Who is the best player in SEC history; maybe the best all-time college basketball player?
Well there were obviously many, many different names to choose from. There were guys who excelled both in school and the NBA, some who were legends in college but failed at the pro-level, and others who only became stars professionally. After considering the best talent in NBA history to come out of the SEC, and cross-applying it with a list of the conferences college legends, I came up with three major names: LSU's Pete Maravich, LSU's Shaquille O'Neal, and Auburn's Charles Barkley.
All three names have credible cases behind them for why they were the greatest. To begin with, all three have entered both the NBA Hall of Fame and the Halls of their respective schools. However, Maravich, a star guard at LSU who put up dazzling scoring numbers in college and redefined what it meant to be a “scoring point guard” doesn't quite stack up to the other two. Why? While he was a legend in the Bayou region, Maravich failed to actually win anything of consequence at LSU and continued those failures at the pro-level as well. Ultimately, I simply felt that, despite his undeniable appeal, the SEC had far too deep a pool of talent to work with to choose a player who accomplished little beyond individual statistics.
So what about Shaq? The Big Diesel is in the LSU Hall of Fame, was a collegiate player of the year, and put up astounding numbers throughout his time in Louisiana. O'Neal also owns four NBA titles and is generally considered the best center to play the game.
However, all of those things duly considered, I ultimately decided to go with Auburn legend Charles Barkley. Like the Diesel, the "Round Mound of Rebound" was a national player of the year and an all-American and constructed a Hall of Fame resume in the NBA.
The difference between the two is that O'Neal forwent his last year of eligibility and left behind a spectacular but unfinished legacy at LSU; while Barkley, on the other hand, defined Auburn basketball and still does today.
Choosing Sir Charles allowed me the chance to pick a guy who defined basketball at his school AND became the face of a franchise in the NBA; an opportunity I simply couldn't pass up.
And what the heck, I'll go with Charles Barkley as the best all-time college basketball player.
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