An All-Time Notre Dame NBA All-Star Team
Why there is an NBA All-Star getting held this weekend amidst a pandemic is a fair and logical inquiry. Still, we continue our tradition of remembering the best from Notre Dame to star in the NBA — although in recent decades the volume has been fewer and farther in between.
The Notre Dame All-Time NBA team does not stand out nearly as much as an All-Fighting Irish NFL unit, which is why Notre Dame is a “football school." Nevertheless, here’s our starting NBA 5: In other words, NOT COLLEGE, BUT NBA CARRER:
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 — member.
A prime “Bad Boy” during the back-to-back titles won by the Detroit Pistons in 1989 and 1990, he 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 15th (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.
Small Forward: Kelly Tripucka
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 outside. Five times he averaged more than 20 points, with a career-high 26.5 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 6thin 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.
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.
However, 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 completely 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 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. Carroll averaged 6.6 points in his career, highlighted by a 12.1 average in 2006-07 at Charlotte in 2006-07.
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 was 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.
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