Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton are two of the greatest players in UConn history. We know this.
(Just how great? Well, you’ll have to check our list for that).
But both of them have cemented their great college careers with big-time moments on the biggest stage in basketball, the NBA Finals.
Ray and Rip were key players on championship teams, and neither of their clubs would have taken home the hardware without their efforts.
Still, there are many other former Huskies who have had signature moments in the Finals. You may have forgotten about Clifford Robinson’s contributions to the Portland Trail Blazers of the early ’90s, or Kevin Ollie’s defensive presence on the Allen Iverson-led Sixers in 2001.
With the Finals starting tonight (9 p.m. ABC), we thought it would be fun to take a look back at all of the UConn greats who have made their mark on the NBA’s greatest stage.
Along with hitting one of the most famous shots in Finals history–a championship-saving hoist from the corner in the final seconds of Game 6 of the 2013 Finals that sunk the Spurs–Allen owns two of the best three-point shooting performances in NBA Finals games.
Allen averaged 20.8 points per game in the 2008 Finals, helping lead the Celtics to their first championship in 22 years. He could have been named Finals MVP for his performance. He also put up 25 points in Game 3 and scored 26 in the series clincher in Game 6, including knocking down a then-Finals-record 7 three-pointers. The Celtics outclassed the Lakers, 4-2.
Ray-Ray broke his own record in 2010, knocking down eight three pointers (seven in the first half) of Game 2 against the Lakers in the 2010 Finals. Allen finished that game with 32 points. He averaged 14.5 points per game over the course of the series, but the Celtics fell to the Lakers in seven games.
Ray ended up with three NBA titles, one with the Celtics, and two with the Heat:
Rip will be forever remembered in Connecticut for his performance in the 1999 NCAA Tournament, when he led the Huskies to the NCAA championship. He’ll also forever be remembered in Detroit, where he led the Pistons to one of the great upsets in Finals history in 2004.
With the series tied at 1, Hamilton scored a game-high 31 points in the Pistons’ 88-80 victory over the heavily-favored Lakers in Game 3. He put up 21 in the clinching Game 5, and the Pistons wiped the floor with the Lakers, winning three straight at home to capture the title.
Hamilton averaged 21.4 points per game for the series. He was never better in his NBA career than he was during that series.
Though Portland would lose both series (to the Pistons in 1990 and to Michael Jordan’s Bulls in ’92), it was through no fault of Robinson. He averaged 10.8 points per game during the 1992 playoff run, and emerged as a key cog off the bench.
Robinson was immortalized for all the wrong reasons in this picture, where he happened to be standing in the background while Michael Jordan shrugged off his sixth three-pointer of the first half.
Burrell averaged 13 minutes per game that season and was a three-point specialist off the bench.
Though he didn’t play a ton of minutes, Burrell’s season in Chicago was also memorable for the many card games he allegedly played with Jordan on the team plane.
There weren’t many moments to celebrate for his Cavs in the 2007 NBA Finals, but Marshall found himself playing an important role on that team. Armed with a young LeBron James and–well–not much else, Cleveland was summarily swept in the ’07 Finals by the more experienced Spurs.
Still, Marshall found himself involved in one of the most famous (or infamous) plays of that postseason. You may remember the firestorm that erupted shortly after LeBron passed to a wide-open Marshall in the corner at the end of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pistons.
It looked like James could have taken the shot himself, but he opted to pass to Marshall, who missed what would have been the game-winning three. Of course, the national media had a field day with that decision, but King James got the last laugh as the Cavs went on to defeat the Pistons in six games.
The current UConn head coach was a glue guy on the 2001 Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia 76ers. Ollie averaged 15 minutes per game during the ’01 playoffs, and he bonded with star guard Allen Iverson. As the Hartford Courant’s Dom Amore wrote, Ollie’s efforts were lauded in a recent book about that Sixers team, written by Clifton Duquette. As Duquette told Amore:
“My favorite memory of Ollie was Game 3 of the NBA Finals when Brown subbed him in for Dikembe Mutombo. Shaquille O’Neal had just fouled out with about 2:30 left, and with the Lakers going to Robert Horry at center, Brown decided to match up with his own smaller lineup by putting in Ollie.
“With just under a minute left and the Sixers down four, Ollie rebounded a Sixers miss and scored a 3-point play to bring them within one. They ended up losing that game, but at the time, he had become yet another example of a 76er role player making a big play, which is what helped define that season.”
Marshall averaged 9.2 points per game for the Nets that season. He also played for the 2003 Nets, who reached the NBA Finals for a second straight year.
The former UConn big man appeared in 14 playoff games in 2000, mostly giving Shaq a blow or playing out the string at the end of the game. Still, Knight joins Hamilton, Burrell, Allen and our next Husky as the only UConn players ever to win a ring. Now that’s pretty impressive.
Butler was injured early in the 2011 season and didn’t get the chance to play during the Mavs’ incredible run to the title. But he did earn his championship ring, and he’s one of five Huskies to do so. Caron scored 16.5 points per game in 29 regular season games for the Mavs in 2011. He was outstanding in the playoffs the year before, averaging 19.7 points per game in Dallas’ first-round loss to the Spurs.
Butler has come through in the playoffs throughout his career. He averaged 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds for the Wizards in 2006.