The University of Kansas has long since been renowned as one of the best basketball colleges in the United States. Kansas Jayhawks fans are well aware of the championship pedigree of the school. They expect nothing less than titles each season.
So what has made this school s amazing? Who are the greatest Kansas players? We are sure that you would like to know who are the most famous Kansas basketball players. Every year, the University of Kansas has managed to acquire multiple top prospects in the nation to commit to their program. We will be looking at the prestige and quality leadership that have made that possible.
We will use this in-depth article to cover the basketball greatness of this school. We will be looking at all the great players produced by the Kansas Jayhawks system and all the great players that went on to the NBA.
A Brief History of Kansas Basketball
Six years after writing the official rules for basketball, Dr. James Naismith was appointed the head of basketball at the University of Kansas in 1898. That was when the Jayhawks program officially began. Dr. James Naismith coached the team from 1898 to 1907. Kansas Jayhawks compete in the Big 12 Conference off the NCAA Division 1. Without a doubt, the University of Kansas has one of the most exceptional basketball programs in the country. The Kansas Jayhawks have won five national championships, two of which are Helms National Championships and three being NCAA tournament championships.
Their NCAA championships came in 1952, 1988, and 2008 and they won the two Helms Foundation National Championships in 1922 and 1923. They have also been to the championship match 6 times, and they have won the most conference titles in the USA.
They have also been to the NCAA tournament consecutively more than any other team in history. They have been to the NCAA tournament 30 times and counting.
This amazing program has managed to win 20 of the 25 regular-season Big 12 Conference titles. That goes for a whopping 80%.
Two of the main reasons why this school has been so incredibly successful is its crop of players and coaches. Some notable players that have gone through the Kansas basketball program are Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce, Joel Embiid, and Andrew Wiggins.
Some of its most famous coaches include Gregg Popovich, Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, and Dr. James Naismith. Can you imagine how cool it must have been to have the inventor of basketball coach you on how to play? World-renowned ESPN ranked Kansas as the second most prestigious basketball program of modern college basketball in 2008. The University of Kansas has a winning tradition. They have the most winning seasons in a division 1 history at 97, and within that 97 they have strung together a record of 35 consecutive winning seasons. The University of Kansas boasts the most division regular-season Conference titles as well. They may not be the leader in all-time Division 1 wins, but second is not so bad.
As a testament to the greatness of the coaches that have run the program, every head coach since the NCAA tournament began has some time or another, lead the team to the Final Four. They have gotten to the Final Four with more different head coaches than any other college program. Four of Kansas’ head coaches have been inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, this itself is a record. The Kansas Jayhawks manage to win their 2000th game in school history in the 2009 to 2010 season. At the time, only three schools had managed to accomplish this feat.
The Kansas Jayhawks won their first NCAA tournament championship in 1952. They managed to win this first title after defeating St. John’s University by 17 points in the finals.
Wilt Chamberlain, who is arguably the greatest big-man to ever play the sport, played the for the University of Kansas. The great with Chamberlain managed to break both the most points in a single game and the most rebounds in a single game record in his very first game with the team. Wilt Chamberlain scored a whopping 52 points and grabbed a massive 31 rebounds in a win against Northwestern.
In the 1957 season, Wilt Chamberlain lead the Kansas team to the championship finals but eventually lost to North Carolina. In 1988, The Jayhawks won their third NCAA National Championship by defeating their conference rival Oklahoma, which was the favorite in the final. The Jayhawks won their third NCAA tournament Championship under the current coach Bill Self In 2008. They had to defeat a star-studded Memphis team in overtime to win the game by seven points.
This was their winningest season in their school’s history as they had a record of 37-3. Before winning their third championship, they won 2 championships in the Big 12 competition in 2005 and 2006. They also managed to win the Big 12 regular-season Championship the following year in 2007.
One fun fact to note. Kansas Jayhawks played in the world University games under the United States flag in 2015. They went undefeated on their way to win the championship. Another fun fact is that the original rules of basketball made by Dr. James Naismith were purchased in New York for 4.3 million dollars by the David Booth family.
This Day In 1891: James Naismith invents the game of basketball. These initial rules sold at auction for $4.3 million. pic.twitter.com/qltxGaFAHs
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 21, 2017
After buying the original rules of the game, the document was returned to the University of Kansas’ Lawrence campus. To this day, the document is being kept at the DeBruce Center.
Who are the Famous NBA Players from KU?
The University has produced multiple quality players. Some notable Hall of Famers played on KU’s teams. Let’s look at some of the most famous NBA players that once played for the Kansas Jayhawks.
Andrew Wiggins played one year at Kansas before moving on to the NBA. While he was at Kansas in 2013-2014, he was named to the All-Big 12 First-team and awarded the honor of Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 1st in the first round by the Cavaliers in 2014. During his 6 years in the NBA, he was ROY in 2015, and he is averaging 19PTS, 4RB, and 2AST for his career.
Paul Pierce spent three years at Kansas and then went on to the NBA. While he was at Kansas in 1995-2008, he was named to the All-Big 12 First Team in 1997-98. Paul went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 10th in the first round by the Celtics.
During his 19 years in the NBA, he was an NBA champion that averaged 20PTS, 6RB, and 4AST.
Marcus Morris, Sr.
Marcus Morris Sr. played three years at Kansas before moving on to the NBA. While he was at Kansas in 2008-11, he was All-Big 12 First-team and awarded the honor of Big 12 player of the year in 2011.
He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 14th in the first round by Rockets. During his 9 years in the NBA, he is averaging 12PTS, 5RB, and 1AST.
Darnell Valentine spent four years at Kansas and then went on to the NBA. While he was at Kansas in 1977-81, he was First Team All-Big eight four times.
Darnell went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 16th in the first round by the Blazers. During his 13 years in the NBA, he averaged 9PTS, 2RB, and 5AST.
Joel Embiid played one year at Kansas before moving on to the NBA. While he was at Kansas in 2013-2014, he was named Big 12 Defensive player of the year. He was also named to the All-Big 12 Second-team.
He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 3rd in the first round by the 76ers. During his 6 years in the NBA, he was a 3-time all-star that is averaging 24PTS, 11RB, and 3AST.
Danny Manning spent four years at Kansas and then went on to the NBA. While he was at Kansas in 1984-88, he helped the team to win the NCAA championship in 1988. He went on to the NBA, where the Clippers drafted 1st in the first round.
During his 15 years in the NBA, he was a 2-time NBA All-Star that averaged 14PTS, 5RB, and 2AST.
Bill Bridges played three years at Kansas before moving on to the ABL. While he was at Kansas in 1958-61, he was a legendary rebounder even though he only stood at 6’6” tall.
He went on to the ABL, where he was drafted 32nd overall by the Packers. During his 9 years playing professionally, he was a 3-time all-star and NBA champion that averaged 12PTS, 12RB, and 3AST.
Kirk Hinrich spent four years at Kansas and then went on to the NBA. While he was at Kansas in 1999-2003, he helped the team to the final four in 2002 and 2003.
He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 7th in the first round by the Bills. During his 13 years in the NBA, he was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team and All-Defensive team. For his career, he averaged 11PTS, 3RB, and 5AST.
Clyde Lovellette played two years at Kansas before moving on to the NBA. While he was at Kansas in 1950-52, he helped the team to win an NCAA Championship in 1952. He also led the country in scoring in his final year at 28.4PPG.
He went on to the NBA, where he was drafted 9th overall by the Lakers. During his 12 years in the NBA, he was a 4-time all-star and 3-time NBA Champion that averaged 17PTS, 10RB, and 2AST
We saved the best for last. Wilt Chamberlin spent two seasons at Kansas and then went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. While he was at Kansas in 1956-58, he was named NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 1957.
His entrance into the NBA was made as a territorial pick by the Warriors. During his 14 years in the NBA, he averaged 30PTS, 23RB, and 4AST. In addition to being a 2-time NBA Champion, he amassed so many records and accolades that we can’t list them. You can view them here.
How Many Kansas Jayhawk’s Players are in the NBA? List of NBA Players from Kansas at Present
There are currently eleven Kansas Jayhawks in the NBA at this time. Let’s take a quick look at who they are.
After he was drafted 1st overall by the Cavs in 2014, Wiggins has played for two NBA teams. He was drafted and then traded to the T-Wolves for Kevin Love. He was recently traded to the Golden State Warriors for D’Angelo Russell to bolster their backcourt and please KAT. Wiggins made the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2015 and also won the ROY title that year.
After he was drafted 3th overall by the 76ers in 2014, Embiid has been one of the most dominant bigs in the game today. He is a 3-time all-star and made the All-Rookie first team in 2017. His career numbers are also quite good at 24PPG, 11RPG, and 3AST.
After he was drafted 33rd overall by the Clippers in 2016, Diallo has played for three G League teams and two NBA teams. He was signed to a two-year contract by the Phoenix Suns in 2019. His career numbers are not the best at 5PPG and 4RPG.
Devonte’ Graham is currently with the Charlotte Hornets. He was drafted by the Hawks, but then exchanged for two future pics. He is a fairly good shooter but needs to work on the rest of his game and get more consistent if he wants to be included in the Hornet’s regular roster rotation.
Kelly Oubre, Jr.
Kelly has been ballin since day one. He has shown remarkable talent while playing for the Wizards from 2015-18. He is a really good shooter that has wonderful slashing skills. He was traded to the Suns for Trevor Ariza in 2018.
Svi Mykhailiuk is a Ukrainian NBA player that is currently with the Detroit Pistons. He was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. He is a remarkable shooter with exceptional potential. He was traded to the pistons in the deal that sent Reggie Bullock to the Lakers.
Morris has been a fairly good rotation player since he was drafted. His numbers aren’t jumping off the chart, but he is a solid 10pts and 5rpg guy. Some may say he is not as dangerous as his twin brother, but his new contract with the LA Lakers should give him an opportunity to shine his best. He has new partners in LBJ and AD.
After he was drafted 4th overall by the Suns in 2017, Jackson has played for two NBA teams. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team in 2018. So far, for his short career, he is averaging 12PPG, 4RPG, and 2AST.
Frank was drafted in the second round by the Kings. He signed with the Bucks in 2019 but has since been sent to the Bucks affiliate G League squad. He will need to up his game significantly if he is going to get into constant roster rotation with the Bucks.
Ben has been doing his thing since day one. He has shown some amount of promise since he entered the league but needs to be more consistent. He was drafted to the Kings, signed with the Grizzlies, and then dealt back to the Kings for Garrett Temple.
After he was drafted 14th overall by the Rockets in 2011, Morris has played for 6 NBA teams. He is currently signed to the Los Angeles Clippers. He was traded to the Clippers from the Knicks in 2020. His career numbers are OK at 12PPG, 5RPG, and 1AST.
The 5 Greatest Jayhawks NBA Players of All Time
There are so many players of excellent pedigree that went through Kansas’ system. A host of players can be considered for the list of best Jayhawks players to date, so it was quite challenging to prepare this list. Here’s our list of Kansas’ greatest NBA players.
If you were to throw a stone in a pond of NBA records, chances you will hit one belonging to Wilt Chamberlin.
Paul won a championship with the Boston Celtics. He was nicknamed “The Truth” by Shaq. This is a testament of his greatness.
Joel is game by game making his case to be the best big in the league today. He is plagued by injuries but is still managing to dominate whenever he gets the chance.
Danny Manning was a number 1 draft pick that put up respectable numbers on his way to becoming a two-time All-Star.
Clyde was a great big man in his time. He won three NBA championships, and not many people are good enough to contribute to three winning teams. He was also a four-time NBA All-Star.
Wrapping Things Up: Kansas NBA Players
The University of Kansas has so many records. It is the School version of Wilt Chamberlin. The current NBA players from Kansas are OK and holding their own for the most part in the NBA. These current guys are young, but if they follow in the footsteps of the greats such as Wilt, Clyde, and Paul, we have great things to see from them.
Did you find this article helpful? Then you may also like to read other frequently asked questions on basketball here.