When Toronto Raptors guard Jeremy Lin made his NBA debut with the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 29, 2010, he became the first Ivy League player to suit up for a team in the regular season since Matt Maloney of Penn played for the Atlanta Hawks and Chris Dudley of Yale played for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2002-03.
It is very rare that Ivy League athletes make it to the NBA—most look to use their academic skills in the real world and few look to take their talents to the league, even if they are fit to play professionally. But, it has been done and there are some big-name players who attended Ivy League universities.
A total of 45 players—the earliest being drafted in 1947 and the latest in 2010—have played in the NBA and we ranked the top five to ever do it.
5. Chris Dudley – Yale University
Chris Dudley was never a star in the NBA but was a very serviceable big man in his 16-year career. At 6-foot-11, Dudley specialized in rebounds and defense while playing for Cleveland, New Jersey, Portland, New York, and Phoenix.
Dudley played for Yale from 1983-87 and averaged 17.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game in his senior year for the Bulldogs.
In a career total of 886 NBA games, Dudley scored 3473 points (3.9 points per game), had 375 assists (0.4 assists per game), blocked 1027 shots (1.2 blocks per game) and had 5457 rebounds (6.2 rebounds per game). He was the recipient of the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1996.
4. Bill Bradley – Princeton University
Not only is Bill Bradley one of the greatest NBA players to come out of an Ivy League University, but he is also one of the most successful players off the court.
After Bradley was a star at Princeton, he played one-year professionally in Europe, served six months in the United States Air Force Reserves and was a territorial draft pick in the 1965 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks. Bradley played 10 seasons for the Knicks where he was a two-time NBA champion (1970, 1973) and a one-time NBA All-Star. His No. 24 jersey is retired by the Knicks.
After he retired in 1977, Bradley took a dive into politics. From 1979-1997, Bradley was a United States Senator from New Jersey. Bradley ran in the 2000 presidential primaries, opposing Vice President Al Gore for his party’s nomination. Bradley campaigned as the liberal alternative to Gore, taking positions to the left of Gore on a number of issues, including universal health care, gun control, and campaign finance reform.
Bradley is an author and host of his own radio show. He is also a corporate director of Starbucks and a partner at investment bank Allen & Company in New York City. Bradley is a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One and serves on that group’s Advisory Board.
3. Jeremy Lin – Harvard University
How could anyone ever forget when Jeremy Lin burst on to the scene for the New York Knicks in 2011 and “Linsanity” was born? Since then, Lin has bounced around the league playing for the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, and now the Toronto Raptors.
After receiving no athletic scholarship offers during high school, Lin attended Harvard University, where he was a three-time All-Conference player in the Ivy League.
Lin is the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA, and one of the few Asian Americans to play in the league overall. As stated earlier, Lin is also the first Ivy League player to suit up for a team in the regular season since Matt Maloney of Penn played for the Atlanta Hawks and Chris Dudley of Yale played for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2002-03.
2. Rudy LaRusso – Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College was the home of “Roughhouse” Rudy LaRusso from 1957-1959. In 1959, LaRusso grabbed 32 rebounds in a game against Columbia, tying an Ivy League record. He also set Dartmouth records for rebounds in a season (503) and career (1,239) and was twice named All-Ivy League.
Despite a very strong collegiate career for Dartmouth, LaRusso was taken No. 40 overall by the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers. In his 10 NBA seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers and San Francisco Warriors, LaRusso had career averages of 15.6. points and 9.4 rebounds. LaRusso retired in 1969 despite averaging 20.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. He was a five-time NBA All-Star and was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team in 1969.
LaRusso passed away on July 9, 2004, at the age of 66 after a long bout with Parkinson’s Disease.
1. Geoff Petrie – Princeton University
Geoff Petrie attended Princeton University from 1967-1970 and was one of the most dominant college guards of his time. In Petrie’s junior season, he averaged an Ivy League-best 23.9 points per game and led Princeton to a 14-0 record.
Petrie was selected No. 8 in the 1970 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers and quickly became a star. He won the 1971 Rookie of the Year award averaging 24.8 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game and was named to the NBA All-Star team that same year. Petrie played six seasons for the Trail Blazers where he averaged above 18.0 points per game in each season before suffering a career-ending knee injury which forced him to retire in 1976.
After his playing career, Petrie became a commentator for the Trail Blazers as well as several other positions before being hired as the teams senior vice president of basketball. He was hired by the Sacramento Kings in 1994 and was their team president from 1994-2013, twice winning the NBA Executive of the Year Award in 1999 and 2001.
Petrie’s No. 45 jersey is retired by the Portland Trail Blazers.
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