LeBron might be one of the best ballers ever, but he never played an NCAA game, not a single one. On the other hand, the player whom Gary Payton recently praised as the first LeBron coming out of the high school, his longtime Bay Area counterpart Jason Kidd, appeared in a total of 59 NCAA games.
One of the most memorable NCAA games for the University of California floor general came during March Madness in 1993. In the 2nd Round of the Midwest Region, the UC Bears traveled to Chicago, Illinois, where they faced the two-time defending national champions Duke Blue Devils (1991, 1992).
The Blue Devils coached by Mike Krzyzewski and led by seniors Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley were clearly on a mission of making their NCAA three-peat – they’d won it all in 1991 and 1992. Hurley did score a season-high 32 points, but it just wasn’t enough for Krzyzewski’s ‘troops’ to prevail that evening.
In a direct match-up with the leading NCAA all-time leader in assists, Bobby Hurley (who dished out 1076 assists throughout 140 games), Kidd showcased his skills by scoring 11 points, grabbing 14 boards and dishing out nine dimes, while leading the Bears to an 82-77 W and helping them reach the Sweet 16.
He dribbled and passed the rock at will, easily outlasting all defensive traps and hurdles, distributing the ball to his open teammates, especially future NBA-er Lamond Murray. On some occasions, the UC Bears power forward literally looked like a man amongst boys, finishing the game with a total of 28 points.
Kidd, the Bears versatile freshman quarterback, impressed the nation with 13.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 7.7 APG during the 1992/93 campaign. But even more incredibly, he already showed remarkable progress in the next season – as a sophomore, The Engine averaged 16.7 ppg, 6.9 RPG, and 9.1 APG in 1993/94.
Drafted by Dallas with the 2nd pick overall in the 1994 NBA draft, The Kidd immediately proved to be a problem solver for the loss-plagued Mavs, the worst NBA team in the early 1990s. Mr. Triple-Double sparked them on both ends of the floor and directed one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history.
The Mavs’ tireless rookie shared the 1995 NBA Rookie of the Year award with Grant Hill (Detroit Pistons) before continuing to blaze and amaze the basketball world during his illustrious 19-year-long NBA career. Both Kidd and his longtime peer Grant Hill were inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2018.