Arizona Wildcats fans were delighted last season when former teammates Mike Bibby and Jason Terry — key cogs in the 1996-97 NCAA championship team — played against each other in the NBA Finals, but no such joy this season.
With no former Arizona players in this year’s finals — the Heat did not re-sign Bibby and he merged with the Knicks — it marks only the fifth time since the 1995-96 season that a Wildcat will not appear in the series.
When the Mavericks defeated the Heat and Bibby in six games last season, Terry became the sixth different Wildcat who played for Lute Olson to win an NBA title ring since 1995-96 — the start of a three-year run for Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler with the Bulls
Overall, the Wildcats have a total of 13 NBA championships won by former players, which ranks sixth. North Carolina is No. 1 with 29, UCLA is second with 26, San Francisco (mostly behind titles won by Bill Russell and K.C. Jones with the Celtics) is tied for third with Ohio State at 25. Minnesota is fourth with 18 and Kentucky is fifth with 16.
Arizona is tied with Kansas for sixth. The Jayhawks will pass the Wildcats because Miami has Mario Chalmers and Oklahoma City features Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich.
Phenomenal trivia question: How many NBA titles have former Duke players won? Only two — Jeff Mullins and Danny Ferry. That’s a fact: Mike Krzyzewski can win NCAA titles but his former players can’t do the same at the NBA level, as Ferry is the only Krzyzewski-coached player to win an NBA ring with the Spurs in 2003.
That does not bode well for Miami, which has former Duke standout Shane Battier on its roster.
Kerr has the most rings among ex-Wildcats since 1995-96 with five — three with the Bulls and two with the Spurs.
Here is a rundown of those who have earned rings in the last 16 years: Kerr and Buechler in 1996, 1997 and 1998 with the Bulls; Bison Dele (known as Brian Williams while at Arizona) with the Bulls in 1997; Kerr and Sean Elliott in 1999 with the Spurs; Kerr with the Spurs in 2003; Luke Walton with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010; and Terry with the Mavericks last season.
Richard Jefferson (with the Nets in 2002 and 2003) and Bibby (last season) are the only former Wildcats since 1996 who have played in the finals but did not win a ring.