Magic and Bill | Bandera

Magic and Bill

Henry Liao - April 03, 2014 - 03:00 AM

LEGENDARY greats William Felton (Bill) Russell and Earvin (Magic) Johnson Jr. were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame while marginal players Charles Henry Bibby and William Stansbury (Billy) Thompson never made it big in the professional ranks.

However, the quarter has something in common: They are the only athletes in American basketball annals to snare a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I championship in one season and bring home a National Basketball Association (NBA) title in the next.

Russell was the dominant force for the University of San Francisco during the Dons’ back-to-back NCAA title finishes in 1954-55 and 1955-56. The defense-oriented 6-foot-10 center capped his distinguished three-year collegiate tenure (freshmen were not permitted to suit up for the varsity until the 1972-73 season) with a national College Player of the Year hardware and a 55-game winning streak by the Jesuits-run institution.

Russell led the United States to the gold medal during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics (where our very own Carlos Loyzaga was matched up against him in a 121-53 preliminary-round loss by the Philippines).

He then hooked up with the Boston Celtics midway through the 1956-57 NBA wars. Along with NBA Rookie of the Year recipient Tom Heinsohn, Russell helped guide the Celtics to the first of their league-record 17 championships in the spring of 1957.
Johnson was only a collegiate sophomore when he catapulted the Michigan State University Spartans to their first of two NCAA championships in 1979 following a highly-charged 75-64 success against Larry Bird and the erstwhile unblemished Indiana State Sycamores in the finals.

The multi-dimensional 6-foot-9 playmaker out of Lansing, Michigan was voted the tournament’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player while Bird, then a fifth-year senior, earned College Player of the Year honors.

Magic subsequently renounced the final two years of his varsity eligibility and was picked by the Los Angeles Lakers with the first selection overall in the 1979 NBA draft.

With his 7-foot-2 star teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sidelined by an injury, Johnson started at center in the series-deciding Game Six of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers and collected 42 points (the most by a rookie in NBA Finals history), 15 rebounds and seven assists in pacing the Lakers to a 123-107 road decision over the Julius Erving-led 76ers.

To date, Johnson remains the only first-year player ever to capture the NBA Finals MVP hardware. Johnson would go on to win four more NBA championship rings with the Lakers during the eighties (1982-85-87-88).

Bibby, a 6-foot-1 point guard, starred for the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins from 1969-70 through 1971-72 and won an NCAA title in each of his three eligible seasons there.

Bibby broke into the NBA as the New York Knicks’ fourth-round draft selection in 1972. The third option at the 1-guard position behind veterans Walt (Clyde) Frazier and Dean Meminger, Bibby was a seldom-utilized reserve on the Knicks’ 1973 NBA title squad.

Thompson was one of the stars (along with Final Four MOP Pervis Ellison) for the University of Louisville during the Cardinals’ 1986 NCAA title run. The 6-foot-7 forward was a first-round draft choice of the Atlanta Hawks that year although his NBA rights were immediately peddled to the Lakers in a trade.

As a rookie pro, Thompson rode on the backs of his more illustrious Laker teammates such as Magic, Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy to gain an NBA championship in 1986-87.

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No thanks to his gimpy knees, Thompson lasted only six NBA seasons. He later toiled in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) and had overseas stints in Italy, Israel and even the Philippines, where he donned the colors of San Miguel Beer for a pair of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) contests in 1994.

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