With the NBA Finals in full swing, here is a quick look at former Kentucky players who emerged as World Champions. 13 Kentucky Wildcats have won 20 total NBA Championship rings:
Paul Noel (Royals, 1951): UK's first NBA Champion, won second-ever NBA Finals.
Frank Ramsey (Celtics; 1957, 1959-64): Won 7 NBA Championships as Celtics dynastic core, along with fellow Hall of Famers Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, and Tom Heinsohn. UK teammate Lou Tsioropoulos was a reserve for two of these championships (1957, 1959).
Cliff Hagan (Hawks, 1958): Averaged 27.7 ppg in the 1958 playoffs to lead all scorers, led St. Louis to a NBA Finals series win over Ramsey’s Boston Celtics. In 1961, scored 40 points in game 2 of a Finals rematch vs. Boston, becoming just the third player to score 40+ points in a Finals game.
Pat Riley (Knicks, 1972): Also won 5 titles as a head coach (with Lakers and Heat)
Larry Steele: (Blazers, 1977): Former NBA steals leader (217 steals in 1974) came off the bench for the Bill Walton-led Trail Blazers.
Kevin Grevey (Bullets, 1978): 27 points in Game 1 and 22 points in Game 6; Washington defeats Seattle in 7 games.
Rick Robey (Celtics, 1981): Served as backup to Hall of Famer Robert Parish.
Tayshaun Prince (Pistons, 2004): Defensive stopper holds Kobe Bryant to 38% shooting for the series; Pistons win in 5.
Nazr Mohammed (Spurs, 2005): Averaged 18 minutes/game for world champion Spurs.
Antoine Walker & Derek Anderson (Heat, 2006): Anderson was among the early Jordan Brand athletes; Walker was the predecessor to Steph Curry’s shimmy. Both now past their primes, Anderson and Walker joined other aging stars – and young Dwyane Wade- to finally win a championship after being part of The Untouchables in 1995-96. This team was also coached by UK great Pat Riley, who won his fifth and final NBA title as a head coach.
Rajon Rondo (Celtics, 2008): Went for 21 pts, 8 ast, 7 reb, 6 stl in Game 6 blowout of Lakers. In 2009, averaged near triple-double in 14 playoff games – 16.9 PTS, 9.8 AST, 9.7 REB
Other notes: 7 of 13 players won a NCAA Championship at Kentucky: Hagan, Ramsey and Tsioropoulos in 1951; Robey in 1978; Walker and Anderson in 1996; Mohammed in 1996/1998.
Sources: Basketball-Reference.com, Kentucky Statistics Main Page, @UK_CatFacts