The Kansas Jayhawks are one of the 10 storied programs in college basketball featured in NBA 2K17, and the list of ex-Jayhawks available for selection is quite impressive.
Such KU luminaries as Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce and Jo Jo White are among those who gamers can select to take on all-time teams from other programs of similar stature.
As for a potential starting five, well how about one featuring White at the point, Pierce at the 2, Andrew Wiggins at the 3, Manning at the 4 and Chamberlain in the middle?
White is a name many might not know, but he was kind of a big deal back in the day, not just in Lawrence, but also in the NBA. He was a Jayhawk between 1965 and 1969 before being drafted ninth overall by the Boston Celtics in 1969.
He also played for Team USA in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and was part of a team that surprised many by winning a gold medal, the last gold the US won as an all-amateur squad. White had an outstanding playing career in Beantown, where he earned one ring and became an immense fan favorite.
His jersey now hangs from the rafters at the new Garden, and White was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
Manning’s NBA career might not have panned out like many thought it would, mainly due to injuries, but he’ll forever be a revered figure in Jayhawk circles for leading KU to the 1988 national title under Larry Brown, where the Jayhawks defeated the heavily-favored Oklahoma Sooners in the championship game before a partisan crowd at Kemper Arena in Kansas City.
Pierce left an equally big mark at KU and also in the NBA, like White winning a title with the Celtics. “The Truth” is a sure-fire Hall of Famer once he hangs them up.
Wiggins was a one-and-done in Lawrence, but his lone season is one KU fans still frequently discuss.
As for Chamberlain, he is understandably the biggest name ever to play for Kansas, and for good reason. Wilt continues to loom large even decades after his playing days ended and even after his passing.
But what about the potential bench? Well, it’s also a pretty strong group, one featuring the likes of Mario Chalmers, Nick Collison, Drew Gooden, Kirk Hinrich and Raef LaFrentz, plus Markieff and Marcus Morris.
Chalmers and Hinrich could provide some strong guard play off the pine, and some might use Hinrich as their starting point guard over White, which is a fair point. Gooden would bring great energy off the bench and someone who can rebound and score inside, while LaFrentz and both Morris brothers have great size who can defend the paint and clean the glass.
For the most part, there are no notable omissions on the roster of all-time KU greats, well except for a few. The omission of Jacque Vaughn at point guard is fairly glaring. Kevin Pritchard — a big part of that ’88 championship team alongside Manning — who is currently GM of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, is also worthy of inclusion.
And how about also adding Dean Smith, who played at KU before becoming an iconic coach at North Carolina, and Clyde Lovellette, voted Most Outstanding Player in 1952, the year the Jayhawks won their first title? Lovellette went on to play in the NBA, and like White he is a Hall of Famer.
There should also be a coach option here because KU fans would have several greats to choose from. Would they go with the man who invented roundball, Dr. James Naismith, an early KU coach?
Or what about the legendary Phog Allen, who KU’s legendary barn, where the Jayhawks have held a huge home-court advantage since its 1955 opening, is named for?
Roy Williams also had some great teams in Lawrence, but he never could quite get over the hump. Brown did win a title but left KU in controversial fashion, and then what about current Jayhawks boss Bill Self?
It’s a fair argument that Self might be the best ever to coach the Jayhawks, which is definitely saying something.
No matter whether in the Big Eight or more recently in the Big 12 Conference, KU has been a perennial basketball powerhouse, a program that is right up there for most wins ever. And the roster released for NBA 2K17 does a pretty solid job of helping honor that immense hoops tradition they have in Lawrence.