March Madness is upon us. Whether you’re a college basketball fan or not: I’m sure we all can agree that the next three weeks of the season are among the best in sports. Everyone from housewives to Fortune 500 Company CEOs spend hours pouring over brackets and penciling in their final four. It’s talked about around the water cooler in damn near every single office in the country. Whether you want to hear about it or not; chances are extremely high that someone from your office or household will corner you and give you the breakdown of their entire bracket. As you grin and bear your way through it, you secretly wish the person would have a brain aneurysm in mid sentence. And even though you’re waiting for the person to take a breath, so you can bolt for the nearest exit; you’re silently thinking of your own bracket and where you stand in your own office poll.
Yes sir, March Madness is a great time of year. Ask any sports fan in America, and March Madness is almost certainly going to be in their top five sporting events of the year. Still, I cannot help but wonder. As great as the Madness is and has become, just stop and think for a quick second. Think about players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. Three future NBA Hall of Famers. Think about watching those guys make their own legendary runs through the best tournament in sports. Jordan had his. Ewing, Carmelo, Bird, Johnson and Barkley all had theirs. While their professional careers largely overshadow their college careers, alumni and fans of those programs will forever have memories of some of the greatest players in the game playing for their Universities.
Why speculate? Let’s make March a little ‘madder’ and give college basketball fans the tournament they deserve. I give you the three best players in basketball history, to skip college and go straight to the NBA, and their epic runs through the big dance…
1) LeBron James:
- Hometown: Akron, Ohio
- Committed To: The Ohio State University
- Freshman Season: 2003
Boy oh boy, did the Buckeyes enjoy having the one and done phenomenon that is LeBron James. Before he became the greatest player in the history of the NBA, he led the Buckeyes to their second final four appearance under then head coach Jim O’Brien. LeBron James was voted the unanimous Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year for 2003. He led what would have been a below .500 Buckeye team to a three-seed in the NCAA Tournament. From there, the LeBron led Buckeyes cruised to a final four berth where they ran into a buzz-saw known as the Kansas Jayhawks. While the Buckeyes would ultimately come up short, watching “The King” rain supreme over college basketball for one glorious season will forever be a top five memory for every Buckeye fan.
2) Kobe Bryant
- Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
- Committed To: Duke University
- Freshman Season: 1996
The rich get richer. Coach Mike Krzyzewski was able to secure a commitment from the number one rated High School player in the country. Without the Black Mamba, Duke would have certainly made the big dance, but it would have been an early night for the Blue Devils, losing in the first round. With Kobe, Coach K took that eight-seed team and turned them into a number one-seed in the tournament. This set up one of the all-time great runs in tournament history culminating with one of the all-time great championship games. Like LeBron, Kobe would come up just a bit short, losing in an instant classic to the Kentucky Wildcats in the championship game. While Kobe only stayed for one season at Duke, and never won his championship, he would more than make up for it in the NBA.
3) Kevin Garnett
- Hometown: Greenville, SC
- Committed To: North Carolina University
- Freshman Season: 1995
Although KG finished his high school career in Chicago, it came as little surprise to anyone when he chose to head south and back to the Carolinas for this college career. The result: one of the greatest teams in college basketball history. The Tar Heels were littered with McDonald’s All Americans. Six to be exact. Chief among them, fellow future NBA super stars: Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse. The Tar Heels went from a likely two-seed in the tournament and loss in the final four, to the number one-seed overall. And it just got better from there. Unlike his counterparts listed above; Garnett was able to close the deal by defeating UCLA in the championship game. With all this fire power and NBA players on one roster, could it really have gone any other way? Garnett was the star on a team filled with them. Tar Heel fans will never forget his run though the NCAA Tournament or the championship he gave them.