Virginia knows basketball.
Whether born and bred in Old Dominion or famed in the hallowed halls of the commonwealth’s university arenas, Virginia is home to champions. And it’s not just an NCAA title.
Virginia basketball is also home to famous NBA, WNBA – and, yes, even Olympic – championship winners.
Ahead of March Madness, which will crown the next group of college champions, we look at some famous Virginia basketball title winners.
Dawn Staley: University of Virginia, 1989-1992
Dawn Staley is without a doubt the most legendary basketball player to hail from Virginia, either by birth or college career.
The talented college basketball standout played point guard and averaged at least 14 points per game in all four seasons with the University of Virginia Cavaliers. She guided her team to an NCAA title game appearance, was the National Player of the Year twice, and held the NCAA record for steals when she graduated.
Her career after Virginia was golden – literally. Staley won four Olympic gold medals with the US Olympic women’s basketball team as a player and coach:
- As a player: Atlanta in 1996, Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004
- As a coach: Tokyo in 2020
But that’s not all. In 2019, Staley won an NCAA national championship as the coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Moses Malone: Petersburg, Virginia native
The late Moses Malone was born and raised in Petersburg, Virginia.
He burst onto the scene at Petersburg High School, where he led his team to back-to-back state championships. He was talented enough to do what no other notable player before him had done: jump from high school to professional basketball. The Utah Stars drafted him in the 1974 ABA draft.
Malone spent two seasons in the ABA before moving to the NBA, where he spent six seasons with the Houston Rockets before heading to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1982.
In his first season with the team, Malone led the Sixers to the NBA Finals. Facing Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the 76ers obliterated the Lakers in a 4-0 sweep. Malone led the 76ers in scoring and rebounds in all four games. He posted a 24-point, 23-rebound performance in the final game of the series.
Alonzo Mourning: Chesapeake, Virginia
Alonzo Mourning was arguably the most talented high school basketball player in Virginia history. He led Indian River High School to 51 straight victories and a state championship in 1987.
After his senior season, Mourning was named the high school player of the year by Gatorade, Naismith, Parade, and USA Today.
Mourning went on to play college ball at Georgetown University, where he posted dominant seasons all four years. In his senior season, he averaged 21.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 5.0 blocks a game. Georgetown went to the Elite Eight in Mourning’s freshman year but lost in the second round the following three seasons.
The Charlotte Hornets selected Mourning with the No. 2 draft pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. Mourning found success with the Hornets but rejected a contract extension in 1995.
The Hornets then traded him to the Miami Heat, where he played from 1995-2002, then again from 2005-2008. In 2006, Mourning helped the Heat win its first NBA championship and the first and only ring of Mourning’s career.
Mamadi Diakite: University of Virginia, 2016-2020
Mamadi Diakite isn’t nearly as famous as the other players on the list, but he holds the distinction of being the only basketball player to win an NCAA, G League and NBA championship.
In 2019, he became an integral part of the UVA Cavaliers’ championship run in the tourney. His buzzer-beating shot at the end of the Cavs’ Elite Eight matchup against Purdue was the stuff of legend.
Diakite went undrafted in 2020, but the Milwaukee Bucks signed him to a two-way deal after the draft. Diakite bounced between the Bucks and the G League, where he won a championship with the Lakeland Magic.
Diakite’s luck continued into the 2020-2021 NBA season when he earned a roster spot and played a small role in the Bucks winning the NBA Championship.