Top 10 Best NBA Players from Michigan

There are many terrific NBA players who hail from the great state of Michigan. In this article, we will take a look at the top 10 best NBA players from Michigan. Some of these NBA players from Michigan have had very successful careers in the NBA, while others are just starting out. Regardless of their current status, all of these players have made a significant impact on the game of basketball. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 best NBA players from Michigan.

Top 10 Best NBA Players from Michigan

#1 – Cazzie Russell

What happened to Russell’s professional life? Russell scored 27.1 points each game on average throughout the course of his career. In 1964 and 1965, he drove Michigan into two Final Four appearances. He culminated in a 28-point performance in the NCAA final defeat to UCLA in the latter year. 

Following a season in which he averaged 30.8 points per game for the Michigan Wolverines, Russell was named the “Sporting News Player of the Year” in 1966. He was selected as the first draft selection in the 1966 NBA Draft. Then, went on to play 12 seasons at the next level of competition.

Russell, however, means more than that to the Michigan basketball program. The enthusiasm generated from those three seasons led by Cazzie Russell as a Michigan center who rose through the levels of the NCAA divisions. He was named to the All-Decade team for the decade ending in 1990. He was also part of Team USA’s gold-medal winning performance at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Then he was instrumental in bringing men’s basketball to the forefront of American culture. 

With the construction of Crisler Arena, which was later renamed Fritz Crisler Coliseum in his honor, he accomplished his dream. It is currently referred to as “The House That Cazzie Built,” which is a nickname for Cazzie.

#2 – Glen Rice

After a season in which he averaged 22.1 points each game as a senior and was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, Rice pushed his game to another level as a junior. Rice finished his final season at Michigan State with an average of 25.6 points each game and a 53.4 percent field goal percentage from distance. Before the NCAA tournament, Bo Schembechler changed Bill Frieder as Michigan’s athletic director with Steve Fisher, thereby ruining the Wolverines’ chances of making the tournament.

During the final game against Seton Hall, Rice scored 31 points, smashing the previous NCAA record of 184 points during six matches. Rice finished with 31 points during his final game for the Wolverines. He finished his collegiate career at Michigan overall with 2,442 points and went on to play in the NBA for 15 seasons.

nba players from michigan

#3 – Rudy Tomjanovich

Tomjanovich was regarded as the finest stuffer in the history of Michigan. His statistics are just incredible.  From 1969 to 1970, he averaged a dual of 30.1 points each game and 15.5 rebounds  game, good for a double-double in both categories.  He set a new school record for rebounds with 1,044 in his career (now 888).

Despite this, he still maintains the single-game rebounding (30) and points total records, and he is tied for the one-game assist record  (48). If he had participated in an NCAA tournament game, he would have landed a higher position on this list. 

He is best remembered for his career as an NBA All-Star five times and NBA champion, a coach with the Houston Rockets for two championships. He was born in Houston, Texas.

#4 – Chris Webber

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Webber was one of the greatest players in basketball history. His trademarks included dunks, rebounds, and what was arguably the best pair of hands inside the game at the time. He scored 17.4 points and 10 rebounds a game while serving as the captain of the Michigan Wolverines. 

Of course, things did not turn out the way we had hoped. In Michigan’s loss against North Carolina of 1993, Webber called a timeout with eight seconds left on the clock in the second half. Michigan and Webster were separated for ten years before they were reunited in 2013, owing to the intervention of Ed Martin.

#5 – Trey Burke

This will almost certainly create a feud with the next player on the list, but Burke’s two-year stint at Michigan under John Beilein was critical in bringing the team out of the shadow of Ed Martin’s legacy. When it came to Beilein’s system, Burke was a perfect fit because it was developed for point guards.

In his lone season at Michigan, Burke guided the Wolverines leading them to the Big Ten’s championship game. But as a sophomore, he established himself as a standout point guard, averaging 18.6 points and 6.7 assists each game on the season. 

While making his way back into Michigan history, he set a new single-season assist record with 260, which ties the previous mark. Because of this, the Wolverines were able to advance towards the national championship game, where they were defeated by the University of Louisville.

#6 – Bill Buntin

When the Wolverines reached the Final Four in 1964 and also in 1965, Buntin, a 6-7 center, was a key part of the team’s interior presence. The duo of Cazzie Russell and him worked together to help Michigan win two consecutive Big Ten championships. Averaging 21.8 points and 13.8 rebounds each game over his career, Buntin was a productive player. 

He is still Michigan’s second-best rebounder, behind only Xavier (1,037). Buntin died of a heart attack at the age of 26 after only one season in the National Basketball Association.

#7 – Jalen Rose

It’s impossible to deny Rose’s influence on Michigan’s basketball, and he didn’t take long to make his presence felt on the team. He reached double figures in his 1st 13 appearances. Rose, is a 6-8 player guard with a tremendous work ethic. He was a key factor in the Fab Five’s success. This is because of his tenacity and incredible capacity to see the court. 

Following his sophomore season, he guided Michigan to back-to-back Final Fours from 1992 to 1993 — Before leaving for the National Basketball Association at the end of that season. Then, in eight NBA seasons from 1994 to 2007, he averaged 478 rebounds, 1,788 points, and 401 assists per game. From 1994 until 2007, he was a member of the NBA’s “Fab Five”. He also worked on ESPN’s “Fab Five” documentary series.

nba players from michigan

#8 – Gary Grant

During his four-year stint at Michigan, during which he dominated on both ends of the court, Grant got the title “The General.” With 731 assists and 300 steals, he still owns the school’s single-season and career scoring records, with an average of 17.1 points each game throughout his career. 

The next year, Grant was named Big Ten Player of the Year for his efforts in leading the Wolverines into four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and also a Big Ten championship in 1985. The Wolverines were beaten in the Sweet 16 against North Carolina during Grant’s final season as head coach.

#9 – Rickey Green

Richard Green spent two years of his junior college basketball at Vincennes (Indiana) before switching to the University of Michigan, where he quickly progressed up the ranks. Green scored 19.9 points per game for the Michigan Wolverines during the 1975-76 season, helping the team to the NCAA’s championship game, where they were defeated in overtime by Indiana’s undefeated group.

Green was a two-time All-Big Ten selection as a point guard for the University of Iowa. This is where he helped the Hawkeyes win the national championship the next season. During the 2003 season, he scored 19.7 points each game and led Michigan to the Big Ten championship. Green earned a spot on the first team of the All-American selection. Green went on to play 14 seasons in the NBA after his team, Michigan, lost in Elite Eight to the Charlotte Hornets in the NCAA Tournament.

#10 – Juwan Howard

Howard was a member of some amazing teams with Fab Five. However, he was also a calming influence on the teams that won back-to-back championships from 1992 to 1993. As well as on the teams that finished second and third in the league in 1993. 

For the first two seasons of Howard’s tenure with the team, his precise painting approach was a perfect complement to Webber’s style. As a junior, Howard emerged as the team’s leader. He scored 20.8 points and 8.9 rebounds each game. 

Michigan lost to Arkansas in the Elite Eight of the 1994 NCAA Tournament at Ann Arbor. He was selected fourth overall by the Washington Bullets in that year’s draft. He went on to play nine seasons in the NBA until retiring at the age of 35 due to an injury-plagued season with the Charlotte Hornets following nine seasons in the league.

Final Thoughts

Finally, you have here the top 10 NBA players from Michigan. These are just a few of the many great NBA players that Michigan has produced. These ten players make up some of the best that the state of Michigan has to offer. With the Wolverines back in the national spotlight, it will be exciting to see who else from Michigan makes their way to the NBA. These players have captured lots of awards and made a name in NBA history.

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