Top 7 Best College Basketball Players Of All Time


Some of the greatest NBA stars made their name in college basketball and you can include the likes of Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Other names did not quite make the transition to the professional leagues yet still dominated at college. That’s why drawing up a top seven can prove so difficult as it was clear that so many players would make it when they were so impressive at college basketball.  For the latest college basketball odds, check out our dedicated sportsbook.

  • Lew Alcindor (UCLA)

  • Bill Russell (San Francisco)

  • Pete Maravich (LSU)

  • Bill Walton (UCLA)

  • Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati)

  • David Thompson (North Carolina State)

  • Larry Bird (Indiana State)


Lew Alcindor (UCLA)

That Lew Alcindor was an NCAA Champion three times, as well as a Consensus First Team All-American, and he made the West Regional Team three times should not be in question. Of course, he later became known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and won those awards during just a three-year spell. He led his high school team, Power Memorial Academy, to a staggering 79-2 record and received between 60 and 70 offers. He chose UCLA and dropped 56 points in his debut college game which was a sign of things to come as he simply dominated the scoring charts and the record books.

Bill Russell (San Francisco)

There are players on this list with higher points per game averages yet Bill Russell was a freak of nature. He became an example to his teammates from his application and how he worked on his basketball fundamentals. Russell would obsess over how other players moved their feet and would excel at defense to use his speed and wingspan to great effect. Such were Russell’s performances that the NCAA changed their rules to widen the lane to go against just how dominant he was at defense though the college still claimed back-to-back NCAA championships.

Pete Maravich (LSU)

When you see the average of 44.2 points per game you have to read it twice to believe it. Yet that’s what Maravich contributed to Louisiana State during his three-year spell with some extraordinary performances. He was a big man yet he had a range of shots like layups and hook shots, even the occasional long-range bomb which all became de rigueur despite barely being known at the time. Imagine all those points, before the three-point line was even introduced in college.

Bill Walton (UCLA)

Between the years of 1964 and 1975, you could claim that UCLA dominated the NCAA Championship as they won 10 out of 12. The latter part of that domination was largely down to the legend that was, Bill Walton. It was not that Walton would bully his opponents but they could not get near him as the team had a 73-0 winning streak. Consecutive NCAA titles confirmed his reputation yet it was his big game performances that marked him out like 44 points against Memphis State as he missed a single shot out of 22 attempts.

Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati)

With a college average of 33.8 points, Robertson simply blew the opposition away. He was a three-time winner of several awards including NCAA Scoring Champion, First Team All-MVC, Consensus First Team All-American, and Sporting News College Player of the Year. Back in his own era, Robertson stood out and it could be claimed that he was the modern template for a point guard with exceptional playmaking and some expert scoring. Even at a high level, he was still learning and his statistics improved year after year and he was the all-time top scorer for the NCAA, until a certain Pete Maravich arrived.

David Thompson (North Carolina State)

North Carolina State has enjoyed a glorious athletic past with the likes of Spud Webb and Dennis Smith Jr. yet the Skywalker would be more enduring. David Thompson led the Wolfpack to a 27-0 season with an average of 24.7 points which should have sealed his reputation. However, the team was banned from competing in the NCAA Tournament due to several violations during the process of Thompson being recruited. Thankfully, Thompson and the team recovered with their first National Championship, gained against Marquette.

Larry Bird (Indiana State)

Yes, even Larry Bird was once a college basketball player from 1977 to 1979. His average during that time was a stupefying 30.3 points as he was named MVC Player of the Year twice, Consensus First Team All-American twice, Third Team All-American, and National College Player of the Year. Perhaps his greatest achievement was raising the profile of Indiana State University basketball to enjoy an undefeated collegiate season and a 33-0 record on their way to their debut NCAA Championship game. All that while promoting the ‘team first’ mentality that would see him enjoy a fruitful NBA career.


It can be clear from college basketball that some players are set for the big leagues. That includes the likes of Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who were set to dominate the NBA just as they had set records in college. A lot of that is down to mentality as players will improve their game year after year to become even better, for the benefit of themselves to score a contract and for their teams.