Everyone in the world knows the NBA Finals starts tonight between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. While it’s rather shocking there isn’t a Kentucky representative (actually let’s count LeBron for recruiting purposes only) in the 2015 NBA Finals, there has been plenty of success by former Cats in the biggest spot.
There have been 13 different former Kentucky players to win an NBA title as a player. Those guys include Paul Noel, Lou Tsioropoulos, Frank Ramsey, Cliff Hagan, Pat Riley, Larry Steele, Kevin Grevey, Rick Robey, Tayshaun Prince, Nazr Mohammad, Antoine Walker, Derek Anderson and Rajon Rondo. Ramsey leads the way with seven NBA titles – all with the Boston Celtics, something that shouldn’t be shocking as former Kentucky players have won 11 titles for the Celtics.
So, what has been some of the best performances by our beloved former players in the NBA Finals? The list shouldn’t surprise anyone due to recent memory.
5) Antoine Walker: Game 6,2006 NBA Finals
14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists
‘Toine played a big role in the closeout game for the Heat in 2006 coached by former Kentucky great Pat Riley. The starting small forward played 33 minutes in Game 6 and was one of three Heat players to score in double digits and record a double-double, joining Udonis Haslem and D-Wade. Miami ended up winning the series 4-2 and won Game 6, 95-92 as Walker helped lead the charge.
4) Kevin Grevey: Game 1 1978 NBA Finals
Kevin Grevey was just in his third year as a pro with the Washington Bullets in 1978, when he was promoted into the starting lineup after an injury. During Game 1 of the 1978 Finals against the Seattle SuperSonics Grevey had a team-high 27 points. The Bullets had a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter, but ended up losing the game by four points. The Bullets would go on to win the series 4-3 as Grevey played a massive part, but the 27 points is the best scoring output from a former Kentucky player in the NBA Finals.
3) Tayshaun Prince: Game 5 2004 NBA Finals
17 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists
It was one of the more surprising NBA Finals when the Detroit Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 in 2004. However, a large part of that was because of Tayshaun Prince’s play, most notably during the Game 5 closeout. Prince recorded a double-double joining Ben Wallace as the only two Pistons to have one in Game 5. More importantly he provided key defense, helping out and guarding Kobe Bryant during his prime.
2) Rajon Rondo: Game 2 2010 NBA Finals
19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists
Rajon Rondo made Kentucky history when he became the first Wildcat to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals. He spearheaded the fourth quarter run by the Celtics by scoring 10 of his 19 points during the final 12 minutes. He led the Celtics in both rebounds and assists in Game 2 as his triple-double tied the series up 1-1 against the Lakers. Rondo played 41 minutes and the Celtics were +12 with him on the floor.
1) Rajon Rondo: Game 6 2008 NBA Finals
21 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 6 steals
This was the break out part for Rajon Rondo on the big stage. It was the closeout game against the Celtics’ notorious rival and Rondo had one of the most balanced stat sheets ever. The Lakers wanted to try to have Rondo beat them, allowing him to take 20 shots, and he took full advantage of that. He was able to get into the lane and get teammates open, playing just 31 minutes, the Celtics won 131-92. Arguably the most impressive part of his stat sheet was having just one turnover.