PGU is counting down our 25 greatest Wildcats of all time. To see the honorable mention and how the rankings are formulated, click here.
#25: Hassan Adams (35.08)
#24: Sean Rooks (35.29)
#23: Anthony Cook (35.74)
#22: Al Fleming (37.31)
#21: Chase Budinger (37.52)
#20: Loren Woods (37.57)
#19: Michael Wright (37.85)
#18: Jud Buechler (38.07)
#17: Salim Stoudamire (39.15)
#16: Derrick Williams (40.31)
#15: Bob Elliott (41.86)
#14: Channing Frye (42.13)
#13: Richard Jefferson (43.86)
#12: Luke Walton (45.15)
#11: Gilbert Arenas (45.44)
#10: Chris Mills (45.98)
#9: Michael Dickerson (46.10)
#8: Khalid Reeves (50.40)
#7: Miles Simon (51.93)
#6: Steve Kerr (52.02)
#5 : Damon Stoudamire (62.41)
#4: Jason Gardner (63.34)
#3: Jason Terry (63.65)
#2: Mike Bibby
Time as a Wildcat
In the minds of Arizona fans, Mike Bibby will always be remembered as that kid who led his home-state team to its first national championship, even as he is entering his 15th season in the NBA.
Yes, it has actually been that long since the Shadow Mountain High School standout took Arizona to unprecedented heights — as a freshman.
Bibby, the son of an NBAer and the nephew of a professional baseball player, arrived in Tucson with high expectations, as is the case with any McDonald’s All-American who plays lead guard at PGU.
In his first game of his collegiate career, Bibby was asked to start against No. 7 ranked North Carolina. While Arizona was a pre-season top 25 team, nobody predicted them to have a championship caliber squad. At least, not until they saw what Bibby did to the Tarheels, scoring 22 points and dishing out five assists in a double digit point win for Arizona.
Bibby continued to put out extraordinary performances for a player of any class, but particularly for a freshman. He had three double-doubles in Arizona’s first eight games.
The Cats did not have an ideal conference season (relatively speaking) but Bibby continued to provide Arizona with consistency from the point guard position, something that would be even more crucial come NCAA Tournament time.
In Arizona’s opening game of the Big Dance, Bibby provided some late baskets to fight off a South Alabama team poised to upset Lute Olson’s program in the first round once again. Against the College of Charleston in the next round, Bibby went just 4-11 from the field but made 7-8 free throws, helping seal another close win.
Then against No. 1 seed Kansas, the 6’2 point guard scored a team high 21 points along with five assists. Although Bibby’s performance in the national championship game in rightfully most well remembered, what he did against the overwhelming national favorite Jayhawks was just as important.
In the Elite Eight matchup against Providence, Bibby once again contributed greatly, scoring 17 points. And in the semi-final versus the same North Carolina team he tormented at the beginning of the season, Bibby again hit the 20 point mark and sent the Tarheels and Dean Smith packing.
Finally, on the biggest stage of all, the 18 year old helped Arizona offensively with 19 points, six from free throws. His nine rebounds, four assists, and three steals were also all instrumental in the Cats’ overtime win to earn the national championship.
Bibby became the first freshman in college basketball history to lead his team to a national championship.
While Bibby’s team was unable to defend their title the next March, he had a remarkable sophomore season that ended any chance of him returning to Arizona as a junior.
He put together a number of astounding games, from his 13 assists in the season opener against Morgan State to his 20 points, eight assists and four steals against Kentucky.
Altogether, he averaged 17.2 points, 5.7 assists, and 2.4 steals per game. Darn right that earned him First Team All-America and Pac-10 Player of the Year honors.
Bibby’s career at Arizona ended on an unsatisfying note — a 3-15 shooting night against Utah in the Elite Eight. But one poor postseason game certainly didn’t take anything away from his time in Tucson, as short as it was.
Career After Arizona
Bibby was the 2nd overall pick in the 1998 Draft, selected by Vancouver. In his three seasons with the now Memphis Grizzlies, he saw his scoring average steadily increase to 13.2 to 15.9 points per game while he continued to put up ridiculous assists numbers.
It was in Sacramento where Bibby found the most success. He became known for his clutch playoff performances and helped the Kings reach the postseason in five out of his six full seasons with the team.
In February of 2008, he was traded to Atlanta. Although Bibby suffered from a number of nagging injuries, he continued to start nightly and put up respectable numbers.
Bibby played parts of the 2010-11 season with three teams, the Hawks, Wizards, and the Heat. In Miami, he started every playoff game, including the Finals.
This past season, Bibby played 39 games for the New York Knicks and started one of their five playoff games.
Bibby is and always will be one of the most beloved Wildcats due to the fact that he chose to play for his in-state school and lead them to their first National Championship.
He is also one of just four Arizona players to have their number retired and his accolades include National Freshman of the Year and First Team All-America honors as a sophomore.