December 21st, 2005
Best & Worst Wooden Award Winners
Since the inception of
the Wooden Award to recognize college basketball's player of the year in
1977, it's recipients have included some of the greatest pro players of all
time and some of its biggest busts. Below you will find the All-Best and
All-Worst lists of the Wooden Award (all lists are based on what the player
did after college).
All-Time Best Wooden Award Winners List
Larry Bird – Indiana State
needs to be said here about Bird. “Larry Legend”, along with fellow NBA
rookie Magic Johnson, helped transform the NBA and bring it to national (and
international) prominence. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, Bird
retired from the NBA in 1992 with career averages of 24.3 points, 10 boards
& 6.3 assists per game. He was NBA MVP three years in a row (84-86), Finals
MVP in 84 and 86 and won 3 league championships with the Celtics.
Michael Jordan – North Carolina
performer, Jordan took the torch from Magic and Bird and brought the NBA to
all-new heights. Perhaps the greatest player of all time, Jordan retired
with averages of 30.1 points, 6.2 boards, 5.3 assists and 2.3 steals per
game. A 5 time league MVP and 6 time Finals MVP, Jordan led the Bulls to 6
Chris Mullin – St. John’s
Wooden Award winner the year after Jordan, Mullin also didn’t disappoint in
the big leagues. In 16 pro seasons with Golden State and Indiana, Mullin
averaged 18.2 points, 4.1 boards and 3.5 assists per game. One of the
greatest scorers of his era, Mullin made All League honors four straight
years (89-92) and was a member of the original American Olympic “Dream
David Robinson – Navy
the classiest players to ever grace a basketball court, Robinson was also
one of the best of his time. In 14 seasons with the Spurs, “The Admiral”
averaged 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. He also won
Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and league MVP awards
during his career. After teaming up with Tim Duncan, Robinson went on to
win 2 championships before retiring.
Tim Duncan – Wake Forest
and most unassuming, player in the game today, Duncan is a consummate pro.
Despite only being in the league for 8 seasons, Duncan has already been its
Rookie of the Year, MVP (2 times), and Finals MVP (3 times). He has piloted
the Spurs to 3 championships already and he has yet to celebrate his 30th
birthday. Already should be considered one of the greatest players of all
All-Time Worst Wooden Award Winners List
Walter Berry – St. John’s
in his teammate Chris Mullin’s footsteps, “The Truth” won the Wooden Award
the year after Mullin. However, he didn’t follow Mullin’s lead to fame and
fortune in the NBA. Berry only played three seasons in the NBA, averaging
14.1 points and 4.7 boards per game. After finding himself out of an NBA
job, Berry went on to have a very successful career overseas (in Greece,
Italy and Spain), winning championships, MVP awards and smashing scoring
Lionel Simmons – LaSalle
After graduating from
LaSalle with 4 year averages of 24.6 points, 10.9 boards, 2.7 assists, 1.8
steals & 1.9 blocks a lot was expected of the “L-Train”. After making the
NBA’s All-Rookie team in 1991, posting averages of 18.0 points, 8.8 boards &
4.0 assists for Sacramento, it looked like his future was bright.
Unfortunately that was Simmons best season in the pros, as his points and
rebounding numbers went down each of his next 6 years for the Kings.
Multiple knee surgeries ended his NBA career after a disappointing 7 years.
Calbert Cheaney – Indiana
So it’s a
bit of a stretch considering a guy into his 13th season in the
NBA as a bust, but the competition is fierce to not make it onto this list.
The majority of Wooden Award winners go on to be All-Stars in the NBA, so
that is how Calbert fell onto this list. A journeyman in the NBA, Cheaney
is onto his 5th NBA squad and carries career averages of 9.7
points and 3.2 boards per game. He has only played on a playoff team 2 out
of his 12 seasons thus far.
1995 – Ed
O’Bannon – UCLA
The only former Wooden
Award winner selling cars in Nevada for a living (no, I didn’t make that
up), O’Bannon had as disappointing a pro career as possible. I was actually
in the crowd at the 1995 NBA draft in Toronto when the hometown fans booed
the Raptors selection of Damon Stoudamire because they wanted Toronto to
pick O’Bannon. That is why fans are NOT NBA GMs for a living. Ed played 2
years in the NBA, averaging 5 points and 2.5 boards per game proving that
there isn’t room in the NBA for a “tweener” with bad knees. O’Bannon played
overseas for a few seasons before moving to Nevada to complete his degree at
UNLV, coach high school ball and sell cars.
Jason Williams – Duke
For a more complete
report on Williams, check out my previous column –
All-American Disappointments – Part 2. A serious motorcycle accident
has limited Jay to one NBA season and his NBA career is still on the shelf
for the foreseeable future.