Coincidence or fate, the great state of Kansas has produced some of the greatest NBA players of all time. From the first-ever draft pick to numerous Hall of Famers, this article will explore the long and storied history that Kansas has with some of the best basketball players in history.
When it comes to producing top-tier talent, very few states can match what Kansas has done over the years. The state’s first-ever NBA draft selection was none other than hall-of-famer Wilt Chamberlain in 1959 and since then, many more have followed in his footsteps. Names like Paul Pierce, Danny Manning, Kirk Hinrich and Joel Embiid are just a few of the all-star caliber players who have come out of the Sunflower State.
Not only have these players achieved individual greatness on the court but they have also won championships together. The 2008 Boston Celtics team led by Paul Pierce were one of three teams from Kansas to win an NBA championship: The 1988 Los Angeles Lakers (Magic Johnson & A.C Green) & The 2018 Golden State Warriors (Draymond Green & Kevon Looney). In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the greatest Kansas NBA players ever as well as their individual accomplishments on and off the court.
Joel Embiid: The Unstoppable Center
Joel Embiid is easily one of the greatest Kansas NBA players of all time. A center who plays for the Philadelphia 76ers, he has consistently put up stellar numbers since entering the league. From his first season with the team, he’s been virtually unstoppable on both offense and defense. With averages of 27 points and 11 rebounds per game, Embiid is a threat to any opponent. His skills have earned him several accolades, including three All-Star appearances and two All-NBA selections.
The best thing about Embiid is his ability to take over games when necessary. His size and skill makes him an imposing figure on the court; opponents must double-team him or risk being embarrassed by his array of shots from inside or outside the paint. He can also pass out of double teams to set up open looks for teammates, making him a great asset for any team looking to win championships.
Embiid’s presence brings excitement every time he steps on the floor, as fans know that something special could happen when he has the ball in his hands. He truly is one of the greatest Kansas NBA players ever and will continue to be remembered as such for years to come
Paul Pierce: The Truth
Paul Pierce, nicknamed “The Truth”, is one of the greatest Kansas NBA players of all time. He played an impressive 19 seasons for the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers. During his career, he was an NBA champion, 10-time All-Star, 4-time All-NBA team member and 2008 Finals MVP. Here’s how Pierce stands out from the rest:
- He won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008;
- His regular season accolades include 26,397 career points and 8th all-time in 3-point shots made;
- He has also been named to four All-NBA teams;
- And he was twice honored as the Player of the month during his career.
Paul Pierce is a true leader on and off the court. His accomplishments speak for themselves and make him one of the best Kansas NBA players of all time. From his dominant presence on the court to his passionate personality off it, Paul Pierce was an invaluable asset to any team he joined throughout his career. With that said, we move on to another KU superstar – Danny Manning: high flying forward!
Danny Manning: High-Flying Forward
Danny Manning is one of Kansas’ most beloved basketball players. He was a high-flying forward for the Jayhawks, and his career lasted from 1988 to 2003. Manning was an All-American in college and went on to have a successful NBA career as well.
During his illustrious college career, Manning averaged 20 points and 8 rebounds per game. He also won the John Wooden Award, given to the National Player of the Year. On top of that, he led Kansas to the 1988 NCAA Championship – their first championship in over 30 years!
In terms of his NBA career, Danny Manning was a two-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA player. He also won a gold medal with Team USA at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. During his 15 year career, he played for five different teams including the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks where he retired in 2003.
Manning’s impact on Kansas basketball can still be felt today – both on and off the court. His legacy will live on through Kansas’ current players as they strive to replicate his success. From his high-flying dunks to inspiring leadership skills, Danny Manning is a Kansas legend who will never be forgotten.
Kirk Hinrich: Kansas’ Own Point Guard
Kirk Hinrich was a Kansas point guard who ran the court like a graceful gazelle. He had a steady hand and an eye for the play that made him one of the most beloved players in Kansas basketball history. Like a finely tuned instrument, he could instantly read any game and orchestrate his team to victory. Here are four reasons why Kirk Hinrich was so great:
His ability to control the pace of the game: With his excellent ball handling skills, Kirk was able to slow down or speed up the game as needed. This allowed his team to stay in sync and never miss a beat.
His leadership on both ends of the court: Kirk consistently demonstrated strong leadership qualities during every game, both on offense and defense. His teammates looked up to him for guidance and direction, knowing he would always have their backs in tough situations.
His willingness to take risks: Despite being aware of potential consequences, Kirk often took risks that paid off for his team. Whether it was driving hard to the basket or taking a quick shot from beyond the arc, these bold moves often earned his team extra points when they needed them most.
His consistent performance: No matter how difficult or easy a game might be, Kirk always showed up with 100% effort and dedication. He gave it his all each time he stepped on the court, no matter what kind of outcome might follow.
Kirk Hinrich will forever remain one of Kansas’ greatest point guards – an inspiring leader who knew how to make things happen on the court. As we move forward into Nick Collison’s story – Mr Unsung Hero – we can only imagine what other remarkable talents this state has hidden away in its past!
Nick Collison: Mr. Unsung Hero
Nick Collison is a Kansas native and NBA veteran. He’s seen his fair share of success throughout his career, but he’s also been an unsung hero for other teams. Rather than seeking the spotlight, Collison has been more than happy to do the dirty work and let others take the credit. He is a true team player who puts the team’s success ahead of personal success.
Collison played 13 seasons in the NBA, spending all but one with the Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle Supersonics franchise. During that time, he was primarily used as a backup power forward/center. Despite not getting much recognition, he was still able to make an impact by doing whatever was asked of him by his coaches or teammates. He could be counted on for hustle plays and excellent defense in crunch time situations.
Off the court, Collison was known as an exceptional leader who provided guidance to younger players on how to navigate through their first few seasons in the league. His commitment to excellence and selfless attitude set him apart from many of his peers in a very competitive league. Nick Collison will always be remembered as one of Kansas’ most successful NBA players ever; an unsung hero who put team success above all else.
Drew Gooden: The Rebound King
Drew Gooden’s rebounding prowess is like a towering wall, standing tall and unwavering. His career-high of 22 rebounds in one game made the crowd roar with admiration for his unrelenting effort on the court. Even during a game where his team fell short, there was always something to be said about Drew’s ability to out-rebound any player on the court. He was truly the rebound king.
Gooden used his size and strength to outmuscle opponents for boards on a regular basis. His signature move was that of leaping high in the air to grab an offensive rebound before quickly pushing it up into transition offense. This caused opposing teams to plan their defensive schemes around Gooden’s knack for grabbing tough rebounds in traffic.
The 6’10” power forward holds Kansas basketball’s record of most rebounds per game (7.5). Drew Gooden is well deserving of his title as rebound king; while he may not have been as flashy as some other players, he made sure that every possession was maximized with efficient board play. His acrobatic displays of athleticism and soft hands helped him become one of Kansas’ greatest NBA players ever – a true testament to his skill and work ethic.
Raef Lafrentz: Towering Big Man
Standing tall amongst the greatest Kansas NBA players of all time, Raef Lafrentz was a force to be reckoned with. He could dominate the paint and score from anywhere on the floor. His presence demanded respect and often caused opponents’ game plans to crumble like rubble. The towering big man was an intimidating figure that could single-handedly alter the outcome of games.
The former Jayhawk was drafted third overall in 1998 by the Denver Nuggets and immediately made his mark as one of the best players from Kansas in the NBA. In his rookie season, he averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds per game while winning Rookie of the Year runner-up honors. His production only increased over his seven year career, and he even made an All-Star appearance in 2003-04 when he averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds for the Mavericks.
Raef’s dominance extended past just scoring buckets. Throughout his career, he was known for being a great rebounder who could crash the boards with skillful ferocity. His 6’11” frame allowed him to get above most other players and snatch any rebound that came near him. He finished 11th all-time on Kansas’ list for total rebounds with 1,711 during his NBA career, proving that he dominated both ends of the floor while playing in the league.
His immense contributions to basketball have earned him a spot amongst some of Kansas’ greatest NBA players of all time. With an impeccable work ethic and remarkable skillset, Raef Lafrentz carved out a path for himself as one of KU’s best ever to play in the league, setting up perfectly for what would come next: Jacque Vaughn – The Maestro.
Jacque Vaughn: The Maestro
Jacque Vaughn was the maestro of Kansas basketball, a conductor of the court and an orchestrator of his team’s success. He was more than just a point guard; he was an artist in every sense, creating beautiful plays and symphonies with his team on the hardwood. As one can imagine, this is why his teammates nicknamed him “The Maestro.” Here are four reasons why Jacque Vaughn is truly one of the greats:
First, he was a leader of men. He had a great ability to get his teammates focused and motivated to play their best game. His leadership qualities were so impressive that he earned a spot on the All-Big 12 first team in 1997 and 1998.
Second, he had impeccable court vision. He could read defenses like books, always finding ways to exploit gaps and weaknesses while picking apart opponents’ strategies. He ranked fourth all-time in assists at Kansas with 586 during his collegiate career.
Third, he had remarkable poise under pressure. In clutch moments, Vaughn would take control of the game with remarkable confidence, leading by example and never giving up even when things seemed impossible. This is what made him such an incredible asset for any team he played for throughout his NBA career.
Fourth, he was an excellent shooter from both inside and outside the arc. His field goal percentage was consistently high throughout college and into the pros as well – .451 career FG%, .348 3PT%, .848 FT%. His shooting efficiency complemented his passing ability perfectly to make him one of Kansas’s all-time greatest players.
As arguably one of Kansas’ most talented players ever to grace the court, Jacque Vaughn will forever be remembered as “The Maestro” – not only for his incredible skillset but also for how he helped lead his teams to victory time after time. With such an amazing legacy behind him it’s no wonder why many fans regard him as one of KU’s greatest players ever; gliding across the court like a graceful swan instead of walking on it like mere mortals do! It’s time now to move onto another great player from KU basketball history – Mario Chalmers: The Big Shot Artist!
Mario Chalmers: The Big Shot Artist
Mario Chalmers, also known as “Rio”, is a former Kansas Jayhawks basketball player who went on to play in the NBA. He was an outstanding shooter, and he quickly developed a reputation as a clutch performer who could make big shots when his team needed it most.
Chalmers had an impressive college career, earning Big 12 Player of the Year and helping lead his team to two Final Four appearances. His performance earned him a spot in the 2008 NBA Draft, where he was selected 34th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In the NBA, Chalmers continued to show his ability as a big shot artist. He’s best remembered for his game-tying three pointer in Game 2 of the 2013 NBA Finals between Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. The shot helped propel the Heat to their second consecutive championship and cemented Chalmers’ legacy as one of the greatest Kansas players of all time. With this last heroic act, Chalmers took his place among other greats from the program such as Paul Pierce and Danny Manning.
This accomplishment speaks to Chalmer’s determination and prowess on the court; qualities that are essential for any successful player in the NBA. His success serves as proof that hard work can help you reach your goals, no matter how difficult they may be. Moving forward, Markieff Morris will look to follow in these footsteps and become another overlooked Jayhawk star with a lasting impact on basketball history.
Markieff Morris: The Overlooked Twin
The Morris twins, Markieff and Marcus, have been one of the most overlooked duos in the NBA. Taking a backseat to their brother Andrew’s rising fame, they have remained an integral part of several teams in recent years. Although often overshadowed by their elder sibling, they have achieved great success on the court – with Markieff taking center-stage as one of Kansas’ greatest NBA players of all time.
Markieff has been a dependable veteran presence on any team he plays for. His ability to quickly adapt to any playing style and seamlessly fit into any starting lineup has endeared him to many coaches over his career. A lockdown defender with an offensive repertoire to match, his consistent performance has inspired many teams throughout his tenure in the league.
As a Kansas Jayhawk, Markieff was part of an impressive class that included future stars such as Xavier Henry and Thomas Robinson. He quickly rose through the ranks due to his natural talent and experience playing alongside his twin brother Marcus – something which surely added an extra dimension to the team’s chemistry. With eight years of experience under his belt, he has established himself as one of the top players from Kansas who ever set foot in the NBA.
Markieff Morris is certainly more than just ‘the overlooked twin’ – a label which does not do justice to his legacy as one of Kansas’ greatest players on the hardwood. He will go down in history as one of those rare talents who made an impact beyond what was expected from him; making him worthy of recognition amongst some of the game’s elite names from Kansas. And now we look towards Andrew Wiggins: The Phenom; another crucial member in this illustrious group from Lawrence, Kansas.
Andrew Wiggins: The Phenom
Andrew Wiggins is like a star waiting to be discovered. As the phenom of Kansas NBA players, his potential remains untapped and unseen. His career has been full of promise yet unfulfilled.
He was the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but he has yet to reach the level of success of some lesser-drafted players from Kansas. He has shown spurts of greatness throughout his career, but it has not been enough to make him an All-Star or All-NBA player thus far.
Still, Wiggins’ time could come at any moment if he can find consistency and put it all together. He’s still young and has plenty of time to turn into the star everyone thought he would be when he was drafted. The potential is there for Andrew Wiggins to become one of the greatest Kansas NBA players ever – it’s just a matter of unlocking it.
Marcus Morris: The Versatile Scorer
Marcus Morris is one of the most versatile scorers in the NBA to come out of the University of Kansas. His height and wingspan make him a true asset on both ends of the floor, allowing him to guard multiple positions and shoot from anywhere. He has shown an ability to hit jumpers off the dribble or catch-and-shoot, as well as making plays for himself and his teammates. His versatility makes him one of the most dangerous players in today’s game. Here are five defining traits that make Marcus Morris so successful:
Long Range Shooting: Morris is a talented shooter from beyond the arc, shooting 37% from three-point range throughout his career. He can spot up or pull up off the dribble to stretch opposing defenses.
Mid-Range Game: In addition to threes, Morris also has a reliable mid-range game that often leads to easy buckets in transition or against set defenses.
Good Rebounder: Despite being undersized for his position at 6’9″, he is a good rebounder due to his long arms and good timing on going after defensive rebounds.
Lockdown Defender: He uses his length and strength advantageously on defense; he can stay with guards on switches and hold his own against bigger opponents when needed.
Great Passer: Even though he is primarily known as a scorer, he finds open teammates with ease and has been credited with over 4 assists per game throughout his career thus far.
All these attributes combined make Marcus Morris an invaluable offensive weapon who can create shots for himself and others while playing stout defense on opposing players throughout games. His ability to score from all three levels gives defenses fits and makes him one of the more unique players in today’s NBA landscape – an invaluable asset for any team looking for consistent scoring production night in and night out.
Cliff Alexander: The Promising Prospect
The story of Cliff Alexander is one of unfulfilled potential and broken dreams, like that of a shooting star. He had all the makings of a great NBA player, but never quite found the right opportunity to make it big. From his promising career at Kansas to his short-lived stint in the NBA, he was on the cusp of greatness but just never made it.
Here are three reasons why Cliff Alexander’s career was so captivating:
- He was an incredible athlete with a rare combination of size and strength.
- He had a solid college career at Kansas that earned him high praise from scouts and coaches alike.
- Despite being drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers, he was never given an opportunity to show off his talents at the highest level.
Alexander’s story serves as a reminder that sometimes potential isn’t enough; you need opportunity too. Although he may not have reached his full potential in the NBA, he still left behind an impactful legacy that will remain long after his time in basketball is over. His perseverance through adversity serves as an inspiration for many, showing us that we should never give up on our dreams no matter how hard things get.
Ben Mclemore: The Sniper
Ben McLemore is an impressive NBA player from Kansas who has carved out a successful career for himself. The 14th member on our list of the greatest Kansas NBA players of all time, McLemore was drafted seventh overall in 2013 and has since made his mark as a reliable shooter. In fact, he’s got an impressive three-point percentage of 37.4% – a stat that serves as evidence of his sniper-like shooting ability.
McLemore has played for various teams over his seven-year career, including the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets, where he’s been able to show off his impressive shooting skills. He was also part of the 2019 championship team with the Golden State Warriors. On top of his regular season success, he also put up some impressive performances in the playoffs while playing with the Rockets in 2018 and 2020.
Given his three-point shooting prowess, it’s no wonder why Ben McLemore is considered one of the greatest Kansas NBA players ever. TIP: If you’re looking to improve your shooting skills like McLemore did, practice makes perfect! Keep practicing your jump shot every day to become a better shooter and replicate Ben’s success. Moving forward, we’ll be discussing Cole Aldrich: the reliable rebounder on our roster of greats from Kansas.
Cole Aldrich: The Reliable Rebounder
Imagery of a tall figure standing tall on the court, his hands firmly gripping the rim as he snatches rebounds and gives them back to his team. This is Cole Aldrich, the reliable rebounder.
Aldrich was born in Burnsville, Minnesota in 1988. He attended Bloomington Jefferson High School and later went on to play college basketball at Kansas University. His dependable presence on both ends of the court made him one of the all-time greats from Kansas University.
In 2010 he was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets as the 11th overall pick in that year’s NBA draft. After bouncing around between teams for several years, Aldrich ultimately settled with the Sacramento Kings where he found his true calling – rebounding! His career high came during his time with the Kings when he averaged 8.1 rebounds per game during the 2017-18 season.
Cole Aldrich has become known for his consistent presence on both ends of the court and for being an invaluable asset for any team he’s been part of, making him one of Kansas’ most successful NBA players to date. Whether it’s fighting for loose balls or crashing down hard in defense, Aldrich has done it all and done it with reliability – earning him a place among Kansas’ greats of all time.
The University of Kansas has produced some of the most talented and successful NBA players in the history of the game, no doubt about it. From Joel Embiid’s unstoppable dominance in the paint to Ben McLemore’s sniper-like accuracy from beyond the arc, Jayhawks have proven themselves to be some of the greatest basketball players ever. Paul Pierce and Danny Manning are two of the most electrifying players to ever step on a court while Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison exemplify what it takes to be an all-time great teammate. Even more promising prospects such as Cliff Alexander and Marcus Morris continue to show their undeniable talent at the highest level. It’s truly remarkable that one school can put out such an impressive array of talent year after year. The Jayhawks have had an unprecedented level of success – they are like a basketball dynasty, easily rivaling any other program in terms of producing NBA stars. No one can deny that Kansas is home to some of the greatest NBA players to ever lace up their sneakers – they are simply unbeatable!