This was not always the case. Bill Russell, for example, famously wore No. 6 for San Francisco six-plus decades ago while winning back-to-back national titles. (Scroll to the bottom.) But by the late 1950s, the 0-through-5 rule already held sway from coast to coast, as revealed by the team photo for North Carolina's 1957 national championship team.The rule was instituted to simplify hand signaling by officials to the scorer's table when a player is whistled for a foul.
With such a small population of permissible numbers, great players have, inevitably, sported the same exact look on their jerseys as many other great players. Still, some numbers in particular remain way more popular than others.
Here are the best college basketball players to ever wear each of the NCAA's 37 allowed jersey numbers (plus a look at a few that are no longer eligible).
00 | 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5|10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 20|21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 30 | 31|32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 40 | 41 | 42|43 | 44 | 45 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | Other
00. Tony Delk, Kentucky (1992-96)
See also: Cliff Robinson, Connecticut (1986-89); Eric Montross (North Carolina, 1990-94); Brendan Haywood (North Carolina, 1997-2001); Michael Gbinije (Syracuse, 2014-16).
A first-team All-American and the leading scorer on the 1996 UK squad known as The Untouchables, Delk won most outstanding player honors at the NCAA tournament and led his 34-2 team to a national title. Nevertheless, No. 00 remains, somewhat surprisingly, a rather underutilized jersey option.
Now that the double-zeros are out of the way, we are officially into the single digits. Note how the lion's share of these low-number-sporting players are from recent years.
That's just how the young people roll nowadays. In fact, attentive fans last season might have noticed Duke's exceptionally youthful starting lineup consisted of jersey Nos. 1 (Zion Williamson), 2 (Cam Reddish), 3 (Tre Jones) and 5 (RJ Barrett), with a stray extraneous 20 (Marques Bolden) thrown in for good measure.
In other words, these very low numbers are in large part a celebration of the 21st century:
0. Frank Mason III, Kansas (2013-17)
See also: Russell Westbrook (UCLA, 2006-08); Jared Sullinger (Ohio State, 2010-12); Thomas Robinson (Kansas, 2009-12); D'Angelo Russell (Ohio State, 2014-15); Gilbert Arenas (Arizona, 1999-2001); Jayson Tatum (Duke, 2016-17); De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, 2016-17); Jaylen Brown (California, 2015-16).
Westbrook is the biggest name in this group, but way back when the UCLA combo guard averaged nine minutes a game as a freshman and played a valuable but still supporting role alongside Kevin Love as a sophomore. Top college honors for No. 0 go instead to Mason, a first-team All-American and consensus national player of the year in 2017.
1. Zion Williamson, Duke (2018-19)
See also: Damian Lillard (Weber State, 2009-12); Jalen Brunson (Villanova, 2015-18); Kenny Boynton (Florida, 2009-13); Hakim Warrick (Syracuse, 2001-05); Scottie Reynolds (Villanova, 2006-10); Klay Thompson (Washington State, 2008-11); Acie Law (Texas A&M, 2003-07); Jabari Parker (Duke, 2013-14); Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, 2016-17); Kyrie Irving (Duke, 2010-11).
Yes, Williamson was just playing college basketball last season. But No. 1 has become a popular jersey choice only recently, and, anyway, you might have noticed the freshman was indeed pretty good.
2. Russ Smith, Louisville (2011-14)
See also: Isaiah Thomas (Washington, 2008-11); Grant Williams (Tennessee, 2016-19); Raymond Felton (North Carolina, 2002-05); Nolan Smith (Duke, 2007-11); Jevon Carter (West Virginia, 2014-18); Troy Bell (Boston College, 1999-2003); Lonzo Ball (UCLA, 2016-17); Melo Trimble (Maryland, 2014-17).
The No. 2 jersey has increased its popularity among elite players in recent years but, as you see, it still has some depth issues relative to other numerical choices.
3. Doug McDermott, Creighton (2010-14)
See also: Allen Iverson (Georgetown, 1994-96); Dwyane Wade (Marquette, 2000-03); Chris Paul (Wake Forest, 2003-05); Juan Dixon (Maryland, 1998-2002); Josh Hart (Villanova, 2013-17); Trey Burke (Michigan, 2011-13); Tyler Ulis (Kentucky, 2014-16); Carsen Edwards (Purdue, 2016-19); Brandon Roy (Washington, 2002-06); Stephon Marbury (Georgia Tech, 1995-96); Jared Dudley (Boston College, 2003-07); Tyler Haws (BYU, 2009-15); Grayson Allen (Duke, 2014-18); Chris Clemons (Campbell, 2015-19); Adam Morrison (Gonzaga, 2003-06).
Now things are getting interesting. With No. 3, we finally have some real competition. Hard to believe the likes of Iverson, D-Wade and CP3 can be knocked out of the top spot, but when you share a jersey number with Division I's No. 6 all-time leading scorer, it's tough to grab the top ranking.
4. Chris Webber, Michigan (1991-93)
See also: K.C. Jones (San Francisco, 1952-56); Larry Johnson (UNLV, 1987-91); JJ Redick (Duke, 2002-06); Kenyon Martin (Cincinnati, 1996-2000); Ben Gordon (Connecticut, 2001-04); Victor Oladipo (Indiana, 2010-13); Carlos Boozer (Duke, 1999-2002); Nick Collison (Kansas, 1999-2003); Andrew Bogut (Utah, 2003-05); Chauncey Billups (Colorado, 1995-97); Sherron Collins (Kansas, 2006-10); Devonte' Graham (Kansas, 2014-18); Robbie Hummel (Purdue, 2007-12); Matthew Dellavedova (Saint Mary's, 2009-13).
On a Fab Five Michigan team loaded with talent, Webber averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds over his two seasons in Ann Arbor. Detractors invariably point out that C-Webb never won a Big Ten title, but he was a freshman and then a sophomore playing alongside equally youthful teammates in an era when NBA draft lotteries were still dominated by juniors and seniors.
5. Walter Dukes, Seton Hall (1950-53)
See also: John Havlicek (Ohio State, 1959-62); Jason Kidd (California, 1992-94); Jalen Rose (Michigan, 1991-94); Marcus Fizer (Iowa State, 1997-2000); Ty Lawson (North Carolina, 2006-09); Deron Williams (Illinois, 2002-05); Stanley Johnson (Arizona, 2014-15); Lamar Odom (Rhode Island, 1998-99); Johnathan Motley (Baylor, 2014-17); RJ Barrett (Duke, 2018-19).
To this day, Dukes holds the D-I record for most rebounds in a season. Sure, it's an era-specific record that will never be broken (the pace was often fast and shooting was reliably terrible in those days). Nevertheless, Dukes was the foundation of a 31-2 Seton Hall team that won the NIT at the last historical moment (1953) when the event was still equal or even superior to the NCAA tournament. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were on the horizon, but the 7-foot Dukes was "major" college basketball's first dominant African American player in the post.
10. Otis Birdsong, Houston (1973-77)
See also: Rick Mount (Purdue, 1967-70); Dick Groat (Duke, 1949-52); Mookie Blaylock (Oklahoma, 1985-89); Mike Bibby (Arizona, 1996-98); Lennie Rosenbluth (North Carolina, 1954-57); Tyronn Lue (Nebraska, 1995-98); DeMar DeRozan (USC, 2008-09); B.J. Armstrong (Iowa, 1985-89).
Between Birdsong and Elvin Hayes, Houston is the only D-I program that can claim two of college basketball's top 25 all-time career scorers.
11. Jerry Lucas, Ohio State (1959-62)
See also: Isiah Thomas (Indiana, 1979-81); Don Barksdale (UCLA, 1946-47); Bobby Hurley (Duke, 1989-93); Steve Nash (Santa Clara, 1992-96); John Wall (Kentucky, 2009-10); Trae Young (Oklahoma, 2017-18); Dee Brown (Illinois, 2002-06); Brice Johnson (North Carolina, 2012-16); T.J. Ford (Texas, 2001-03); Paul Arizin (Villanova, 1947-50); Aaron Gordon (Arizona, 2013-14); Brook Lopez (Stanford, 2006-08).
In a season when D-I teams as a whole made only 39.8% of their shots, Lucas created a sensation as a first-year player in 1959-60 when he averaged 26 points while shooting 64% from the field. He led the Buckeyes to the 1960 national title, took home NCAA tournament most outstanding player honors and then won a gold medal as team USA's second-leading scorer (by two points, behind Oscar Robertson) at the Olympics in Rome.
12. Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati (1957-60)
See also: Phil Ford (North Carolina, 1974-78); Steve Alford (Indiana, 1983-87); Kenny Anderson (Georgia Tech, 1989-91); Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky, 2014-15); John Stockton (Gonzaga, 1980-84); Mateen Cleaves (Michigan State, 1996-2000); Mark Macon (Temple, 1987-91); Anderson Hunt (UNLV, 1988-91); Ralph Beard (Kentucky, 1945-49); George Kaftan (Holy Cross, 1945-49); Ja Morant (Murray State, 2017-19); Scoonie Penn (Ohio State, 1998-2000).
College basketball had never seen a player who could dominate across the board the way Robertson did when he arrived in 1957-58. In his first season, he averaged 35 points and 15 rebounds. Then, in his junior season, assists started being tracked at Cincinnati, and it turned out he was dishing seven of those a game as well.
13. Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas (1956-58)
See also: Glenn Robinson (Purdue, 1991-94); John Wooden (Purdue, 1929-32); James Harden (Arizona State, 2007-09); Shabazz Napier (Connecticut, 2010-14); Joakim Noah (Florida, 2004-07); Deandre Ayton (Arizona, 2017-18); Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga, 2009-13).
No triskaidekaphobia here. On the contrary, No. 13 seems to attract players like Chamberlain, stars with a certain fire to their game. Wilt debuted at KU in 1956-57 playing in a rotation with five seniors. The previous season, that same veteran nucleus had gone 14-9. With Chamberlain averaging 30 points, however, the Jayhawks made it to the third overtime of the national championship game before falling to North Carolina.
14. Johnny Neumann (Ole Miss, 1970-71)
See also: Jameer Nelson (Saint Joseph's, 2000-04); Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky, 2011-12); Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis, 2005-08); D.J. Augustin (Texas, 2006-08); Andre Emmett (Texas Tech, 2000-04); Carl Landry (Purdue, 2004-07); Brandon Ingram (Duke, 2015-16).
Why do players stay away from No. 14, relatively speaking? Whatever the reason, this number belongs to Neumann, Nelson, Kidd-Gilchrist, et al. for now. Neumann drew comparisons to Pete Maravich when he scored 63 points against LSU and averaged 40 for the Rebels in 1970-71.
15. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse (2002-03)
See also: Tom Gola (La Salle, 1951-55); Kemba Walker (Connecticut, 2008-11); Alex Groza (Kentucky, 1945-49); John Lucas II (Maryland, 1972-76); Vince Carter (North Carolina, 1995-98); Butch Lee (Marquette, 1974-78); Chuck Cooper (Duquesne, 1946-50); Ernie DiGregorio (Providence, 1969-73); Sam Dekker (Wisconsin, 2012-15); Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky, 2012-15); Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State, 2009-11); Jahlil Okafor (Duke, 2014-15); Mario Chalmers (Kansas, 2005-08); Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia, 2011-16).
What if Syracuse had lost in the 2003 Sweet 16 to No. 10 seed Auburn instead of winning 79-78? It's likely Anthony still would have been taken with the No. 3 overall pick in the ensuing NBA draft, but today we wouldn't have the college legend of Melo. Instead, the Orange did win that game and proceeded to lay waste to the Big 12, defeating Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas on the way to a national title. The game against the Longhorns was a particular Anthony gem, as the freshman recorded a 33-14 double-double against No. 1-seeded UT in a 95-84 win.
20. Gary Payton, Oregon State (1986-90)
See also: Chris Mullin (St. John's, 1981-85); Greg Oden (Ohio State, 2006-07); Allan Houston (Tennessee, 1989-93); LaPhonso Ellis (Notre Dame, 1988-92); Gordon Hayward (Butler, 2008-10).
Oregon State went to three NCAA tournaments during Payton's career in Corvallis, and since his departure the program has heard its name called on Selection Sunday only once (in 2016). "The Glove" carries a reputation as one of the best defensive guards the game has ever seen, yet Payton is also OSU's all-time leader in both points and assists.
21. Tim Duncan, Wake Forest (1993-97)
See also: Quinn Buckner (Indiana, 1972-76); Walter Berry (St. John's, 1984-86); Dominique Wilkins (Georgia, 1979-82); Sleepy Floyd (Georgetown, 1978-82); Joel Embiid (Kansas, 2013-14); Jack Givens (Kentucky, 1974-78); Marcus Camby (UMass, 1993-96); Evan Turner (Ohio State, 2007-10); Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, 2016-19).
Feast your eyes on one diverse group. Clearly, 21 is one of the less position-specific numbers you will encounter. Top honors here go to Duncan, a two-time first-team All-American who is still the winningest player in Wake Forest history.
22. Elgin Baylor, Seattle (1956-58)
See also: Jay Williams (Duke, 1999-2002); Clyde Drexler (Houston, 1980-83); Jim Jackson (Ohio State, 1989-92); Dave Bing (Syracuse, 1963-66); Lionel Simmons (La Salle, 1986-90); Jesse Arnelle (Penn State, 1951-55); Alex English (South Carolina, 1972-76); Danny Ainge (BYU, 1977-81); Wayne Ellington (North Carolina, 2006-09); Joe Barry Carroll (Purdue, 1976-80); Jerian Grant (Notre Dame, 2011-15); Otto Porter (Georgetown, 2011-13); Khris Middleton (Texas A&M, 2009-12); Ethan Happ (Wisconsin, 2015-19).
On Jan. 30, 1958, Baylor scored 60 points in Seattle's 94-91 win at home over Portland. The visiting Pilots were coached by Al Negratti, who shook hands with Redhawks head coach John Castellani after the game and said: "John, we almost had you. If we could have held Baylor to 56 points, we'd have won."
23. Michael Jordan (North Carolina, 1981-84)
See also: Pete Maravich (LSU, 1967-70); Anthony Davis (Kentucky, 2011-12); Wayman Tisdale (Oklahoma, 1982-85); Blake Griffin (Oklahoma, 2007-09); Calvin Murphy (Niagara, 1967-70); Mitch Richmond (Kansas State, 1984-88); Draymond Green (Michigan State, 2008-12); Derrick Rose (Memphis, 2007-08); Byron Larkin (Xavier, 1984-88); Bradley Beal (Florida, 2011-12); Harold Miner (USC, 1989-92); Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona, 2013-15); Fred VanVleet (Wichita State, 2012-16).
Star players really like wearing No. 23. So much so that it's possible the second player listed here is the greatest second-place jersey-number finisher of them all. Maravich is D-I's all-time leading scorer despite the fact that he played without a 3-point line. If the LSU star had appeared in as many games as modern four-year volume scorers like Tyler Hansbrough, Doug McDermott, Chris Clemons or Mike Daum, he might have recorded over 6,000 points. Considering no D-I men's player in the history of the game besides Maravich has ever scored more than 3,300, that is rather extraordinary.
24. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (2012-16)
See also: Johnny Dawkins (Duke, 1982-86); Mark Aguirre (DePaul, 1978-81); Jamal Mashburn (Kentucky, 1990-93); Rick Barry (Miami, 1962-65); Paul George (Fresno State, 2008-10); Antoine Walker (Kentucky, 1994-96); Antonio McDyess (Alabama, 1993-95); Keith Lee (Memphis, 1981-85); Terry Dehere (Seton Hall, 1989-93); Dillon Brooks (Oregon, 2014-17); Mike Daum (South Dakota State, 2015-19); LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor, 2007-11).
Some great names have worn 24, but Hield capitalized on an advantage he had on many of his numerical cohorts. Not only did the Oklahoma star play during the 3-point era, he seized his moment and weaponized the arc. Few players in D-I history have combined scoring volume and efficiency to the same extent that Hield did in 2015-16.
25. Danny Manning, Kansas (1984-88)
See also: Penny Hardaway (Memphis, 1990-93); Juwan Howard (Michigan, 1991-94); Gail Goodrich (UCLA, 1962-65); Ben Simmons (LSU, 2015-16); Erick Dampier (Mississippi State, 1993-96); JaJuan Johnson (Purdue, 2007-11); Paul Pressey (Tulsa, 1980-82).
Kansas entered the 1988 NCAA tournament with an 18-11 record, having at one point lost five consecutive games. None of which mattered in March, as Manning put the Jayhawks on his back and averaged 27 points on KU's run to a championship. His 31-point, 18-rebound performance with five steals against No. 1 seed Oklahoma in the title game ranks as one of the greatest efforts in national finals history.
30. Stephen Curry, Davidson (2006-09)
See also: Rasheed Wallace (North Carolina, 1993-95); Kenny Smith (North Carolina, 1983-87); Michael Beasley (Kansas State, 2007-08); David West (Xavier, 1999-2003); Dell Curry (Virginia Tech, 1982-86); Billy Owens (Syracuse, 1988-91); Eddie Jordan (Rutgers, 1973-77); Bo Kimble (Loyola Marymount, 1987-90).
At the beginning of March 2008, no one could know that in 2019 Curry would be seen as a safe choice for the best player to ever wear the number. By the end of that month, however, the sophomore had taken a Southern Conference team to the Elite Eight and brought the eventual national champion to within three points of elimination. (Also, salute to Curry on the number choice. You, sir, are a good son.)
31. Wes Unseld, Louisville (1965-68)
See also: Shane Battier (Duke, 1997-2001); Pearl Washington (Syracuse, 1983-86); Reggie Miller (UCLA, 1983-87); Bob Lanier (St. Bonaventure, 1967-70); Chet Walker (Bradley, 1959-62).
Unseld arrived at Louisville just after (and played with) Wade Houston, the first African American player in the program's history. In his three-year career, Unseld averaged 19 rebounds.
32. Bill Walton, UCLA (1971-74)
See also: Christian Laettner (Duke, 1988-92); Richard Hamilton (Connecticut, 1996-99); Julius Erving (UMass, 1969-71); Jimmer Fredette (BYU, 2007-11); Joe Smith (Maryland, 1993-95); Stacey Augmon (UNLV, 1987-91); Sidney Moncrief (Arkansas, 1975-79); Sean Elliott (Arizona, 1985-89); Greg Kelser (Michigan State, 1975-79); Terry Cummings (DePaul, 1979-82); Jeff Green (Georgetown, 2004-07); Billy Cunningham (North Carolina, 1962-65); Wally Szczerbiak (Miami, Ohio, 1995-99); Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State, 1991-95).
You know Walton today as Dave Pasch's sidekick, but in his playing days he was virtually unstoppable. In the 1973 national title game against Memphis, Walton scored 44 points on 21-of-22 shooting from the field.
33. Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), UCLA (1966-69)
See also: Magic Johnson (Michigan State, 1977-79); Larry Bird (Indiana State, 1976-79); Patrick Ewing (Georgetown, 1981-85); Shaquille O'Neal (LSU, 1989-92); Cazzie Russell (Michigan, 1963-66); Grant Hill (Duke, 1990-94); Antawn Jamison (North Carolina, 1995-98); Alonzo Mourning (Georgetown, 1988-92); Clark Kellogg (Ohio State, 1979-82); Hersey Hawkins (Bradley, 1984-88); Steve Johnson (Oregon State, 1977-81); Stacey King (Oklahoma, 1985-89); Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, 2012-14).
Meet the greatest number, greater even than 23 or 32. Take Ewing, for example, a three-time first-team All-American who led his program to three national-title game appearances and one championship. When he was in high school and announced that he intended to go to Georgetown, Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt rejoiced and promptly put in a phone call to book, for the first time in the fledgling conference's history, Madison Square Garden for the league's postseason tournament. That bio gets you fourth place with No. 33.
34. Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston (1981-84)
See also: Charles Barkley (Auburn, 1981-84); Austin Carr (Notre Dame, 1968-71); Len Bias (Maryland, 1982-86); Paul Pierce (Kansas, 1995-98); Ray Allen (Connecticut, 1993-96); Corliss Williamson (Arkansas, 1992-95); Reggie Williams (Georgetown, 1983-87); John Barnhill (Tennessee State, 1955-59); Xavier McDaniel (Wichita State, 1981-85); Kenny Walker (Kentucky, 1982-86); Don Schlundt (Indiana, 1951-55); Miles Simon (Arizona, 1994-98); Devin Harris (Wisconsin, 2001-04); Fennis Dembo (Wyoming, 1984-88).
Olajuwon and his teammates were on the wrong end of NC State's miracle in the 1983 national title game, but he was at least named the most outstanding player of the tournament that year, the last player from a non-championship team to be so honored.
35. Kevin Durant, Texas (2006-07)
See also: Sidney Wicks (UCLA, 1968-71); Dick Barnett (Tennessee State, 1955-59); Bob McAdoo (North Carolina, 1969-72); Darrell Griffith (Louisville, 1976-80); Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (LSU, 1988-90); Reggie Lewis (Northeastern, 1983-87); Danny Ferry (Duke, 1985-89); Marvin Bagley III (Duke, 2017-18).
The college game had seen volume shooters, athletes and length long before Durant arrived, but no player had ever combined all of the above in quite the way the lanky Texas freshman did in 2006-07.
40. Calbert Cheaney, Indiana (1989-93)
See also: Cody Zeller (Indiana, 2011-13); Kurt Thomas (TCU, 1990-95).
Something about No. 40 in Bloomington, apparently, and pretty much nowhere else. Go figure.
41. Sam Perkins (North Carolina, 1981-84)
See also: Glen Rice (Michigan, 1985-89).
No. 41 is underpopulated. Still, take these two guys, grab three random types and you'll win some games.
42. Bill Bradley, Princeton (1962-65)
See also: Scott May (Indiana, 1972-76); Jerry Stackhouse (North Carolina, 1993-95); Elton Brand (Duke, 1997-99); Walt Hazzard (UCLA, 1961-64); Pervis Ellison (Louisville, 1985-89); Kevin Love (UCLA, 2007-08); Al Horford (Florida, 2004-07); Sean May (North Carolina, 2002-05); Khalid El-Amin (Connecticut, 1998-2000); Pat Riley (Kentucky, 1964-67); Morris Peterson (Michigan State, 1995-2000); Donyell Marshall (Connecticut, 1991-94); Alando Tucker (Wisconsin, 2003-07); Evan Eschmeyer (Northwestern, 1995-99).
Bradley originally accepted a scholarship at Duke before changing his mind and paying his own way at Princeton. In addition to serving as captain of the USA's gold-medal-winning Olympic team in 1964 and carrying the Tigers to the 1965 Final Four, Bradley remains the only Princeton player to score 40 points in a game. He did it 11 times. (Also, salute to Sean May on the number choice. You, sir, are a good son.)
43. Mychal Thompson, Minnesota (1974-78)
See also: Clyde Lee (Vanderbilt, 1963-66); Terry Dischinger (Purdue, 1959-62).
It appears No. 43 has gone out of style and that the youngsters nowadays choose other looks.
44. David Thompson, NC State (1972-75)
See also: Elvin Hayes (Houston, 1965-68); Jerry West (West Virginia, 1957-60); Adrian Dantley (Notre Dame, 1973-76); Dan Issel (Kentucky, 1967-70); Kevin McHale (Minnesota, 1976-80); Keith Van Horn (Utah, 1993-97); Hank Gathers (Loyola Marymount, 1987-90); Derrick Coleman (Syracuse, 1986-90); Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin, 2011-15); Anthony Peeler (Missouri, 1988-92); Justin Jackson (North Carolina, 2014-17); Luke Harangody (Notre Dame, 2006-10).
In his first game for NC State on Nov. 27, 1972, Thompson recorded a 33-15 double-double. The sophomore led his team to a perfect 27-0 season that season only to have the Wolfpack sit at home in the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. One year later, Thompson did the unthinkable and beat Bill Walton and John Wooden, as NC State prevailed 80-77 over UCLA in double overtime at the Final Four. The Wolfpack then defeated Al McGuire and Marquette 76-64 to win the 1974 national title.
45. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State (2012-16)
See also: Raef LaFrentz (Kansas, 1994-98); Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, 2015-17); DeJuan Blair (Pitt, 2007-09).
Valentine was the AP national player of the year in 2016, LaFrentz was a two-time All-American, Mitchell is an NBA star and Blair was one of the best offensive rebounders the college game has ever seen. Nevertheless, the roster of greats at No. 45 is a bit thin.
50. Ralph Sampson, Virginia (1979-83)
See also: David Robinson (Navy, 1983-87); Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina, 2005-09); Emeka Okafor (Connecticut, 2001-04); Bob Pettit (LSU, 1951-54); Ed Macauley (Saint Louis, 1945-49); Caleb Swanigan (Purdue, 2015-17); Bryant Reeves (Oklahoma State, 1991-95).
The only players to have won the Naismith Award three times are Bill Walton and Ralph Sampson. Note additionally that few jerseys say "I'm not taking that outside shot, ever," quite like No. 50, though new kid on the block Swanigan did bend that rule a bit.
51. Still waiting for its legend
Syracuse laps the rest of D-I in No. 51 achievement with both Craig Forth (2001-05) and Fab Melo (2010-12). Then again, that probably says something right there. For whatever reason, this is the weakest and least desired number of the 37 eligible options. Last season there were perhaps as few as five D-I players wearing 51 (Boston University's Max Mahoney, Butler's Nate Fowler, Drexel's James Butler, Iowa's Nicholas Baer and Michigan's Austin Davis). Nor is this shunning a recent development. One helpful archive on Kentucky basketball history reveals that, in the past 90 years of Wildcats hoops, only three players have worn the number. Media guides for UCLA and UConn likewise list a single No. 51 in each program's entire history. It is a rare look for a jersey.
52. James Worthy, North Carolina (1979-82)
See also: Walt Frazier (Southern Illinois, 1963-67); Jamaal Wilkes (UCLA, 1971-74).
People quite rightly remember Jordan's winning shot in the 1982 title game, but it was Worthy who took home the tournament's most outstanding player honors to go with his national player of the year award for 1982.
53. Artis Gilmore, Jacksonville (1969-71)
See also: Bernard King (Tennessee, 1974-77); Jon Koncak (SMU, 1981-85).
In the two seasons that Gilmore played for Jacksonville, the Dolphins won 89% of their games. Conversely, JU's winning percentage in 51 seasons as a D-I program without Gilmore is 48.
54. Kent Benson, Indiana (1973-77)
See also: Marques Johnson (UCLA, 1973-77); Howard Porter (Villanova, 1968-71); Horace Grant (Clemson, 1983-87); Ed Pinckney (Villanova, 1981-85).
It's possible the best game of Benson's career came in a loss. With Scott May sidelined by a broken arm, IU lost to Kentucky 92-90 in the 1975 Elite Eight despite 33 points and 23 rebounds from Benson. The Hoosiers didn't lose another game for 620 days. For over four decades now, no team has been able to duplicate Indiana's undefeated (32-0) run to the 1976 national title.
55. Dikembe Mutombo, Georgetown (1988-91)
See also: Michael Olowokandi (Pacific, 1994-98); Brian Zoubek (Duke, 2006-10).
Mutombo played sparingly as a sophomore, but during the two seasons that he recorded heavy minutes alongside Alonzo Mourning, opponents shot just 39% on their 2s against Georgetown.
As for jersey numbers that are no longer eligible ...
6. Bill Russell, San Francisco (1953-56)
See also: Cliff Hagan (Kentucky, 1950-54); Hal Lear (Temple, 1953-56).
In the first game of his college career on Dec. 1, 1953, the 19-year-old Russell blocked 13 shots against California. Blocks weren't even an official statistic yet, so it took much of the rest of the country a long time to catch on to what was happening on the West Coast. But it's safe to say the sport was never quite the same after that night. In 1954-55 and 1955-56, the Dons went 57-1 and won back-to-back NCAA titles.
7. Hank Luisetti, Stanford (1935-38)
Did Luisetti really invent the jump shot? We'll likely never know. The sport had already been played worldwide for decades by the 1930s, after all. Still, news clippings from the period illustrate that the Stanford star certainly popularized the technique and created something of a media sensation in the process.
16. Clyde Lovellette, Kansas (1950-52)
A teammate of Dean Smith's at KU, Lovellette remains the only player ever to lead D-I in scoring (28.4 points) in the same season as winning a national title (1952).
17. Bob Cousy, Holy Cross (1946-50)
Cousy was a freshman on the Holy Cross national championship team of 1947, and freshmen were then eligible due to a rule change leftover from wartime. His best college years, however, were still to come, up to and including, allegedly, the first behind-the-back dribble in college hoops history.
28. Frank Selvy, Furman (1951-54)
On Feb. 13, 1954, Selvy scored 100 points against Newberry College. He was 41-of-66 from the field and 18-of-22 at the line. Selvy's 100th point reportedly came on a 40-foot shot as time expired. He went on to play nine seasons in the NBA.
90. Bob Kurland, Oklahoma State (1942-46)
Then known as Oklahoma A&M, Hank Iba's program became the first to win back-to-back NCAA titles, pulling off the feat in 1945 and 1946. In February 1946, the 7-foot Kurland scored 58 points against future Hall of Famer Ed Macauley and Saint Louis. Macauley was said to have kept a newspaper clipping from that game in his wallet for decades, explaining, "Every time I thought I needed to be humble I would look at that box score and remember I was the guy who held Bob Kurland to 58 points."
99. George Mikan, DePaul (1942-46)
The term "goaltending" was originally descriptive and neutral, like "switching" or "zone defense" are today. When the 6-foot-10 Mikan repeatedly swatted away shots on their downward flight near the rim in DePaul's 53-44 win over Kentucky at Chicago Stadium in February 1943, Adolph Rupp was furious and vowed to see to it that the rule was changed. Goaltending became a violation in 1944-45.