Ranking the 10 Greatest College Basketball Players Who Were Two-Sport Stars
Achieving greatness in one college sport is rare.
Getting it done in more than one sport is nearly unthinkable.
The following list features the 10 greatest college basketball players who were two-sport stars.
The first five athletes on the list excelled at basketball but made a sports career elsewhere.
The final five became NBA stars but, on the way, showed their versatility and incredible athleticism on another field or venue.
Here we go!
Player information provided by Sports-reference.com
Some of the two-sport athletes that didn't quite make the list are:
Donovan McNabb: He starred on the Syracuse gridiron and logged some minutes for Jim Boeheim's squad on the basketball court, too.
Tony Gonzalez: Cal saw him score tons of touchdowns and grab a bunch of boards for the Bears 1997 Sweet 16 team.
Greg Paulus: He played point guard for Mike Krzyzewski, and he played quarterback at Syracuse.
Jimmy Graham: Four years of playing power forward for Miami, plus one year of football at "the U," prepared him to be an NFL star.
10. Tim Stoddard: North Carolina State (Baseball and Basketball)
Tim Stoddard had a 13-year major league pitching career, playing on five different teams.
Working primarily as a relief pitcher, Stoddard compiled a 41-35 career record with a 3.95 ERA, 582 strikeouts and 76 saves in 485 games.
The 6’7” right-hander was the winning pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles in Game 4 of the 1979 World Series.
Before the big fella threw a pitch for the Chicago White Sox in 1975, he was a starting forward on North Carolina State’s 1974 NCAA championship team. Stoddard did work alongside such Wolfpack stars as David Thompson, Tom Burleson and Monte Towe.
In the championship game against Marquette, the East Chicago, Ind. native scored 8 points and grabbed 7 boards.
Stoddard is the only person to win both a World Series game and an NCAA men’s basketball championship.
In 2011, Stoddard was inducted to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
9. Kenny Lofton: Arizona (Baseball and Basketball)
Kenny Lofton was an outstanding major league baseball player.
Lofton was a six-time All-Star (1994–1999) and a four-time Gold Glove winner (1993–1996).
However, when he went to the University of Arizona, his primary sport was not baseball.
He went to the U of A on a basketball scholarship.
Lofton came off the bench on a Wildcats’ team that went to the 1988 Final Four. He was the starting point guard for Arizona when they advanced to the 1989 Sweet Sixteen.
Lofton did not play baseball in college until he decided to try out for the team his junior year.
He only appeared in five games that season, but his potential was so obvious that he was selected by the Houston Astros in the 1988 MLB Draft.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
8. Dave Winfield: Minnesota (Baseball, Basketball and Track)
Dave Winfield had a fabulous 22-year major league baseball career.
He collected 3,110 hits, knocked out 465 home runs and knocked in 1,833 runs.
Winfield was a 2001 first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee, played in 12 consecutive All-Star games, and won 7 Gold Gloves.
Before he dominated on the ball diamond, Winfield was a two-sport star at the University of Minnesota, playing both baseball and basketball.
A great rebounder, Winfield led the Golden Gophers to their first Big Ten basketball title in four decades.
Winfield’s elite-level athleticism was confirmed in his Sporthaven.com bio, by the fact that:
Upon graduating from Minnesota in 1973, Winfield was drafted by the San Diego Padres (MLB), the Atlanta Hawks (NBA), the Utah Stars (ABA), and the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) even though he did not play college football.
7. Tony Gwynn: San Diego State (Baseball and Basketball)
San Diego Padres’ Tony Gwynn was one of the most gifted hitters in major league baseball history.
During his 20-year, Hall of Fame career with the San Diego Padres, he won eight National League batting titles, five golden gloves and was a 15-time All-Star selection.
Before this two decades of baseball greatness, Gwynn was a two-sport star at San Diego State.
In fact, he played four years of basketball for the Aztecs and only three years of collegiate baseball.
Gwynn is back at SDSU as manager of their baseball team, In his bio, it outlines his many basketball accomplishments:
He tied the school record for assists in a game with 18 against UNLV on Feb. 3, 1980. He also still holds the Aztec records for assists in a season (221) and career (590), and averaged 5.5 per game over the course of his career. His mark of 8.2 assists per game during the 1979-80 campaign is the best ever for an Aztec.
It also says that Gwynn:
Was named to the all-Western Athletic Conference team on two occasions. He remains the only athlete in WAC history to be honored as an all-conference performer in two sports.
6. Jackie Robinson: UCLA (Baseball, Football, Basketball and Track)
Almost every American sports fan knows that Jackie Robinson was the first African American to break the racial barrier that existed in Major League Baseball up until the late 1940s.
What most of those same fans do not know about Robinson was that he was an incredible all-around athlete.
When he went to UCLA from 1939-41, he lettered in three additional sports beyond baseball: football, basketball and track.
Robinson’s athletic accomplishments are detailed at length on UCLABruins.com. A few highlights from his other sports are as follows:
Led the nation in punt return average in both 1939 (16.5 yards) and 1940 (21.0 yards)
Led the Southern Division of the Pacific Coast Conference in scoring in both 1940 (12.4 average in 12 league games) and 1941 (11.1 average in 12 league games).
UCLA Track and Field
Missed most of the 1940 season while playing with the Bruin baseball team but won the NCAA title in the broad jump (24-10 1/4) after winning the Pacific Coast Conference meet with a leap of 25-0.
5. Charlie Ward: Florida State (Basketball and Football)
Very few two-sport stars had the success on both sides of their collegiate career as Charlie Ward.
As a quarterback at Florida State, Ward was selected as the 1993 Heisman Award winner and led the team to the 1993 national championship.
As a point guard on the Seminoles' basketball team:
Ward pushed the Seminoles to the brink of the 1993 Final Four, falling one game shy. He also started on FSU's Sweet 16 team in 1992 and hit the game-winning shot in its Metro Conference Tournament Championship game win over Louisville in 1991.
Ward still holds Seminole basketball records for steals in a game (9) and career (236) and ranks sixth all-time in assists (396).
At the end of his collegiate career, he was the New York Knicks' first-round pick in the 1994 NBA draft, but he was ironically not selected at all in the NFL draft.
Ward ended up playing in the NBA for 11 years where he handed out 2,539 assists and nabbed 776 steals.
4. Scott Burrell: Connecticut (Basketball and Baseball)
Scott Burrell had an outstanding collegiate basketball career at UConn.
Burrell’s UConnhooplegends.com bio details his numerous accomplishments:
He’s a member of the UConn Basketball All Century Team, and is the first player in National Collegiate Athletic Association history to score more than 1,500 points, with at least 750 rebounds, 290 assists, and 300 steals.
Following his four years in Storrs, Burrell was drafted with the 20th overall pick in the 1993 NBA draft.
Alongside his basketball success, Burrell was also a big-time baseball prospect.
He was drafted in the first round of the 1989 MLB draft by the Seattle Mariners during his senior year in high school. Because he did not pursue this opportunity, his name came up again for the 1990 MLB draft.
This time, the Toronto Blue Jays were calling. And this time, during his freshman year at UConn, Burrell said “Yes.”
For the next three summers, he pitched in a variety of summer leagues for the Blue Jays’ farm organization.
Burrell remains the only athlete ever to be a first-round draft pick in two professional sports.
3. Danny Ainge: Brigham Young University (Basketball and Baseball)
BYU’s Danny Ainge had four fantastic years in the Cougars' backcourt.
Over his 118-game career, Ainge averaged 20.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 4.6 APG.
In his senior year, Ainge was selected as the WAC Player of the Year, a First Team All-American and the Wooden Award winner.
But basketball was not all at which Ainge excelled.
His NBA.com bio states that in high school, he was a three-sport (basketball, baseball and football) All-American.
As he graduated from North Eugene (OR) High School, Ainge was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1977 MLB draft.
Over his first three years at BYU, Ainge played baseball for the Toronto organization, making it to “The Show” by his sophomore year in Provo.
Before leaving Brigham Young, Ainge decided to focus on basketball, which led to a 14-year NBA career as a player, three seasons as the coach of the Phoenix Suns and ten seasons in the Boston Celtics front office.
2. Dave Debusshere: Detroit (Basketball and Baseball)
Detroit’s Dave DeBusschere was an exceptional college basketball player.
Even though the Big D was known for his defensive abilities, he still averaged a dazzling 24.8 points and 19.4 rebounds per game in his three varsity seasons.
While at Detroit, DeBusschere also had an outstanding run as a pitcher on the Titans' baseball program.
He was a main reason why Detroit made it to the NCAA baseball tournament three years.
After finishing his collegiate careers, DeBusschere still had opportunities to play both sports at the next level.
DeBusschere played professional baseball for four seasons.
His NBA.com bio describes his days on the diamond:
A tall right-handed pitcher with a lively fastball, he was called up by the White Sox in 1963 and went 3-4 with a 3.09 ERA. During the next two years, DeBusschere compiled a 25-9 record for Chicago's Class AAA Indianapolis farm club.
After this short time, DeBusschere focused his attention and energies on his NBA career.
He was an eight-time NBA All-Star, a six-time All-Defensive First Team selection and a two-time NBA champion.
After his twelve years in the league, DeBusschere was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983.
1. Wilt Chamberlain: Kansas (Basketball and Track)
Very few athletes, past or present, could do what Kansas’ Wilt Chamberlain did on and off the hardwood.
He is the greatest two-sport college basketball player of all time.
In his two years of varsity ball for the Jayhawks, the Big Dipper averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds in 48 games.
Chamberlain was a two-time First Team All-American. He led KU to the 1957 NCAA championship game, where the Jayhawks lost to North Carolina in triple overtime.
Alongside his accomplishments on the hardwood, Wilt was also a track and field titleholder.
In a Sportsillustrated.cnn.com photo gallery, “Rare Wilt Chamberlain Photos”, one of the captions describes his incredible athletic versatility:
Chamberlain ran the 100-yard dash in 10.9 seconds, shot-putted 56 feet and won the high jump in the Big Eight track and field championships three straight years.