Michigan State University has long been a breeding ground for exceptional basketball talent. With a rich history dating back to the early 20th century, the Spartans have produced some of the most outstanding players to ever grace the hardwood.
- Magic Johnson: Years Played: 1977-1979 Magic Johnson’s time at Michigan State University was nothing short of magical. As a freshman, he led the Spartans to the 1979 NCAA championship, where he was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Johnson’s versatility, court vision, and exceptional basketball IQ were unparalleled. He left Michigan State after his sophomore year and embarked on a legendary NBA career, winning five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and earning three league MVP titles.
- Earvin “E.J.” Johnson Jr.: Years Played: 1977-1980 Johnson Jr., the son of Magic Johnson, had big shoes to fill but left an indelible mark at Michigan State. A versatile and athletic forward, E.J. showcased his scoring prowess and rebounding ability during his time with the Spartans. He played professionally overseas after college, making a name for himself in various European leagues.
- Scott Skiles: Years Played: 1982-1986 Known for his exceptional shooting and leadership skills, Skiles had a remarkable career at Michigan State. He finished his collegiate career as the all-time leader in assists and was named an All-American in 1986. Skiles went on to have a solid NBA career, playing for various teams and earning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 1991.
- Shawn Respert: Years Played: 1990-1995 Respert was a scoring machine during his time at Michigan State. He became the all-time leading scorer in Spartan history, with a career total of 2,531 points. Respert’s sharpshooting skills earned him the Big Ten Player of the Year award in 1995. He played in the NBA for several seasons, although his career was hampered by health issues.
- Mateen Cleaves: Years Played: 1996-2000 Cleaves was the heart and soul of the Michigan State basketball team during his tenure. As a point guard, he led the Spartans to the 2000 NCAA championship, winning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. Cleaves’ tenacity, leadership, and clutch performances made him an unforgettable figure. He had a brief NBA career but found success playing professionally overseas.
- Morris Peterson: Years Played: 1995-2000 Peterson, affectionately known as “Mo Pete,” was a key contributor to Michigan State’s success in the late ’90s. He was part of the championship-winning team in 2000 and went on to become an All-American. Peterson enjoyed a productive NBA career, playing for multiple teams and earning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 2006.
- Zach Randolph: Years Played: 2000-2001 Randolph had a standout season during his freshman year at Michigan State. The powerful forward displayed exceptional scoring ability and rebounding prowess, earning him the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award. Randolph left for the NBA after his freshman year and enjoyed a highly successful professional career, becoming a two-time NBA All-Star.
- Draymond Green: Years Played: 2008-2012 Known for his versatility and tenacious defense, Green left an indelible mark on Michigan State basketball. He led the Spartans to the 2012 NCAA Final Four and was named the Big Ten Player of the Year the same season. Green’s NBA career with the Golden State Warriors has been nothing short of remarkable, with multiple All-Star selections and three NBA championships.
- Gary Harris: Years Played: 2012-2014 Harris made an immediate impact during his freshman season at Michigan State. His scoring ability, coupled with his defensive skills, garnered him numerous accolades, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Harris declared for the NBA Draft after his sophomore year and has had a solid professional career, currently playing for the Denver Nuggets.
- Denzel Valentine: Years Played: 2012-2016 Valentine’s versatility and all-around skills made him a force to be reckoned with at Michigan State. He was named the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2016, averaging a near triple-double for the season. Valentine has had a stint in the NBA, playing for the Chicago Bulls.
Michigan State University has witnessed the rise of numerous extraordinary basketball players, each leaving an indelible mark on the program’s storied history. From Magic Johnson’s championship-winning heroics to Draymond Green’s relentless defense, these players have represented the university with unwavering pride and showcased their exceptional talent at the highest level. As they transitioned to the NBA, many of them continued to excel, cementing their place among the game’s elite. The legacy of these players serves as a testament to the greatness that emanates from Michigan State University and ensures its enduring presence in the world of basketball.