Winning the NBA’s MVP is no easy thing, and scouting top-tier prospects that will go on to have a successful career in the greatest and most competitive league on earth either.
College basketball programs always try to find the best prospects to commit with them and they have quite a good time when their alumni make it to the pros and help them get more respect, exposure and recognition.
Either way, top-tier basketball programs of the likes of Kentucky or Duke have never had a guy that goes on to win the league’s MVP, even despite having some of the most talented players in the league on their ranks. Will Zion Williamson break Duke’s curse? Who knows, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the colleges with the most NBA MVPs.
Texas (1): Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant entered the league out of the University of Texas as the 2nd overall pick and ever since, he’s been one of the most dominant players on earth. Actually, the fact that he has just one MVP so far on his career is still kind of surprising. Still, he’s the best player in his college history and it’s not even close.
Memphis (1): Derrick Rose
Thinking about MVP Rose always makes me sad. It’s sad to think perhaps he would’ve won multiple MVPs along the way had injuries respected his career. Still, the former 1 overall pick is the only MVP in Memphis College history, and he’ll always be remembered as that explosive, strong guard that took the league for assault.
Arizona State (1): James Harden
There’s a huge chance Arizona State University gets his second MVP this season, as the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player is one of the frontrunners to win the award again this season following the historic scoring run he had. Last year, he led his Rockets to the best record in the league, earning the MVP honors.
Holy Cross (1): Bob Cousy
It’s been a while since Holy Cross university last got a player to make it to the NBA, and, obviously, is not likely to ever have another NBA MVP on their program. Still, Bob Cousy put them in the map forever.
Cincinnati (1): Oscar Robertson
The University of Cincinnati got the first Russell Westbrook in league history. Oscar Robertson was a walking triple-double and the first to make them so popular, even leading an otherwise subpar Milwaukee Bucks team to the Championship next to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Grambling State (1): Willis Reed
Most young fans don’t know about Willis Reed, one of the most dominant big men in the history of the league. He came out of Grambling State, a mostly black college, to break all kind of racial stereotypes and went on to become one of the best players in New York Knicks history while leading them to a couple of Championships.
Louisville (1): Wes Unseld
Being a Kentucky native, Wes Unseld led the University of Louisville with averages of 35.8 points and 23.6 rebounds as a freshman before being drafted with the 2nd overall pick in 1968, just to become the second player in the history of the league to win both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP on the very same season.
Auburn (1): Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley is arguably one of the greatest players never to win an NBA Championship, but his greatness didn’t go unnoticed in the league during his successful career. At least, he was able to hand the University of Auburn their only MVP award ever thanks to his dominance as a scorer and a rebounder.
Houston (1): Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon is the best player in Houston Rockets history and a local hero. Besides leading the team to a couple of NBA Championships, he took the University of Houston to the highest of honors by becoming their lone MVP in program history. We don’t talk enough about him nowadays.
Navy (1): David Robinson
David Robinson completely turned the San Antonio Spurs around coming out of Navy. There was a time where he was the most physical and strong big man in the league, and his restless work ethic and skills with the rock made him a driving force during Gregg Popovich’s first couple of years in the league.
Georgetown (1): Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson would’ve won multiple MVPs and arguably multiple Championships if the Philadelphia 76ers had made a better job at surrounding him with talent. He was one of the most gifted scorers and his handles are top-3, at least. Sadly, he wasn’t so prolific off the court as he was on it.
Florida State (1): Dave Cowens
Dave Cowens proved all of his doubters wrong, being one of the most dominant undersized big men this league has ever seen. Throughout his career, he led the Boston Celtics to a couple of Championships and became the first Seminole to win the MVP back then in 1973.
University of Massachusetts (1): Julius Erving
Julius Erving was a huge inspiration for some of the best players of the early 90s, like Michael Jordan. He was a crafty finisher and an athletic freak, and while he’s not talked about enough anymore, he’s arguably the first great dunker in basketball history, and the only player in UMass history to be named an MVP.
Louisiana Tech (2): Karl Malone (x2)
Nobody thought Karl Malone was going to be that good, but he was one of the strongest driving forces in the league for years. He was a walking bucket, a strong, physical rebounder, and an underrated defender as well, winning a couple of MVPs for his Utah Jazz and Louisiana Tech University.
Wake Forest (2): Tim Duncan (x2)
Tim Duncan put Wake Forest in the map, it’s just as simple as that. Winner of 5 Championships, the former 1st overall pick also won a couple of MVPs and is the greatest player in college history, way ahead of Chris Paul, who could never replicate his success as a professional.
Santa Clara (2): Steve Nash (x2)
Steve Nash faced a lot of criticism coming out of college and nobody thought he would go on to change the way the point guard spot was played. Later on, he’ll win back-to-back MVPs ahead of guys of the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, led the most entertaining offense in the last couple of decades.
Davidson (2): Stephen Curry (x2)
Stephen Curry wasn’t even a highly-ranked recruit early on, so he had to settle for a small basketball program like Davidson. After completely dominating in the Tourney, he’s now a 3 time NBA Champion and the league’s first-ever unanimous MVP, as well as the greatest shooter ever.
LSU (3): Bob Pettit (x2), Shaquille O’Neal
Truth to be told, I feel like LSU should’ve had more MVPs, as the fact that Shaquille O’Neal only got one throughout his career is just preposterous. At least, the University was also well represented by Bob Pettit, who was the first player to ever win such a prestigious award in league history.
Michigan State (3): Magic Johnson (x3)
Magic Johnson is not only the greatest point guard ever but also the greatest Spartan ever. Winner of 5 NBA Championships, he led the Showtime Lakers during one of the team’s most successful tenures, even though he hasn’t been able to do so as their president of basketball operations.
Indiana State (3): Larry Bird (x3)
Following his rivalry at college, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson also went at it in the pros. While Johnson won more NBA Championships, Bird can at least brag about having the same number of MVPs for him and his Indiana State University.
Kansas (4): Wilt Chamberlain (x4)
Wilt Chamberlain was the record-breaking man. He dominated the league in ways that even forced them to change the rules to make it harder for him. He won 4 MVPs for his University of Kansas, and, judging for what we’ve seen so far, Joel Embiid could join him in that list pretty soon.
San Francisco (5): Bill Russell (x5)
The University of San Francisco isn’t known for their basketball program, but they can brag about having the winningest player on NBA history. Bill Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 Championships in 13 seasons, winning 5 MVPs in the process, even though the NBA wasn’t really that competitive back then.
UNC (6): Bob McAdoo, Michael Jordan (x5)
The University of North Carolina had Bob McAdoo, a dominant big man, as his first guy to ever win an MVP, but the ultimate glory came several years later, when Michael Jordan, the greatest player to ever lace them up, went on to dominate the league and win 5 MVPs and 6 NBA Championships.
UCLA (8): Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (x6), Russell Westbrook, Bill Walton
And college basketball’s winningest program - at least on MVP terms - is the University of California Los Angeles. Naturally, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar winning 6 awards on his own, it’s kind of difficult to top that. Now, either Russell Westbrook or Lonzo Ball could keep on adding awards to this list.