School Heroes in the NBA Finals

SWC75

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I am a Syracuse fan. The sports that put our burg on the national map are SU football and basketball. In the pros I tend to follow the progress of former Syracuse and players and if they become the stars of their team, I tend to root for their team. SU basketball has been much more successful over the years than SU football – in winning games at the collegiate level. But it’s been much less successful at putting players in to the pros and giving us someone to root for on that level. Per the football Media Guide 36 former SU players have played in the Super Bowl a total of 47 times. On the other hand exactly 3 former SU players have played in the NBA finals a total of four times. Our Super Bowlers have included genuine NFL stars like John Mackey, Larry Csonka, Art Monk, Joe Morris, Donovan McNabb, Dwight Freeney and Marvin Harrison. Our NBA Finals players have been Billy Gabor, who starred for SU in the 40’s and played several years for the Syracuse Nationals in the early 50’s, our former police chief Dennis DuVal, who played 5 minutes for the Bullets when they were getting swept by the Warriors in 1975 and scored 2 points and Marty Byrnes, who played 1 minute of the Lakers in 1980 and didn’t score.

Part of the problem, of course is that far more players are used in football and so there are more chances for players to make it on the next level. But that hardly explains the enormous discrepancy. By far our most successful NBA players have been Dave Bing and Carmelo Anthony, both of whom spent their careers playing on mostly bad or mediocre teams. We’ve had guys who got off to promising starts in their careers but were limited by injury and other circumstances: Derrick Coleman, Billy owns, Sherman Douglas, Michael Carter-Williams. We’ve had guys who have had very solid careers without being stars, like Rony Seikaly. Other players have had long careers despite never or rarely cracking the starting line-up, such as Danny Schayes and Jason Hart. Most of our players have wound up playing abroad or in the minor leagues here. One thing has been very consistent: the top NBA don’t seem to want our players on them. No doubt that’s the product of individual decisions in each case and not to a prejudice against the school. But there may be trends in the type of athletes we recruit and what they are taught here that impact those decisions. Maybe it’s just bad luck- a whole lot of it. The impact of it is that I have much less interest in the NBA than in the NFL: I need SU heroes to follow. Where are they?

I decided to see how our basketball record of putting players in the finals compared to other schools.
The NBA came into existence in 1949 when the top teams go the National Basketball League joined the fledgling Basketball Association of America to form the National Basketball Association. This is record of the players that have played in the NBA finals since then, (beginning in 1950), by the college they attended. I used Basketreferecne.com to check the alma mater of each finals player, (some of them don’t have one), and recording how many times that player played in the finals. I then credited the alma mater with 1 point for each time each of their players played in the finals. Syracuse got 4 points based on this system: two from Billy Gabor for his appearances in the 1950 and 1954 finals, (he retired due an injury early in the 1954-55 season so he missed the Nat’s lone championship), and one each from Chief DuVal and Marty Byrnes. (No Syracuse player that ever played for us in the Carrier Dome has ever played in the NBA Finals).

Here is the list for all the schools that have had players play in the NBA Finals:

52 points: UCLA
51 points: North Carolina
31 points: Ohio State
29 points: Kansas, San Francisco
28 points: Arizona
27 points: Kentucky
25 points: Michigan State
23 points: Minnesota, St. John’s
20 points: Houston
19 points: Holy Cross, Oregon State
18 points: California, Duke , New York U.
17 points: Southern California
16 points: Florida, Iowa, Texas
15 points: Georgia Tech, Louisiana State, Notre Dame
14 points: Arizona State, Louisville, Michigan, Seattle, West Virginia
13 points: Alabama, Brigham Young, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Providence, Stanford
12 points: Cincinnati, Washington
11 points: LaSalle, Marquette, North Carolina Central, St. Mary’s, Santa Clara, Wake Forest
10 points: Clemson, Detroit, Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico, Seton Hall, Xavier (Ohio)
9 points: Duquesne, Georgetown, Long Beach State, Wichita State
8 points: DePaul, U of Miami (Florida), Miami University (Ohio), North Carolina State, Oregon Tennessee State, Toledo, Utah, Virginia
7 points: Arkansas-Little Rock, Canisius, Creighton, Florida State, Hamline, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pepperdine, Vanderbilt, Villanova, Washington State
6 points: Auburn, Central Arkansas, Colorado, Purdue, St. Louis, Southeastern Oklahoma, Southern Illinois, Tulsa
5 points: Albany State (Georgia), Baylor, Bowling Green, Bradley, U-Cal Santa Barbara, Centenary, Cleveland State, Colgate, Davidson, Georgia, Indiana State, Maryland, Massachusetts, Memphis, Western Kentucky
4 points: Arkansas, Boston College, Dartmouth, Drake, Gonzaga, Grambling, Guilford, Jackson State, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Mississippi State, Norfolk State, Oklahoma State, Rutgers, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph’s, Syracuse, Temple, Tennessee, Texas- El Paso, Wisconsin, Xavier (La.)
3 points: Alcorn State, Augsburg, Cal State Fullerton, Charlotte, Dayton, George Washington, Longwood, Louisiana-Lafayette, McNeese State, Mississippi, New Mexico State, New Orleans, Niagara, Oklahoma City, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Rhode Island, Robert Morris, South Carolina, Southern Methodist, Texas Tech, Truman State, Virginia Commonwealth, Virginia Union, West Texas A&M, Winston-Salem, Wyoming
2 points: American International, Belmont, Blinn, Cameron, Charleston University, College of Charleston, Columbia, Denver, Drexel, Eastern Illinois, Florida International, Furman, Hampton, Hawaii, Howard U., Illinois Wesleyan, Iowa State, Long Island U., Missouri State, Navy, Nevada- Reno, North Carolina A&T, North Dakota, Northeastern, Old Dominion, Penn State, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Texas A&M, Texas Southern, West Virginia State, Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Yale
1 point: Austin Peay State, Bemidji State, Boise State, Boston University, Cal Poly- Pomona, CCNY, CCSF (San Francisco), Central Michigan, Coppin State, Cornell, Dillard, Florida A&M, Fresno State, Hardin-Simmons, Hofstra, Idaho, Illinois State, IUPUI, Jacksonville, King’s College, Los Angeles State, Maine, Marist, Millersville State, Morehead State, Morgan State, Mount St. Mary’s, Murray State, Nebraska, Nicholls State, Northeastern Louisiana, Ohio University, Oral Roberts, Pacific, Pan American, Portland, St. Francis (Pa), South Carolina State, Southern University, Stephen F. Austin, Texas Christian, Texas-San Antonio, Western Michigan, Wofford

Here's what it's like for UCLA and North Carolina fans:

UCLA points: 52
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1971, 1974, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989
Lucius Allen 1971
Trevor Ariza 2008, 2009
Matt Barnes 2017
Henry Bibby 1977, 1980
Darren Daye 1987
Keith Erickson 1969, 1970, 1973, 1976
Jordan Farmar 2008, 2009, 2010
Greg Foster 1997, 1998
Gail Goodrich 1966, 1968, 1972, 1973
Dave Greenwood 1990
Walt Hazzard 1965, 1966
Brad Holland 1980
Jason Kapono 2006
Kevon Looney 2018
Kevin Love 2016, 2018
Mike Lynn 1970
Reggie Miller 2000
Swen Nater 1984
Willie Naulls 1964, 1965, 1966
Bill Walton 1977, 1986, 1987
Jamaal Wilkes 1975, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984

North Carolina points: 51
Harrison Barnes 2015, 2016
Pete Chilcutt 1995
Billy Cunningham 1967
Hubert Davis 1994
Rick Fox 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004
Danny Green 2013, 2014
Brendan Haywood 2011
Bobby Jones 1980, 1982, 1983
Michael Jordan 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998
Mitch Kupchak 1978, 1984, 1985
George Lynch 2001
Bob McAdoo 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985
James Michael McAdoo 2015, 2016, 2017
Sam Perkins 1991, 1996, 2000
Charlie Scott 1976
Kenny Smith 1994, 1995
Jerry Stackhouse 2006
Rasheed Wallace 2004, 2005, 2010
Scott Williams 1991, 1992, 1993
James Worthy 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991


I know there are plenty of NBA fans in LA: they have a team and a legendary one. But I'll bet there are many more NBA fans in the Chapel Hill area because they so often seem to have somebody to root for when the championship is being decided.
 
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OrangeDW

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I think it’s just bad luck in some cases. Every team in the league would’ve wanted Carmelo in his young years and in his prime. If he gets picked by Detroit at #2 instead of Darko, he probably wins a title. Maybe more than 1. If Denver successfully inbounds the ball late in the game against the Lakers, they may win that series and go to the finals against an Orlando team that wasn’t exactly a juggernaut.

Everybody would’ve wanted Coleman early in his career when he was carrying the young and exciting Nets to the playoffs(something that had been unheard of basically since they became an NBA franchise). Unfortunately his prime as a star player didn’t last long enough as he started getting hurt, put on a lot of weight, and was never again the same level of player that he had been from 91-95.

Owens went right to a good Golden State team and they had some good years. Unfortunately the Chris Webber situation screwed it up AND got Billy shipped out - ironically for Seikaly, because they needed a center. Would’ve loved to see that Hardaway-Sprewell-Owens-Webber core get a few years to grow together. Could’ve been a finals type team by 97-98 or so when the Jazz basically made it by default because the Sonics and Warriors had self-destructed and the young Lakers weren’t ready yet.

Anyone remember when Sherman Douglas was VERY close to becoming a Laker right after Magic retired? If I recall, he was holding out and the Lakers made him an offer that Miami matched.

Sherman averaged 18 points and 8 assists in the 90-91 season when the Lakers went to the finals. The Lakers replacing Magic with him the very next year would’ve been interesting, at least. Not a finals team but they would’ve likely been a solid playoff contender. As a kid whose 2 favorite players were Magic and Sherman and was a diehard Lakers and Orange fan, I was rooting for it to happen badly.
 

moqui

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Everybody would’ve wanted Coleman early in his career when he was carrying the young and exciting Nets to the playoffs(something that had been unheard of basically since they became an NBA franchise). Unfortunately his prime as a star player didn’t last long enough as he started getting hurt, put on a lot of weight, and was never again the same level of player that he had been from 91-95.
i'll always wonder what the nets would have become if drazen petrovic hadn't been killed

(and yes i am aware of the popular rumor that he was about to quit the nba regardless)
 

OrangeDW

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i'll always wonder what the nets would have become if drazen petrovic hadn't been killed

(and yes i am aware of the popular rumor that he was about to quit the nba regardless)
In an alternate universe, Petro doesn’t tragically die, Derrick and Kenny stay healthy and have normal 8-10 year superstar primes, Chris Webber never forces his way out of GS(leading to Owens’s trade), Sprewell never chokes his coach, Hardaway never roasts his knee, and the Nets and Warriors meet up in the finals in 1999.
 

SWC75

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In an alternate universe, Petro doesn’t tragically die, Derrick and Kenny stay healthy and have normal 8-10 year superstar primes, Chris Webber never forces his way out of GS(leading to Owens’s trade), Sprewell never chokes his coach, Hardaway never roasts his knee, and the Nets and Warriors meet up in the finals in 1999.

And Keith Smart's shot clangs off the rim and into the arms of Seikaly.
 
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SWC75

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Hey, we're only 2 behind our dreaded arch-enemy, Colgate!
One behind.

Colgate points: 5
Carl Braun 1953, 1962
Ernie Vandeweghe 1951, 1952, 1953

Syracuse points: 4
Marty Byrnes 1980
Dennis DuVal 1975
Bill Gabor 1950, 1954
 

cliftonparksufan

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Some of it is dumb luck. Guys like Jordan Farmar and James Michael McAdoo three each. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
 

SWC75

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Some of it is dumb luck. Guys like Jordan Farmar and James Michael McAdoo three each. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Good teams decided they wanted those players on their team.
 

SWC75

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Update to include this year's NBA Finals:

54 points: UCLA
52 points: North Carolina
31 points: Ohio State
29 points: Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, San Francisco
26 points: Michigan State
23 points: Minnesota, St. John’s
20 points: Duke, Holy Cross, Houston, Oregon State
18 points: California, New York U.
17 points: Southern California, Texas
16 points: Florida, Iowa
15 points: Georgia Tech, Louisiana State, Louisville, Notre Dame
14 points: Arizona State, Indiana, Michigan, Seattle, West Virginia
13 points: Alabama, Brigham Young, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Illinois, Providence, Stanford
12 points: Washington
11 points: LaSalle, Marquette, Nevada-Las Vegas, North Carolina Central, Oregon, St. Mary’s, Santa Clara, Wake Forest
10 points: Clemson, Detroit, Georgetown, New Mexico, Seton Hall, Wichita State, Xavier (Ohio)
9 points: Duquesne, Long Beach State, Utah
8 points: DePaul, U of Miami (Florida), Miami University (Ohio), North Carolina State, Tennessee State, Toledo, Vanderbilt, Villanova, Virginia, Washington State
7 points: Arkansas-Little Rock, Canisius, Creighton, Florida State, Hamline, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pepperdine,
6 points: Auburn, Central Arkansas, Colorado, Davidson, Purdue, St. Louis, Southeastern Oklahoma, Southern Illinois, Tulsa
5 points: Albany State (Georgia), Baylor, Bowling Green, Bradley, U-Cal Santa Barbara, Centenary, Cleveland State, Colgate, Georgia, Indiana State, Maryland, Massachusetts, Memphis, Western Kentucky
4 points: Arkansas, Boston College, Dartmouth, Drake, Gonzaga, Grambling, Guilford,
Jackson State, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Norfolk State, Oklahoma State, Rutgers, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph’s, Syracuse, Temple, Tennessee, Texas- El Paso, Wisconsin, Xavier (La.)
3 points: Alcorn State, Augsburg, Cal State Fullerton, Charlotte, Dayton, George Washington, Longwood, Louisiana-Lafayette, McNeese State, Mississippi, New Orleans, Niagara, Oklahoma City, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Rhode Island, Robert Morris, San Diego State, South Carolina, Southern Methodist, Texas Tech, Truman State, Virginia Commonwealth, Virginia Union, West Texas A&M, Winston-Salem, Wyoming
2 points: American International, Belmont, Blinn, Cameron, Charleston University,
College of Charleston, Columbia, Denver, Drexel, Eastern Illinois, Florida International, Furman, Hampton, Hawaii, Howard U., Illinois Wesleyan, Iowa State, Long Island U., Missouri State, Navy, Nevada- Reno, North Carolina A&T, North Dakota, Northeastern, Old Dominion, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, Texas Southern, West Virginia State, Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Yale
1 point: Austin Peay State, Bemidji State, Boise State, Boston University, Cal Poly- Pomona, CCNY, CCSF (San Francisco), Central Michigan, Coppin State, Cornell, Dillard, Florida A&M, Fresno State, Hardin-Simmons, Harvard, Hofstra, Idaho, Illinois State, IUPUI, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, King’s College, Los Angeles State, Maine, Marist, Millersville State, Morehead State, Morgan State, Mount St. Mary’s, Murray State, Nebraska, Nicholls State, Northeastern Louisiana, Ohio University, Oral Roberts, Pacific,
Pan American, Portland, St. Francis (Pa), South Carolina State, Southern University, Stephen F. Austin, Texas Christian, Texas-San Antonio, Western Michigan, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wofford

Three schools joined the club with their first alumni to reach the finals: Harvard, Indianapolis and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

There is an SU connection to these finals: Jonas Jerebko of the Warriors is the son of SU's Chris Jerebko:
Jonas Jerebko - Wikipedia
 

SWC75

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San Francisco 29 pts . Wow Bill Russell
Not just Bill Russell:

San Francisco points: 29
Bill Cartwright 1991, 1992, 1993
Joe Ellis 1967
Eric Fernsten 1981
K. C. Jones 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966
Fred LaCour 1961
Joe McNamee 1951
Erwin Mueller 1968
Bill Russell 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969
Phil Smith 1974
 

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