One Shining Moment
The shot. We've seen it a million times. It's the crown jewel of every NCAA tournament montage, the very essence of "one shining moment." And even though it happened 23 years ago, it feels like it was just yesterday. The shot. Just thinking about it sends a shiver down your spine. Just 2.1 seconds left in overtime of the East Regional Finals — the Kentucky Wildcats are leading the Duke Blue Devils 103-102, Duke's Grant Hill unleashes a perfect court-length baseball pass to Christian Laettner, who catches the ball, turns, takes a dribble and puts up a fade-away buzzer-beater from the top of the key … and madness ensues. That shot is why we watch — and why we love — college basketball. Click through to see other heroic college boys who went on to become giants among men.
1955, Bill Russell, San Francisco
Russell led the University of San Francisco to two consecutive NCAA championships and also won a Gold Medal at the 1956 Olympics.
Bill Russell, Today
The legendary center won 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics and is widely considered to be one of the greatest players of all time.
1958, Elgin Baylor, Seattle
His Seattle team lost to Kentucky in the championship game, but the gifted 6’5” Baylor, who averaged 31 points in his college career, was selected the MVP anyway.
Elgin Baylor, Today
Renowned for his ability to hang in the air and soar for rebounds, Baylor, a Hall of Famer who played for the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers from 1958 to 1971, is considered the prototype for today’s athletic small forward.
1959, Jerry West, West Virginia
A phenomenal all-around player, West led all scorers and rebounders in every game West Virginia played in the 1959 tournament.
Jerry West, Today
The personification of an All-Star guard – and the model for the NBA’s logo – West was known for his tenacity and clutch, game-winning shots in an illustrious 15-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
1960, Jerry Lucas, Ohio State
Considered one of college basketball’s greatest players, in 1961, Lucas became the only player to score 30 points or more and haul in at least 30 rebounds in a single tournament game.
Jerry Lucas, Today
The 6’8” power forward teamed with Oscar Robinson on the Cincinnati Royals at the beginning of his career and later, as a savvy veteran, helped the New York Knicks win a championship in 1973.
1965, Bill Bradley, Princeton
The subject of a famous New Yorker profile while still in college, Bradley holds the Ivy League record for most points scored, and graduated magna cum laude from Princeton, receiving a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford.
Bill Bradley, Today
“Dollar Bill” moved without the ball, hit the open man and had a deadly jump shot, helping the New York Knicks win two championships before becoming a United States Senator from New Jersey.
1967, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar), UCLA
The 7’2” center, who led the Bruins to an unprecedented three straight titles, was considered so dominant in college, the NCAA changed the rules so he couldn’t dunk.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Today
Jabbar’s patented sky hook shot was unstoppable for 20 seasons, and Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with over 38,000 points.
1970, Sidney Wicks, UCLA
In his three seasons with UCLA, Wicks, a ferocious 6’8” power forward, powered the Bruins to a 86-4 record and three national titles.
Sidney Wicks, Today
Wicks was rookie of the year with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1972 and a four-time NBA All-Star.
1972, Bill Walton, UCLA
The 7-foot-tall Southern California redhead was a free spirit off the court, but deadly efficient on it, winning college player of the year three years in a row and leading the Bruins to three straight titles and an 88-game win streak.
Bill Walton, Today
Injuries plagued Walton’s pro career, but he excelled with Portland’s 1977 championship team and finished his career with the Celtics (and another championship in 1986) before overcoming a stuttering problem to become a broadcaster.
1974, David Thompson, NC State
The 6’ 5” Thompson, known as “Skywalker,” had an off-the charts vertical leap and is credited with helping invent the above-the-rim “alley-oop” pass and shot.
David Thompson, Today
Although a four-time NBA All-Star, personal problems and substance abuse short-circuited Thompson’s pro career, but he later recovered and now works with youth groups.
1979, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Michigan State
The 1979 championship game between the Spartans and Indiana State was the beginning of a legendary rivalry between “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird.
Earvin Johnson, Today
A one-of-a kind 6’9” point guard, Johnson won five championships in 12 years with the Los Angeles Lakers; he shocked the league when he announced he had AIDS, but went on to triumph over the disease and become a successful businessman.
1980, Darrell Griffith, Louisville
“Dr. Dunkenstein” led the Cardinals to their first NCAA title.
Darrell Griffith, Today
Griffith was NBA Rookie of the Year and played his entire 12-year career with the New Orleans/Utah Jazz.
1981, Isiah Thomas, Indiana
The tough-as-nails point guard from inner-city Chicago teamed with disciplinarian Indiana coach Bobby Knight to form an unlikely but formidable Odd Couple for the Hoosiers.
Isiah Thomas, Today
Thomas was a hero in Detroit, leading a blue-collar Pistons team to two titles, but a goat in New York as a failed coach and front office executive for the Knicks.
1982, James Worthy, North Carolina
A sleek 6’9” forward, Worthy famously stole a pass inadvertently thrown to him by Georgetown’s Fred Brown to score the winning basket in the championship game.
James Worthy, Today
Worthy’s speed, quickness and power made him a perfect fit on the fast-breaking “Showtime” Lakers, winning three championships along the way.
1983, Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston
A 7’ center from Nigeria, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon displayed nearly unbelievable athleticism and teamed with Clyde Drexler to form the “Phi Slama Jama” above-the-rim dunking fraternity.
Hakeem Olajuwon, Today
Olajuwon’s two championships and Hall of Fame career with the Houston Rockets paved the way for an influx of foreign players in the NBA.
1984, Patrick Ewing, Georgetown
The quintessential Big Man, 7-foot-tall center Ewing teamed with coach John Thompson, and endured racist taunts, to lead the Hoyas to their first national title.
Patrick Ewing, Today
Though he had a Hall of Fame career with the New York Knicks, Ewing was probably best known for coming close, but never winning an NBA title.
1985, Ed Pinckney, Villanova
Pinckney was the star for a Wildcats team that shot an astonishing 78% from the field to beat heavily favored Big East rival Georgetown in one of the greatest championship upsets in NCAA history.
Ed Pinckney, Today
Pinckney's playing career in the pros didn’t pan out, but he later worked as a coach and broadcaster.
1986, Pervis Ellison, Louisville
“Never Nervous Pervis” was a powerful 6’9” center who started all four years he played at Louisville and was only the second freshman to win the tournament’s outstanding player award as a freshman.
Pervis Ellison, Today
Injuries derailed Ellison’s pro career, but he returned to the game as a coach.
1988, Danny Manning, Kansas
Manning was a dominant college player and one of the best players ever to play for basketball powerhouse KU.
Danny Manning, Today
Knee injuries cut short Manning’s pro playing career, but he now is the head coach for the University of Tulsa.
1989, Glen Rice, Michigan
A three-year starter for the Wolverines, Rice became the school’s all-time leading scorer when he graduated.
Glen Rice, Today
Rice scored over 18,00 points with six teams over 15 years in the NBA, peaking with the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996-1997 season when he averaged 27 points per game.
1991, Christian Laettner, Duke
Laettner’s last-second, long-distance turn-around, back-to-the-basket shot to beat Kentucky in the 1993 NCAA East regional game is one of the most famous shots in college basketball history.
Christian Laettner, Today
Laettner played 13 years with six NBA teams, never equaling his college success.
1992, Bobby Hurley, Duke
The son of a legendary New Jersey high school coach, the gutty point guard went to the Final Four with Duke three times, leading the Blue Devils to back-to-back national championships in 1991 and 1992.
Bobby Hurley, Today
Hurley had an undistinguished pro career, became a thoroughbred race horse owner and breeder and now coaches at the University of Buffalo.
1994, Corliss Williamson, Arkansas
The 6’7” power forward led Arkansas to its only NCAA championship, beating Duke in the title game.
Corliss Williamson, Today
After a solid 12 year NBA career, Williamson went into coaching and is now an assistant with the Sacramento Kings.
1999, Richard Hamilton, Connecticut
A slinky 6’ 7” swingman, “Rip” Hamilton led the Huskies to a national title with a 27-point performance against Duke.
Richard Hamilton, Today
Hamilton perfected the art of moving without the ball to get open shots and helped the Detroit Pistons go to six straight conference championship series and win an NBA title in 2004.
2001, Shane Battier, Duke
The quintessential Duke star, Battier combined brains, brawn and skill to be a four-year stand-out for Coach Mike Krzyewski.
Shane Battier, Today
Battier's intelligence and defensive prowess translated well to the NBA, and he won a championship with the Miami Heat in 2013.
2003, Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse
A “one and done” freshman sensation from Baltimore, Anthony’s deadly jump shot kayoed Kansas to bring coach Jim Boheim and Syracuse their first national title.
Carmelo Anthony, Today
One of the NBA’s top scorers, Anthony is looking for a championship-caliber team as a free agent this summer, which may or may not be his current employer, the New York Knicks.