How many colleges are guaranteed to see an alum hoist the NBA Championship trophy in 2012?
Answer: Just one, and that school is Texas.
As the NBA’s version of the Final Four gets underway, former Longhorns will don each of the uniforms for the remaining teams: the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference, and the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference.
For Longhorn fans who root for alumni rather than specific teams, this makes picking a favorite all the more difficult. Here’s how it breaks down:
Kevin Durant of the Thunder is by far the most touted of the former Texas players. Durant came in second place for this year’s Most Valuable Player award, won the league’s scoring title for the third time in five years, and was named to the All-NBA First Team for the third straight year.
Also on the Thunder is oft-forgotten Royal Ivey, a four-year player, gritty defender, and chemistry guy during his time at UT. Carrying those qualities to the NBA, he’s stuck around long past the predictions of many draft gurus.
Former first-round selection Avery Bradley, who had a disappointing career start before this season, became a starter for the Boston Celtics halfway through the year and is widely applauded for transforming the team back into a contender. Unfortunately, a shoulder surgery this past week will keep him from suiting up the rest of the playoffs.
Recent graduate Dexter Pittman, who famously shed almost 100 pounds during his time at UT, will be representing the so-called “villains” of the tournament: the Miami Heat. Pittman will be sitting out the next two games as he finishes out a three-game suspension for a hit on an Indiana Pacer in the previous round. But, when he returns, his big body could be key should the smaller Heat team get into a pinch somewhere along the way to the championship.
Then there are the San Antonio Spurs. Cory Joseph, in his rookie season with the Spurs, could become a two-time champion in one season, should the Spurs win it all. Bouncing back and forth between the Spurs and their local Development League team, the Austin Toros, Joseph already helped the Toros capture the D-League championship last month.
Also of note is T.J. Ford, former Longhorn great and one of only three Texas basketball players to have their jerseys in the rafters of the Erwin Center. Ford was forced to retire due to recurring neck and spinal injuries, but is still in line for a ring because of his time with the Spurs earlier this year.
While the Longhorns can’t crack the NCAA Final Four puzzle, they seem to have the NBA one all figured out. Here’s hoping when you lift that Larry O’Brien Trophy, guys, you don’t forget to lift your horns too. Hook ‘em.
Photo courtesy Flickr user aaronisnotcool.