In 2012, we introduced a mathematical ranking system to put an end to the age-old question of how all of the greats in Wildcat history stack up against each other. Okay, okay, that’s a question that will never be answered, but at least this adds more fuel to the fire. Since then, and going forward, we will update this list every summer, recalculating the rankings based off the past years’ stats, awards, and achievements. For the detail-oriented, you can read how the formula is calculated at the end of the article, but the quick version is that stats at Arizona are the most important aspect, while awards, NCAA tourney success, and NBA career are smaller pieces.
It’s been an exciting year for Arizona basketball, starting with another great season from Sean Miller and his team, through a magical NBA championship run for Steve Kerr and Andre Iguodala, and finishing up this past week with Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson adding themselves to the long list of Arizona draft picks. All of this resulted in quite a bit of movement on the list, but let’s start with the three new-comers, bringing the list to a total of 65.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson, and T.J. McConnell made their debut and sit together in slots 59-61 respectively. The performance of these three was a huge part of our success the last two years, and it is reflected in their accomplishments. All three made the All-Pac-12 Team, while Stanley also took conference Freshman of the Year honors. Additionally, Johnson was named a 3rd team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, while McConnell received honorable mention All-American status from the Associated Press. In the tournament both Rondae and T.J. were named to the West Region All-Regional Team. While all three are relatively low on the list at this point, they are poised to take huge strides with a successful NBA career.
Speaking of successful NBA careers, Andre Iguodala just set the bar for all Wildcats to strive for. His stunning NBA Finals MVP was a tremendous accomplishment, and he entered into household name status with great humility and character as a truly positive reflection on the Arizona Basketball family. He rose up five spots to number 23, which is extremely high for someone with a relatively forgettable time spent in Tucson. He has certainly gone on to great things since.
Andre wasn’t alone in benefitting from the Warriors title. Head Coach Steve Kerr further cemented his place among Wildcat greats by continuing his trend of being incredibly successful in everything he does. This NBA Championship was enough to slide him past Miles Simon into the number 6 spot.
We did see some changes even higher up the list however. Jason Terry’s jersey had been conspicuously absent from the McKale rafters due to some infractions at the end of his time in Tucson. Kudos to AD Greg Byrne for allowing common sense to prevail and letting Terry get the recognition he deserved. This honor vaulted him past Mike Bibby and Jason Gardner into the #2 spot behind Sean Elliott. While there will always be debate about who belongs at #2, Jason Terry’s national championship, national POY honor, and long successful NBA career with an NBA title to boot makes him as good a candidate as any.
The biggest riser from last year was Aaron Gordon who moved up 11 spots to 44. This had less to do with his rookie year in the NBA (which was unfortunately limited due to injury) than the fact that his 3rd Team All-American award from the Sporting News was accidentally omitted from last year’s calculation. In any case, it is all settled now, and he will continue rising up the list as he grows as an NBA player.
Other small movements included Solomon Hill moving up two spots thanks to a great season with the Pacers that saw him move into a starting lineup role, and Jerryd Bayless moving up one spot after another solid season, this time as the backup point guard for the Bucks.
We also saw two spot swaps with Hassan Adams moving past Sean Rooks and Ray Owes moving past Larry Demic. These were due to the nature of the calculation. As Jason Terry further moves the bar upwards for what a successful NBA career means, it slightly devalues the NBA careers of everyone below.
That does it for this year’s movement. Below you will find the complete list along with the criteria and weightings. See you next year!
The formula breaks down players’ greatness into 4 areas: stats at Arizona, awards at Arizona, NCAA tournament success, and NBA success. Each category is given a weighting (40%, 25%, 17.5%, 17.5% respectively). The greatest player for each category is given the full amount, and every other player is scaled down from there. For example, the greatest Wildcat of all time based on stats at Arizona is Sean Elliott, meaning he gets 40 points for that category. If another player is determined to have ¾ of the stats, they would receive 30 points. This means that the theoretical highest possible score a player can get is 100, if they were the greatest Wildcat of all time in all 4 categories. A player qualifies for the list with a score of 20.
Here are the components that make up each category:
Stats at Arizona (40%)
- Points scored at Arizona
- Best statistical season at Arizona (PPG + RPG + APG)
Awards at Arizona (25%)
- National Player of the Year
- All-America selection
- Conference Player of the Year
- All-Conference selection
- Freshman of the Year
- Pac 12 Hall of Honor selection
- Jersey Retirement
NCAA Tournament Success (17.5%)
- Final Four appearances, Title Game appearances, National Championship winner
- Final Four Most Outstanding Player and All Final Four team selection
- Regional Most Outstanding Player and All Regional team selection
NBA Success (17.5%)
- Points scored in the NBA or games played in the NBA
- NBA Draft Pick
- NBA All Star Selection
- NBA Champion