BYU basketball: Looking back at Danny Ainge and the seven other Cougars who played for an ABA or NBA title

Published: May 31, 2018

While no former Cougars are suiting up as the Cleveland Cavaliers face off with the Golden State Warriors when the NBA Finals start on Thursday, BYU players do have a long history of playing on the biggest stage of pro basketball. In fact, eight former Cougars stars have played in 18 finals in the NBA or ABA.

Here is a look back at the BYU players who played in the NBA or ABA championship and how they performed.

Danny Ainge

It will come as no shock that the best Cougar of all-time was also the player who made the most trips to the finals during his playing career. Ainge made it to the NBA Finals on six occasions (four times with the Boston Celtics, plus one each with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Phoenix Suns), and took home the title with Boston in 1984 and 1986.

One of his best championship performances came with the Celtics during a game 5 win in 1987 against the Los Angeles Lakers when he totaled 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the floor, including a blistering 5-for-6 from 3-point land. he also chipped in with six assists, four boards and a pair of steals in 39 minutes.

Jim Eakins

Eakins secured a pair of championships during his 10-year ABA career. His first came as a rookie with the Oakland Oaks in 1969 with the other coming as part of the New York Americans in 1976.

One of his best showings in the finals came in the series clinching win over the Denver Nuggets in 1976, when he registered a monster double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 34 minutes.

John Fairchild

Fairchild made two trips to the finals during his four-year career in the NBA and ABA. The first came as a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1966 where he didn’t play any games. The other appearance came in the 1969 season as a member of the Indiana Pacers who fell in five games to the Oakland Oaks.

His best outing came in a game 4 loss to the Oaks when he led the Pacers with 18 points while connecting on four of the team’s five 3-point shots.

Mel Hutchins

Hutchins made it to back-to-back NBA Finals while playing with the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1955 and ’56. While he didn’t come home with a ring, he did produce some huge games against hall-of-fame opponents.

His most impressive finals appearance came in game 3 in 1955 against the Syracuse Nationals when he led the Pistons to a 96-89 win with a game-high 23 points.

Greg Kite

Kite made it to the NBA Finals four years in a row in the mid-eighties as of the Boston Celtics and took home a pair of rings.

One of his best showings came in game 1 of the 1985 Finals loss to the Lakers. In a 34-point win, he totaled seven points on 3-for-5 shooting from the field and 1-for-2 at the foul line while collecting three rebounds in 10 minutes.

Dick Nemelka

Nemelka took home an ABA championship during his only season in the ABA when the Utah Stars outlasted the Kentucky Colonels in seven games. He played in three of the games in the 1971 series and registered a point, three rebounds and an assist.

Craig Raymond

Raymond delivered some absolutely massive performances during his only trip to the ABA Finals in 1970. In the 4-2 series loss to the Indiana Pacers as a member of the Los Angeles Stars, he totaled four double-doubles, including an 11-point, 18-rebound, seven-assist outing as the Stars won game 3, 109-106. He followed that up two games later with 23 points and 12 rebounds in a 117-113 victory.

Raymond also had a huge night in a 109-93 game 1 loss when he totaled a game-high 23 rebounds while adding 16 points in 40 minutes of work.

Fred Roberts

Roberts made one finals appearance after joining former BYU teammates, Ainge and Kite, with the Celtics in 1986-87. Roberts saw limited minutes in the 4-2 series loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, but did have one big game. In a 141-122 game 2 defeat, he totaled 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the floor and 4-for-6 from the free-throw line. He also managed four rebounds, two assists and a steal in just 11 minutes on the floor.

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