A Notre Dame NBA All-Star Team
The lone Notre Dame alumnus currently playing in the NBA is the Milwaukee Bucks' Pat Connaughton, who partook yesterday in the Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend.
Consequently, Notre Dame all-time NBA team does not stand out nearly as much as in the NFL, which is what makes Notre Dame a “football school.
Nevertheless, here’s our starting NBA 5, and please note it is based strictly on what they achieved in the NBA, not college:
CENTER: BILL LAIMBEER
Even though Laimbeer isn’t Notre Dame’s greatest NBA alumnus, one can make an argument that he might be the most famous — or infamous, depending how you look at it.
A prime “Bad Boy” during the back-to-back titles won by the Detroit Pistons in 1989 and 1990, Laimbeer and other teammates took the “Enforcer” label to new heights with their physical style that rankled many and often made Laimbeer Public Enemy No. 1, notably with Boston Celtics icon Larry Bird.
Often overlooked is the 6-11, 245-pound Laimbeer was a four-time NBA All-Star with a velvet soft shooting touch from the outside. Seven times in his 14 seasons he averaged a double-double in points and rebounds, and he finished his career with a 12.9 average in scoring and 9.7 in rebounding.
Honorable Mention: John Shumate
The No. 4 pick overall in the 1974 draft (second-highest ever by an Irish alumnus) missed two NBA seasons because of health reasons but averaged 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in the six seasons he played.
POWER FORWARD: ADRIAN DANTLEY
The 2008 Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinee is the greatest Notre Dame player ever in the NBA.
When Dantley retired in 1991, he was ninth in league history in scoring with 23,177 points while shooting .540 from the field. His 24.27 scoring average is 18th on the NBA charts. Barely ahead of him at 17th is Bird (24.29) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at 16th (24.61). When you are in the scoring company of Bird and Abdul-Jabbar, you are in rare air.
At 6-5, 208 pounds, Dantley was not the prototype NBA power forward, but he was as smart and resourceful as they came during his 16-year career.
Honorable Mention: LaPhonso Ellis & Troy Murphy
Both played at least a decade, with Ellis posting career averages of 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and Murphy 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds.
In 1996-97, Ellis averaged 21.9 points in the 55 games he played for Denver.
Power forward easily has been the most prominent position for Notre Dame, because in between Ellis and Murphy at Notre Dame were Monty Williams and Pat Garrity. Williams suited up nine seasons in the NBA and is currently the head coach of the Phoenix Suns, while Garrity played 10 years and became a proficient three-point threat.
Probably no Notre Dame alumnus had his NBA career derailed more than 6-9 Toby Knight (1973-77), who was in the same recruiting class as Dantley. Knight averaged 16.6 points per game his second season with the New York Knicks, and 19.1 his third — but a severe knee injury in year 4 basically ended his playing days.
SMALL FORWARD: KELLY TRIPUCKA
Two weeks ago, Tripucka was honored at Notre Dame for his induction into the school's basketball Ring of Honor.
Named the New Jersey Boys Basketball Player of the Century in 1999, the two-time NBA All-Star finished his 10-year career with a 17.2 scoring average while shooting .454 from the field, mainly from the perimeter.
Five times he averaged more than 20 points, with a career-high 26.2 average in his second year with the Detroit Pistons — after making the All-Star game as a rookie.
His scoring average in the NBA trails only Dantley among Irish alumni.
Honorable Mention: Orlando Woolridge & Tom Hawkins
Tripucka’s classmate from 1977-81 at Notre Dame, Woolridge averaged 16.0 points and 4.3 rebounds during a long NBA career that saw him start 458 times. Woolridge was selected 6th in the 1981 draft and Tripucka 12th.
Hawkins played 10 years in The League through the 1960s, mostly in Los Angeles, averaging 8.7 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Also enjoying a quality pro career was Donald Royal, who as a senior in 1987 helped the Irish to a Sweet 16 berth. In the NBA he played in 504 games and scored 3,161 points.
SHOOTING GUARD: AUSTIN CARR
Because of his astounding college career — his 34.6 career scoring average is second in NCAA history to LSU’s Pete Maravich — Carr’s NBA career in comparison is considered disappointing.
The No. 1 pick in the 1971 NBA Draft had a nine-year career with the Cleveland Cavaliers that was disrupted by five surgeries, never allowing him to fulfill his immense talents.
Still, he was an NBA All-Star in 1974 with a 21.9 scoring average, began to lead the once hapless franchise into the playoffs by 1975 and beyond, and finished with more than 10,000 career points. His jersey has been retired at Cleveland, where he has been highly involved in the community, has been a broadcast analyst for their game and is known as “Mr. Cavalier.”
Honorable Mention: Matt Carroll & Bill Hanzlik
Both lasted 10 seasons in the NBA, and Hanzlik was selected to the 1980 Summer Olympics team that boycotted the Games in the Soviet Union.
Hanzlik had 109 career starts in the NBA and averaged 7.2 points per game in his career. Carroll averaged 6.6 points in his career, highlighted by a 12.1 average in 2006-07 at Charlotte in 2006-07.
An NBA career that never quite blossomed was 1972-74 Irish guard Gary Brokaw — the first Notre Dame player to turn pro after his junior season. Brokaw averaged 8.0 points per game in his six years in The League.
POINT GUARD: JOHN PAXSON
Notre Dame is renowned for producing efficient, productive, workmanlike point guards in the college game — but seldom do they prosper in the NBA, if they make it all.
Paxson was easily the most prominent during his 11-year career, highlighted by starting next to Michael Jordan from 1985-86 through the early 1990s with the Chicago Bulls. He averaged only 7.2 points during his career, but Paxson played on three straight championship teams from 1991-93 and produced clutch playoff performances when Jordan was the target of opposing defenses.
Paxson converted an NBA Finals record 8-for-8 from the floor in the championship-clinching victory at Los Angeles in 1991, and his three-point basket with 3.9 seconds left lifted the 1993 Bulls to a 99-98 conquest at Phoenix in Game 6 for a third straight title.
Honorable Mention: Chris Quinn
It was a testament to his soundness and moxie that he played six years in the NBA. Twenty-five of his 26 career starts came in year 2 at Miami in 2007-08 when he averaged 7.8 points and 3.0 assists per game.
He is currently an assistant with the Miami Heat.