The Arizona Wildcats is a known breeding ground for top-caliber basketball players, with most names headed to the NBA draft. That said, Nitrobetting takes a closer look at some of the players that set their foundations on Arizona to become some of the greatest basketball players of all time.
The 5 Greatest NBA Players from Arizona of All Time
5. Richard Jefferson
Jefferson ranks third on the Wildcats’ NBA scoring list. He averaged 11.3 points, five rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game in his three years with the Wildcats. After that, the forward managed to score 12,619 in his professional career. He was selected 13th in the 2001 draft and quickly turned into one of the league’s most talented players. Jefferson went to work in his first four years in the league and averaged over 22 points a game. He kept the momentum going for the next four seasons.
After being drafted by the New Jersey Nets and a short stint with the Milwaukee Bucks, he signed with the Spurs where his performance significantly dropped. This urged Jefferson to opt out of his contract to try and find greener pastures. He found stability after the move but hit a threshold that only allowed him to pump out average numbers. Nevertheless, Richard Jefferson is etched into the list of greatest Arizona Wildcats players to play in the NBA.
4. Gilbert Arenas
Arenas spent two years in Arizona before pursuing a career in pro basketball. He averaged 16 points, four rebounds, and two assists in his short stint with the Wildcats. Although he did well in his first few years in college, he decided to enter the NBA draft. He kicked off his NBA journey with the Golden State Warriors and was the 31st overall pick in the 2001 draft.
Numbers tell us that he was a remarkable player. He averaged over 20 points, four rebounds, and five assists over 12 years. Agent Zero had enough fuel in the tank for a trip to the NBA Hall of Fame. However, injuries set in and limited him to 13 games in 2007-08. He tried to recover and pick up the pace, but he was never the same player after. His issues inside the locker room might have played a part in the decline of his career as well.
Ultimately, Arenas makes it to this list because he is the only player on this list to accomplish what no other Wildcat has come close to achieving.
3. Andre Iguodala
The three-time NBA champion deserves a place on this list. Not only was he an important part of the Warriors’ three titles, but also a product of the Wildcats. He was a mammoth player during his collegiate career and recorded triple-doubles when called upon. Iguodala maintained this level of performance in the NBA. He has a knack for scoring, is a solid rebounder, passer, and can defend. He keeps the team together and is a well-rounded player who adds value to any franchise.
At the time of this writing, Iguodala managed to play 1,218 games in the NBA while averaging 11.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. Iguodala’s repertoire also features an NBA Finals MVP in 2015, one NBA All-Defensive first team in 2014, and an NBA All-Star appearance in 2012.
2. Mike Bibby
Bibby’s college career was built on flashy passes and reliable shooting. In his two years with Arizona, the guard managed to average 15 points per game and five assists per game. He was selected second overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies (now known as the Memphis Grizzlies) and earned All-Rookie honors in his debut season.
He was traded to the Sacramento Kings in his third season where he teamed up with future Hall of Famer Chris Weber. This started a duo that would put pressure on the Lakers and the best teams in the league at the time. They went 61-21 and booked a ticket to the Western Conference Finals to play the Lakers, which was filled with controversy following claims of rigging. The Kings bounced back and won 59 games the following year and 55 in 2003-04, but lost both years in the Western Semifinals.
Later in his career, Bibby transitioned to become a role player and frequently switched teams. He would cover for starting point guards in the latter part of his career.
1. Jason Terry
Consistency is a name that sticks with the name Jason Terry. His second year in the league is already a testament to his skill, averaging 19.7 points per game. Almost a decade after, he managed to stay steady and recorded 19.6 points per game. He is a player any team can rely on and deliver.
Terry left Arizona following his All-American season in 1999. He was the 10th overall pick in the 199 NBA draft and played his first five years of professional basketball with the Atlanta Hawks where he averaged nearly 20 points a night in his sophomore year and third year. He won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2008-09 with the Mavs after coming off the bench to score 20 points.
Although Terry remained under the radar for most of his career, his level of play remains the same, if not improves. His eight years with the Dallas Mavericks between 2004 and 2012 earned him not only the aforementioned award but also a ring. Terry played a crucial role in the Mavs’ 2011 NBA Championship title and took down the titans Miami Heat in the process.
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