Mario Chalmers and his Miami Heat teammate, Shane Battier, joined an exclusive club Thursday night.
Chalmers, the former Kansas University guard, and ex-Duke forward Battier became the fifth and sixth active players in the pros who have won both NCAA and NBA championships.
The others as revealed by FoxSports: Nazr Mohammed (Kentucky/San Antonio Spurs), Richard Hamilton (UConn/Detroit Pistons), Jason Terry (Arizona/Dallas Mavericks) and Corey Brewer (Florida/Mavericks).
“That’s cool. Everybody here should be so happy for him,” KU coach Bill Self said of Chalmers, his former player whose three-pointer forced overtime in the Jayhawks’ 75-68 victory over Memphis in the 2008 national title game.
“It was a great NBA playoff,” Self added on Friday from his Team Camp in Allen Fieldhouse. “Knowing the Celtics and the Spurs and Thunder got as far as they did and how their organizations have impacted KU ... to see how the guy who made the biggest shot in the history of KU basketball is world champion in large part because he played well (is impressive).”
Former KU standout Paul Pierce plays for the Boston Celtics, who lost to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals. Former KU assistant coach R.C. Buford is general manager, former KU staff member Gregg Popovich head coach and former KU guard Jacque Vaughn assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs, who reached the Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City, which has KU’s Cole Aldrich and Nick Collison on the roster.
“I’m happy for Mario. I would have been happy for Cole and Nick if the Thunder would have won. I didn’t care one way or another that way,” Self said. “But I’m especially happy for Mario considering how much he impacted the game. He’s kind of emerged as one of the elite players in the NBA.”
Combo guard Chalmers joins KU’s Clyde Lovellette as the two Jayhawks who have won NBA and NCAA titles. The Sporting News reported this week that 44 of 62 NBA championship teams (71 percent of all champs) included at least one player who won an NCAA crown.
Yahoo!Sports reports that those players who have won NCAA/NBA titles, are: Chalmers, Lovellette and Battier plus Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lucius Allen, Derek Anderson, Henry Bibby, Ron Bonham, Brewer, Quinn Buckner, Bob Cousy, Keith Erickson, Tom Gola, Gail Goodrich, Arnie Ferrin, Cliff Hagan, Hamilton, John Havlicek, Magic Johnson, K.C. Jones, Michael Jordan, Alfred Lee, Jerry Lucas, Rodney McCray, Mohammad, Frank Ramsey, Glen Rice, Bill Russell, Larry Siegfried, Terry, Tom Thacker, Isiah Thomas, Billy Thompson, Lou Tsioropoulos, Milt Wagner, Antoine Walker, Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, Corless Williamson and James Worthy.
Heat phenom LeBron James, the MVP of the Finals, did not play college ball. Perennial all-star Dwyane Wade did not win an NCAA title at Marquette.
“It was unbelievable how well the Heat played and how they continually got better throughout the series. I don’t think the Thunder on any night could have beat the Heat last night,” said Self, who watched on TV as Miami clubbed OKC, 121-106, in Game Five. “I thought the Heat were that good, and Mario of course was a huge reason why they played so well.”
Chalmers will be remembered for Game Four, in which he exploded for 25 points in a 104-98 home victory to give Miami a huge 3-1 series lead. He had five points in the final 44.6 seconds, including three free throws in the last :13.
“He had 25, and he made the key plays at game point when LeBron wasn’t in the game (with cramps in crunch time),” Self said. “I thought he was great.”
Self was asked if Chalmers’ emergence figures to help KU in recruiting.
“I hope it does,” he said.
Chalmers won a pair of state titles at Bartlett High in Anchorage, meaning he’s won high school, college and NBA crowns. It is not known how many NBA players have won on all three levels. Just seven players have won NBA and NCAA titles as well as Olympic gold medals. They are: Lovellette, Buckner, Johnson, Jones, Jordan, Lucas and Russell.
“It would feel good,” Chalmers told Foxsportsflorida.com, asked before Thursday’s game what it’d be like to join the NBA/NCAA title club. “I’m sure they’ve got some type of record book or some type of stats for that. It would be good to be mentioned with those guys.”
Asked whether he’s recognized more for his three-point shot vs. Memphis or playing for the Heat, Chalmers said: “If I’m in the Midwest, a lot of people recognize me from my Kansas days. Of course, Miami is East Coast, and it’s all Heat.”
Chalmers fun facts
• The Miami Herald reports that Chalmers in March bought a five-bedroom, six-bath downtown Miami condo from Canadian rapper Drake. The purchase price? $2.6 million.
• Chalmers gets teased by his teammates for wearing Spalding brand shoes. Not everybody knows that Spalding, which makes basketballs, also is in the shoe market. “When you’ve got Nike and Jordan on the team, it’s one of the biggest companies out there,” Chalmers told the Biloxi Sun Herald. “You know they (teammates) are going to say something to me. But Spalding is a good company. It’s something that’s coming up. We’re going to get it going.”
“A couple of the guys (Wade and James) tease him, but they have bigger shoe deals,” said Miami forward Udonis Haslem. “They can tease anybody with as much as money as they make. I’m sure they could tease all of us in here. Together, combined, they still make more money than us.”
Fourth-year pro Chalmers, 26, has completed the first year of a three-year deal that pays $12 million.
• Chalmers has had to handle Heat superstars James and Wade, who have been caught on tape yelling at Chalmers during Finals games.
“I know there’s a better way sometimes to express the way I feel on the floor, but sometimes in the heat of the battle, I feel like he can take it. I know he can take it. That’s why I do it that way,” James told ESPN. “Rio’s one of the toughest guys. He’s got a hard shell, so he doesn’t let much get to him.”
“No matter what, no matter how tough we are on him, he actually thinks he’s the best player on this team. That’s a gift and a curse,” Wade said. “A lot of times Mario doesn’t bring the ball up, and he’s the point guard. Then there’s other times we depend on him to do it so much, and we want him to make plays for us. I’m sure it’s confusing at times. He’s out of rhythm a lot, but he’s a big-game kind of player.”