a member of the Canadian national team.
10. Mario Chalmers: The beloved Kansas guard spent three years (2005-08) at Kansas before declaring for the NBA draft. Chalmers was a second round pick in the draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves but a trade landed him with the Miami Heat. In his first season with the Heat, Chalmers started every game and averaged about 10 points and five rebounds per game. Chalmers was a part of two NBA Finals wins with the Miami Heat. The current free agent averages 6.7 points per game over about 18 minutes per game.
9. Drew Gooden: Like many others, Gooden chose the NBA draft over his senior year at Kansas. He spent 1999-02 on the Hill, and was picked fourth in the draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. He spent his nine years in the NBA bouncing from team to team. Gooden was a part of the 2007 Eastern Conference Champion Cavaliers. Despite 10 team changes, Gooden provided consistency to each one he logged minutes for.
8. Nick Collison: Collison spent four years at Kansas (1999-2003) before being drafted 12th to the Seattle SuperSonics. He has spent his 13 year career with the SuperSonics/Thunder. He’s a solid bench player for the Thunder, and he’s been a part of the team’s recent success (although, that’s obviously due to players like Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook.) Collison averages 21 minutes of playing time and about six points per game. Nothing phenomenal, but he’s a role player.
7. Darnell Valentine: The Portland Trailblazers selected Valentine in the first round of the 1981 NBA draft. Valentine spent four years at Kansas (1977-81), where he earned Academic All-American awards (three times). During his 10-year career, Valentine also played for the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers. He averaged 8.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists in his career. Following his time in the NBA, Valentine spent three seasons playing basketball in Italy.
6. Kirk Hinrich — Hinrich graced the Kansas basketball team from 1999-03 before entering the NBA after his senior season. He was selected 7th in the 2003 draft by the Chicago Bulls. He spent his NBA years as a consistent shooting guard; his game improved each year. Hinrich spent some time with the Washington Wizards (2010-11) and Atlanta Hawks (2011-12), but returned to the Bulls in 2012 only to be sent back to Atlanta in 2016. He averaged 30 minutes and 10 points per game in his career.
5. Danny Manning: Arguably the most beloved Kansas player, Manning spent 1984-88 at Kansas before being selected as the No. 1 pick in the 1988 draft. In his first five seasons (with the Clippers and Hawks), he averaged 18 points and six rebounds per game. Manning was a two-time NBA All Star and NBA Sixth Man of the Year (1998). He played with seven different teams over 15 seasons.
4. Clyde Lovellette: Lovellette played at Kansas from 1949-52. He was selected ninth to the Minneapolis Lakers in 1952. He earned three NBA titles and was a four-time NBA All Star. Lovellette also earned a gold medal in the 1952 Summer Olympics, which were held in Helsinki, Finland. Over his career, Lovellette averaged 17 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
3. JoJo White: White played with Kansas from 1965-69. He was the ninth pick in 1969 draft to the Boston Celtics. White played on the 1968 men’s basketball team that won the gold medal — after going undefeated in Mexico City. His NBA career mirrored this early success. White earned seven straight All Star nominations, was named the NBA finals MVP in 1976, and earned his second NBA title in 1976. On top of all of his success, White set a franchise record of 488 consecutive games played. His number was retired by the Celtics in 1982.
2. Paul Pierce: Pierce spent three years at Kansas (1995-98) before declaring for the NBA. He was the 10th pick overall in the 1998 draft. Pierce, like JoJo White, is a beloved Celtics player. He spent 15 seasons with the Boston Celtics, where many thought he’d spend his career. He was a 10-time NBA All Star and appeared in nine playoffs. Pierce has one championship (with Boston) and a finals MVP to pair with it. His consistency earned him spots on the Nets, Wizards and Clippers since departing from the Celtics in 2013. He averages 20 points and five rebounds per game.
1. Wilt Chamberlain: I’m thankful that Wilt spent two years at Kansas, so that Jayhawk fans can claim one of the greatest players that ever lived. You’ve heard of the 100-point game. (I hope.) The legend holds numerous records in scoring and rebounding. His 14-year career was nothing short of phenomenal. He averaged 50.4 point and 25.7 rebounds per game. Chamberlain was a 13-time all star, earned 11 rebounding titles, and never fouled out of a game. There’s no one like him — and there never will be.
Did I exclude your favorite player? Have a beef with someone I included? Leave a comment or @ me on Twitter @heathrnelson or @SPROTSTAKES.