Yesterday was my 25th birthday. I know, kinda crazy. So with the National Championship game last night, I figured I’d look back at the past 25 years of the Big Dance. At the end of the Final Four, the Associated Press always selects a Most Outstanding Player (last night being Duke’s Kyle Singler). The MOP need not be a member of the Championship team, but they almost always are. In fact, the last player to win the award in a losing effort was Hakeem Olajuwon back in 1983. But not everyone goes on to have a career like The Dream. With that in mind, I’ve tracked down the MOPs of the past 25 years…
1985 â€“ Ed Pinckney, Villanova
I don’t know the actual date of this game, but I was either just born or about to be when Ed Pinckney led Villanova to the NCAA title over Georgetown. Nonetheless, I was a big fan of his when he was on the Celtics. Nowadays, you can find him as a color analyst for the Philadelphia 76ers on Comcast Sportsnet.
1986 â€“ Pervis Ellison, Louisville
How can you not love “Never Nervous” Pervis. Another former Celtic, Ellison was only the second freshman to ever win this award. He now coaches and works with underprivileged youth in New Jersey.
1987 â€“ Keith Smart, Indiana
You don’t hit bigger shots that Keith Smart. Although his time as a pro was short-lived, his game-winning shot in the 1987 NCAA championship game will go down as one of the greatest ever. Nowadays, you can find him sitting next to Don Nelson on the Golden State Warriors bench as an assistant coach.
1988 â€“ Danny Manning, Kansas
Manning didn’t just win the MOP of the Final Four, but is considered one of the greatest players in college basketball history. Naturally as the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, people expected big things. But what it really meant was that he was going to have knee problems during his career. Today, back in Lawrence, you can find him on the bench as an assistant coach for the Jayhawks.
1989 â€“ Glen Rice, Michigan
When Glen Rice won the MOP back in 1989, he scored an NCAA-record 184 points in tournament play – a record that still stands today. One of my favorite NBA players throughout his career owing to his unlimited range, Rice keeps a low profile these days. Living in Miami, you can spot him once in a while watching his son, Glen Rice Jr., who just finished his freshman season at Georgia Tech.
1990 â€“ Anderson Hunt, UNLV
Of everyone on this list, there is no one who fell harder than Hunt. From the Runnin’ Rebels to runnin’ from the law, Hunt never played a minute in the NBA. Some reports have him currently living in Detroit working in real estate, while others says he works as a cook at the Burger Palace, located inside the Imperial Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas.
1991 â€“ Christian Laettner, Duke
Watching this Duke team, it was hard not to be reminded of Christian Laettner’s heroics. But when it comes to the NBA, his YouTube highlights are few and far between. These days, Laettner co-owns the community development company Blue Devil Ventures with former Duke teammate Brian Davis.
1992 â€“ Bobby Hurley, Duke
And where there’s Laettner, there’s Hurley. Just like his predecessor, Hurley’s NBA career never really took off, but he was the man in college. Nowadays, he owns Devil Eleven Stables in Hollywood, Fla.
1993 â€“ Donald Williams, North Carolina
Another guy just like Hunt that never played a minute in the NBA, it’s crazy to think that a UNC product would just go down like that. Today, you can find him in North Carolina as the varsity girls basketball coach at Saint Marys School in Raleigh.
1994 â€“ Corliss Williamson, Arkansas
The “Big Nasty” was an absolute beast in college. And unlike almost every guy on this list, had a solid NBA career as well. So if you wanna learn from the best, head to Arkansas. A couple weeks ago, Williamson was just announced as the men’s head basketball coach at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
1995 â€“ Ed O’Bannon, UCLA
The O’Bannon Brothers were one of the greatest things about college basketball at the time. But after college, their NBA careers never really amounted to much. Ed-O is now a car salesman for Findlay Toyota in Henderson, Nev., outside Las Vegas, and is the boys head varsity coach at Henderson International School.
1996 â€“ Tony Delk, Kentucky
Tony Delk was one one my favorites in the NBA. A career journeyman, he once dropped 53 points in a game. He could just flat-out score. Back in Kentucky, Delk is now the Assistant Director of Basketball Operations for the Wildcats.
1997 â€“ Miles Simon, Arizona
Of all the guys on this list, I was most disappointed when Miles Simon never amounted to anything in the League. This guys was “The Man” in college, but somehow it never transplanted to the pros like the rest of the Wildcats’ guards. Today, you can find him in the booth as an analyst for VERSUS, most recently calling D-League games.
1998 â€“ Jeff Sheppard, Kentucky
Of all players to play for Kentucky in the ’90s, Jeff Sheppard definitely did the least in the pros. Well, at least him and Wayne Turner. Sheppard now lives in London, Ky., with his wife, Stacey, herself a former Kentucky basketball star, and runs an apparel company called 15inc. He’s also the Vice President of Business Development at Wazoo Sports, a regional sports network.
1999 â€“ Richard Hamilton, UConn
Rip Hamilton is one of two current NBA players (the other being Nazr Mohammed) to have won both an NCAA and NBA title. Not bad. And unlike every guy on this list before him, is still balling in the League.
2000 â€“ Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State
People often forget, but Mateen Cleaves was a three-time All-American in college. But unfortunately in the NBA, he’s remembered more for his cheering on the bench than his time on the court. Nowadays, you can Cleaves in the studio as an analyst for select Pistons games after joining FOX Sports Detroit a couple weeks ago.
2001 â€“ Shane Battier, Duke
If Coach K wanted to create The Manchurian Candidate, it would be Shane Battier. Although I’ve never asked him who his favorite player is, Battier has to be up there. Perhaps next year he’ll get to coach against him in the League.
2002 â€“ Juan Dixon, Maryland
I used to love watching Juan Dixon in college. The guy could just ball. Unfortunately, his game never quite translated to the League. I got to watch him play for two years while I was in college out in Portland, and thought he might stick around. Just seeing him play alongside Steve Blake was worth the price of admission. These days, after heading overseas, Dixon was suspendedby FIBA after testing positive for steroids in February. Hopefully he can bounce back.
2003 â€“ Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse
The man in college. A top 5 player in the NBA. Case closed.
2004 â€“ Emeka Okafor, UConn
Maybe it was just me, but I thought Emeka Okafor was going to be an All-Star in the NBA. I mean, he did win the Rookie of the Year in 2005. In his first season out of Charlotte, he’s definitely had his ups and downs, but I’m not ready to give up on him just yet.
2005 â€“ Sean May, North Carolina
For Sean May to win the MOP of the Final Four five years ago, and almost be out of the League this past summer, that’s kind of crazy. Although he’s been used sparingly this season by the Kings, at least he’s got his weight down and learned from a good, young team. It will be interesting to see what happens with him this summer.
2006 â€“ Joakim Noah, Florida
Of everyone on this list not named ‘Melo, Joakim Noah still has the most star potential. I’m expecting big things from him and this Bulls team next year.
2007 â€“ Corey Brewer, Florida
This season, Corey Brewer is finally turning into the player that everyone thought he would be coming out of college. With a couple vicious dunks under his belt, and more playing time, he’s at the center of the T-Wolves future.
2008 â€“ Mario Chalmers, Kansas
So what if his sophomore year is worse than his rookie season: it happens to the best of ’em. Because of the presence of some veteran PGs in Miami, along with an injury that kept him out of nine games in early February, Chalmers hasn’t progressed quite as much as Pat Riley would have hoped. Nonetheless, he’s a vital part of the future with the Heat.
2009 â€“ Wayne Ellington, North Carolina
He’s had a couple of big games, going for a career-high 17 points on four separate occasions, but what did you expect for his rookie year? Drafted with the 28th pick last June, Ellington could turn out to be a steal in a couple years (or go the route of Rashad McCants).
Who’s your favorite player on this list? What are your fondest memories from their college and NBA days? Who do you wish panned out in the League?
Other Can’t-Miss Where Are They Now Features:
– Kentucky’s Untouchables: The Greatest College Basketball Team Ever
– Where Are They Now: Kelvin Torbert
– Where Are They Now: Rafael Araujo
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