The 5 Best Ever NBA Players from LSU

By Andrew D

July 04, 2022


LSU basketball has a rich tradition of producing dominant players and characters that went on to play important roles in the NBA.

Since the 1908/09 season, the LSU Tigers have represented Louisiana State University in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) of the NCAA. The team has won that conference 11 times in its history but only claimed the national prize of the NCAA Tournament once in 1934/35

There have only been 5 jerseys retired by the LSU Tigers over the years

They are:


  • Born – December 12th, 1932 – Baton Rouge, Louisiana – aged 89

  • Nicknames – Big Blue, The Bombardier from Baton Rouge

  • Measurements – 6’9″ (2.06m) – 205lb (92kg)

  • Position – Power forward, center

  • NBA debut – October 30th, 1954

  • Career length – 11 years

  • Time at LSU – 1950-54

  • Jersey retired – 1954

After high school, Bob Pettit was red hot. He had scholarship offers from 14 universities. He eventually opted for Louisiana State University (LSU) and things went well from there.

Pettit averaged 27.8 points per game with the LSU Tigers and ranked 3rd in the whole nation for scoring. He actually led the Southeastern Conference in scoring for his first season, ranking third in the whole nation in scoring, and also averaged an impressive 13.1 rebounds per game.

Pettit became the second player in major-college basketball history to average more than 30 points per game.

During his junior year, Pettit helped the LSU Tigers sail through the regular season with only 1 loss. They went on to take their second SEC title easily. He then set a Southeastern Conference scoring record with 60 points in a single game.

He averaged 24.9 points and 13.9 rebounds per game for the 1953 season and was honored with selections to both the All-SEC and All-American teams.

Pettit was the first LSU Tiger in any sport to have his jersey number retired.

In 1999, he was named “Living Legend” for LSU


Professional career

In 1954, his college career was naturally at an end and Pettit was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Hawks. His salary of $11,000 was an all-time record for a rookie at that time. As the story goes, he only had $100 to his name at the time.

His NBA career lasted for 11 seasons and included an illustrious NBA title.

In 1955, his first year, he won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award after averaging 20.4 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. He was a phenomenal offensive rebounder and a classy, instinctive scorer.

Pettit was an NBA All-Star in each of his 11 seasons and still holds the top two NBA All-Star Game rebounding performances (26 in 1958 and 27 in 1962)

Bob Pettit averaged at least 20 points and at least 12 rebounds per game in each of his 11 NBA seasons and never finished below seventh in the NBA scoring race.

No other retired player in NBA history (apart from Alex Groza who only played 2 seasons) has averaged more than 20 points per game in every season they’ve played. The legendary Michael Jordan only managed 20 on the nose in his final season…

In 1970, Petit was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and is one of only four players to be named in all four NBA anniversary teams.

  • NBA Champion – 1958

  • 2x NBA MVP – 1956, ’59

  • 11x NBA All-Star – 1955-’65

  • 4x NBA All-Star MVP – 1956, ’58, ’59, ’62

  • 10x All-NBA First Team – 1955-’64

  • All NBA Second Team – 1965

  • NBA Rookie of the Year – 1955

  • 2x NBA scoring leader – 1956, ’59

  • NBA rebounds leader – 1956

  • No. 9 jersey retired by Atlanta Hawks

  • No. 50 jersey retired by LSU Tigers

  • Consensus First-Team All-American – 1954

  • Consensus Second-Team All-American – 1953

  • NBA Anniversary teams – 25th, 35th, 50th & 75th

  • LSU Hall of Fame

  • Naismith Hall of Fame

  • Bob Pettit Boulevard, Baton Rouge, Louisiana is named after him

It seems that the title Living Legend is highly appropriate in this case.

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  • Born – June 22nd, 1947 – Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.

  • Died – January 5th, 1988 – aged 40 – RIP

  • Nicknames – Pistol Pete

  • Measurements – 6’5″ (1.96m) – 197lb (89kg)

  • Position – Shooting guard

  • NBA debut – October 17th, 1970

  • Career length – 10 years

  • Time at LSU – 1967 – ’70

  • Jersey retired – 2007

Pete Maravich played college basketball for LSU under the coaching of Press Maravich, who just happened to be his father.

No favoritism or nepotism here. Pete was a stone-cold sensation.

He went on the become the all-time leading NCAA Division 1 scorer.

He finished with 3,667 points and a staggering average of 44.2 per game!

This was, incredibly, achieved before the introduction of the shot clock and the 3-point line. 2 introductions that dramatically increased the number of points scored in any given game.

In his first game alone, Pete Maravich scored 50 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists.


In his three years playing for the LSU Tigers, Pete Maravich averaged 43.8, 44.2, and 44.5 points per game, respectively. Pure consistency.

Many of Pistol Pete Maravich’s records in the NCAA and LSU still stand to this day. More than 50 years later.

Professional career

In the 1970 NBA Draft, Maravich was 3rd pick in the 1st round and went to the Atlanta Hawks. There were clashes within the team as Pistol was being paid more than some of the veteran players there. His ostentatious style was pretty much the total opposite of how the Hawks played. They were very conservative and, besides, they already had a top-level scorer at point guard.

Nevertheless, Pete Maravich played in 81 games and hit 23.2 points per game in his rookie season. His second season was less impressive and his scoring average dropped to 19.3 points per game.

Maravich truly came into his own in the NBA during his third season. His scoring average jumped to 26.1 points, putting him 5th in the whole NBA. He excelled at assists and along with teammate Hudson, they formed only the 2nd pair of teammates in NBA history to each score 2,000 points in a season.

The 1973–74 season saw further improvements, at least in terms of individual accomplishments. Maravich hit 27.7 points per game, putting him 2nd only to Bob McAdoo in the NBA.

His career continued successfully with the New Orleans Jazz and he stayed with them as they transitioned to becoming the Utah Jazz.

Knee problems plagued Pistol through the latter stages of his career but he continued to perform admirably.
He spent his final season in the NBA with the Boston Celtics before retiring.

He had finally played 658 games and averaged 24.2 points and 5.4 assists per contest across his astonishing ten-year career in the NBA.

  • 5× NBA All-Star – 1973, ’74, ’77-’79)

  • 2× All-NBA First Team – 1976, ’77

  • 2× All-NBA Second Team – 1973, ’78

  • NBA All-Rookie First Team

  • NBA Anniversary teams – 50th & 75th

  • Jersey no. 44 retired by Atlanta Hawks

  • Jersey no. 7 retired by Utah Jazz & New Orleans Pelicans

  • NBA scoring leader – 1977

  • 3× SEC player of the year – 1968 – ’70

  • 2× National college player of the year – 1969, ’70

  • 3× Consensus first-team All-American 1968, ’70

  • 3× NCAA season scoring leader – 1968 – ’70

  • NCAA Division 1 all-time scoring leader

  • Jersey no. 23 retired by LSU Tigers

One of the youngest players ever inducted as a Hall of Famer, Maravich is still considered one of the finest, most creative offensive talents that America has ever produced in basketball. His ball-handling is the stuff of legend.
and legend he became forever when he was snatched away too soon by an undiagnosed heart defect at the age of just 40.

He died playing the game he loved so much. But much too soon.

RIP Pistol Pete – we salute you


  • Born – February 19th, 1958 – Louisville, Kentucky – aged 64

  • Nicknames – Rudy

  • Position – Small Forward

  • Measurements – 6’7″ (2.01m) – 205lb (92kg)

  • NBA debut – October 31st, 1981

  • Career length – 3 years

  • Time at LSU – 1976 – ’81

  • Jersey retired – 2009

College career

Durand “Rudy” Macklin was a local Kentuckian who played at Louisiana State University. In his very first game for them he snatched a sensational 32 rebounds. Injuries aside, he was named an NCAA First Team All-American in ’80 and ’81, and Southeastern Conference player of the year in his senior year.

He played a huge part in LSU making the Final Four.

By the time he graduated, Rudy Macklin was LSU’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,276. He was also the second all-time leading scorer with 2,080 points.

Sadly, this rocket ship of potential spluttered and never really took off…

Professional career

Macklin was selected as the 52nd pick in the 1981 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks.

He played two seasons with them and averaged 6.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game before being traded to the New York Knickerbockers. His problems intensified as he began to suffer from serious cramping when playing basketball. This issue ultimately proved impossible to overcome and, despite stints overseas trying to revive his career, it was all over not long after it began. His NBA career had lasted a grand total of just 3 years and a serious talent was lost to the game.

Although we cannot claim that Macklin deserves his spot on the list of the best NBA players from LSU, he was certainly a game-changer for the university itself. We can understand why they retired his jersey number.

  • Consensus second-team All-American – 1981

  • Jersey no. 40 retired by LSU


  • Born – Chris Wayne Jackson – March 9th, 1969 – Gulfport, Mississippi – age 53

  • Measurements – 6’1″ (1.85m) – 162lb (73kg)

  • Position – Point guard

  • NBA debut – November 10th, 1990

  • Career length – 9 years

  • Time at LSU – 1988 – 90

  • Jersey retired – 2020

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf started life as Chris Jackson and changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in 1993

Chris Jackson played college basketball with the LSU Tigers from 1988 to 1990.

The youngster was largely unfamiliar with basketball but was spotted by a keen-eyed middle-school girls’ coach one lunchtime. She persuaded his mother to have him try out. According to the legend, he scored 24 points in his first-ever game.

College career

In just his third game for the team, Jackson scored 48 points and went on to set the freshman record with 53 in a single game. He also set a couple of NCAA records that season with 965 points and 30.2 per game respectively.

He topped that with 55 the next season and went on to break other records both personal and official. 10 3-pointers in one game was a career-high for the young man. In that same game, his teammate Gerald Glass scored 53 points. That was a record number of 108 points for 2 players from the same team in any given game.

Jackson was named SEC player of the year that season and First-Team All-American for his second consecutive year.

His number 35 jersey was retired by the LSU Tigers in 2020.

Professional career

Chris Jackson was selected 3rd pick in the 1990 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets and was a key player for them until 1996, winning NBA Most Improved Player in 1995. By then with the name Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.

Abdul-Rauf led the league in free-throw percentage from 1993 until 1996. His high of 0.956% in ’93/’94 remains the 3rd highest seasonal percentage in NBA history.

In November 1995, Mahmoud scored 30 points and a career-high of 20 assists in a single game. He smashed that points effort in 1996 with 51.

In 1998 Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf left the NBA to pursue hsi career in Europe, Saudi Arabia, and Japan.

  • NBA All-Rookie Second Team – 1991

  • NBA Most Improved Player – 1993

  • Russian Cup Champion – 2004

  • 2× Consensus first-team All-American – 1989, ’90

  • USBWA National Freshman of the Year – 1989

  • 2× SEC player of the Year – 1989, ’90

  • 2× First-team All-SEC – 1989-’90

  • SEC All-Freshman Team – 1989

  • Jersey no. 35 retired by LSU Tigers

  • First-team Parade All-American (1988)

  • Second-team Parade All-American (1987)

  • 2× Mississippi Mr. Basketball (1987, 1988)


  • Born – March 6th, 1972 – Newark, New Jersey – age 50

  • Nicknames – Shaq, Diesel, The Big Aristotle, Superman, Shaq Fu, Shaq Daddy, Warrior

  • Measurements – 7’1″ (2.16m) – 325lb – (147kg)

  • Position – Center

  • NBA debut – November 6th, 1992

  • Career length – 19 years

  • Time at LSU – 1989 – ’92

  • Jersey retired – 2000

Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal is a phenomenon in the ranks of professional sports. He is one of the most dominant players ever to make a living as a basketball player and took the league by storm on his arrival.

College career

After graduating from high school, O’Neal attended LSU and, naturally, played basketball for the college team. Although he did leave early to start his illustrious NBA career, Shaquille excelled for the team and was two-time All-American, two-time SEC player of the year and was NCAA Player of the year in 1991.

He was inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame and a bronze statue of him erected in front of the LSU practice facility.

They retired Shaq’s jersey number in the year 2000

Professional career

Shaquille O’Neal was picked 1st by Orlando Magic in the 1992 NBA Draft. He was named the Player of the Week in his first week in the NBA, becoming the first player to do so.

In the NBA, O’Neal established himself as an imposing low post presence. His career averages of 23.7 points (0.582 field goal accuracy), 10.9 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game are a testament to his prowess. That FG% puts him second only to Artis Gilmore as the highest of all time. This is an especially incredible record when we consider that he is one of the worst free-throw shooters in the history of the game. He once missed all 11 of his free throw attempts in a single game.

In December 2008, Shaquille O’Neal missed his 5,000th free throw and achieved the dubious distinction of being only the second basketball player in NBA history to do so. To add insult to injury, Shaq only made one 3-point shot during his whole career.

Shaq is a gigantic human and made the best use of his physical presence on the court. His dunks were so powerful that he broke 2 backboard supports in the same season (his first) and the league was forced to increase their strength to cope.

Nevertheless, Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most successful players in the history of the NBA. He is also one of only 32 professional athletes in any US sport to have his jersey retired by multiple teams.

  • 4× NBA Champion – 2000-’02, ’06

  • 3× NBA Finals MVP – 2000-’02

  • NBA Most Valuable Player – 2000

  • 15× NBA All-Star – 1993-’98, 2000-’07, ’09

  • 3× NBA All-Star Game MVP – 2000, ’04, ’09

  • 8× All-NBA First Team – 1998, 2000-’06

  • 2× All-NBA Second Team – 1995, ’99

  • 4× All-NBA Third Team – 1994, ’96’ ’97’ ’09

  • 3× NBA All-Defensive Second Team – 2000, ’01, ’03

  • NBA Rookie of the Year – 1993

  • 2× NBA scoring champion – 1995, ’00

  • 2× IBM Award – 2000, ’01

  • NBA Anniversary team – 50th & 75th

  • Jersey no. 34 retired by Los Angeles Lakers

  • Jersey no. 32 retired by Miami Heat

  • NBA All-Rookie First Team – 1993

  • Associated Press Player of the Year – 1991

  • UPI Player of the Year – 1991

  • Adolph Rupp Trophy (1991)

  • 2× Consensus First-Team All-American – 1991, ’92

  • 2× SEC Player of the Year – 1991, ’92)

  • NCAA blocks leader – 1992

  • NCAA rebounds leader – 1991

  • Jersey no. 33 retired by LSU Tigers

  • FIBA World Championship MVP – 1994

  • USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year – 1994

There are few players more recognizable than Shaquille O’Neal and he certainly counts as one of the greatest players ever to come from the Louisiana State University.



Point guard Ben Simmons is only 4 years into what promises to be a long and fruitful career as a basketball player. The 26-year-old Australian spent his college years with LSU and was picked 1st in the NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2016. He made his NBA debut in October 2017 and the future looks very bright for this particular LSU alum.


Ronald Glen “Big Baby” Davis made the Final Four with LSU 2006. They floundered in the semi-finals but Davis showed good leadership and drive in getting them that far. He turned professional with Boston Celtics in 2007.


Bass was a member of the LSU class of 2003. He was a red-hot prospect at the time and was sought after by at least 5 different universities. LSU was glad he chose them before turning professional with New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets in 2005.


Born in 1986 in Louisiana, Garrett Temple spent time with the LSU Tigers before being picked in the NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics and subsequently moving to play for 10 different NBA teams.


Tyrus Thomas attended Louisiana State University before being selected 4th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.


During his two seasons at LSU, Marcus Thornton scored 1,347 points. That makes him 21st of all time. His scoring average of 20.4 puts him 6th. He remains 8th in LSU history with 168 3-pointers. He was subsequently picked up by the Miami Heat in 2009.


Stromile Swift led the LSU Tigers to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in his sophomore year. e was picked 2nd overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 2000 NBA Draft and had a 9-year career in the NBA.


Well, there you have it. A remarkable list of players that have achieved just about everything possible as a basketball player.

We hope you enjoyed reading as much as we did in investigating it here in The Jump Hub office and giving the old nostalgia button a good working over.

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