The 5 Greatest NBA Players to Win March Madness

Only a few NBA legends have won rings both in college during NCAA March Madness, and in the big leagues.


 College basketball in March Madness can amplify players’ skills for NBA success.
 Winning both NCAA and NBA titles is rare; only certain iconic players have achieved this.
 Icons like Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, and Magic Johnson have won multiple titles in both college and the NBA.

March and April are the months of the calendar year when the two realms of basketball, college and professional, collide. While the regular seasons of both coincide throughout most of the year, it is March Madness that amplifies the attention and magnitude of the sport as a whole.

In recent decades, college basketball has become ever more important in the development of an NBA player’s career. Almost every NBA player has spent their early days playing basketball for a college, and the best of them partook in the playoff escapade that is March Madness.

Top 5 Players to Win NCAA and NBA Titles

NCAA Titles
NBA Titles


Bill Russell

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Michael Jordan


Magic Johnson

Anthony Davis

However, with dozens of colleges partaking in the tournament, only the best of the best teams which contain the top players go on to win it all for their university. Usually, the players who possess the fortitude and skill to lead their college team to an NCAA championship also possess the traits necessary to succeed in the NBA.

In very rare circumstances, a basketball player is so great that they win a title in college and one (or multiple) in the NBA. This serves as an extremely rare feat and accomplishment, with only certain players reaching this mark.

1. Bill Russell (13 titles)

Russell won 2 NCAA titles and 11 NBA titles

Bill Russell

One of the most iconic figures in basketball history is undoubtedly Bill Russell. The only figure to have his number universally retired across the NBA, Russell was a revolutionary player who dominated the league with the Boston Celtics throughout the 1960s decade.

Bill Russell – NCAA and NBA titles


San Francisco
1955, 1956

Boston Celtics
1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969

Russell won 11 NBA titles with the Celtics, which included one in 1957, eight straight from 1959 to 1966, and then a repeat again in 1968 and 1969. In college, Russell won two NCAA titles with San Francisco, repeating in 1955 and 1956. He therefore won 13 championships in a span of 14 years, a truly remarkable feat.

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (9 titles)

Abdul-Jabbar won 3 NCAA titles and 6 NBA titles

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the most iconic figures not only in the NBA but in the entire basketball realm. Known for his elite scoring ability, Abdul-Jabbar set the record for most points ever put up in a single career, a record which was held for 39 years until LeBron James surpassed it last year.

But Abdul-Jabbar was also known for his rings, and he won a lot of them. He won six championships in the NBA, his first coming with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971, which was that franchise’s first. He then became a core component of the ‘Showtime’ LA Lakers that dominated the 1980s, winning five more rings with Los Angeles.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – NCAA and NBA titles


1967, 1968, 1969

Milwaukee Bucks

Los Angeles Lakers
1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988

One of the hardest feats to accomplish in sports is winning a championship, and Abdul-Jabbar did so in both the big leagues and in college. March Madness in particular is difficult due to the amount of colleges within the tournament, and Abdul-Jabbar was able to win not one, but three titles with UCLA, three-peating in 1967, 1968, and 1969.

3. Michael Jordan (7 titles)

Jordan won 1 NCAA title and 6 NBA titles

Michael Jordan-2

Arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan left his mark on the court and transcended the game to become a global icon and billionaire. The first sign of things to come from the all-time great was his NCAA championship with North Carolina in 1982.

Michael Jordan – NCAA and NBA titles


North Carolina

Chicago Bulls
1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998

Any basketball fan, and sports fan in general, is most likely familiar with the NBA championships Jordan won throughout his tenure. He transformed the Chicago Bulls from a franchise lacking any championship banners to a team featuring the fourth-most in NBA history. Jordan’s two three-peats earned the Bulls, and himself, six rings, and they went 6-0 while doing so.

4. Magic Johnson (6 titles)

Johnson won 1 NCAA title and 5 NBA titles

Magic Johnson

Another icon whose tenure in the NBA reached greater than the game of basketball itself, Magic Johnson left it all on the court for the teams he played with. In college, he won the NCAA title with Michigan State in 1979, and then in the NBA, became a core component of the ‘Showtime’ Lakers, winning rings in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988.

Magic Johnson – NCAA and NBA titles


Michigan State

Los Angeles Lakers
1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988

Johnson shocked the world when he announced his retirement in 1991 after contracting HIV. His ability to fight through and live with the disease changed the world’s perception of HIV, and his resilience made him one of the NBA’s most influential figures.

5. Anthony Davis (2 titles)

Davis won 1 NCAA title and 1 NBA title

Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Anthony Davis has been a household name in the NBA for the past decade. First making noise with the New Orleans Pelicans, it was in Los Angeles where he would win his first NBA title with the Lakers, in 2020. He still plays there along with LeBron James, and this year, they are seeking to bring a record 18 titles to the city.

Anthony Davis – NCAA and NBA titles



Los Angeles Lakers

But Davis’ first basketball championship actually came in 2012, the year he entered the NBA. That year, he won it all with Kentucky during March Madness. The sheer ability for not only Davis, but the other athletes who have won titles in both college and in the professional leagues, remains untested.

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