Each year, seemingly on cue, legacies are forged and subsequently cemented into the historical narrative of the college basketball universe courtesy of the annual madness and pageantry that is the NCAA tournament.
With the 75th installment of the sport’s signature showcase a little more than one month away, the folks at the worldwide leader in sports, ESPN, compiled a list of the tournament’s top 75 players since its debut in 1939.
Featuring icons and luminaries such as Bill Walton, Bill Russell, Lew Alcindor and Magic Johnson, among others, ESPN’s rankings also included two former Marquette greats who played a starring role on team’s who earned two of the school’s three Final Four appearances: Butch Lee and Dwyane Wade.
Lee, the Warriors’ leading scorer (19.6 ppg) en route to their lone national championship in 1977, was ranked No. 52 thanks to averaging 16.9 points per game throughout his NCAA tournament career, including a 19-point effort against Dean Smith’s North Carolina Tar Heels in the 1977 title game.
Selected in the first round of the 1978 NBA draft (10th overall) by the Atlanta Hawks, Lee departed Marquette as a two-time First Team All-American selection as well as being named the Most Outstanding Player of the 1977 NCAA tournament.
For his career, Lee, who won an NBA title with the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers in 1980, ranks fifth all time in Marquette history in points scored (1,735).
The 6’4”, 212-pound Wade, currently in his tenth season with the Miami Heat, meanwhile, was ranked 65th on ESPN’s list.
During his two years in the Brew City, Wade amassed 1,281 points (headlined by a single-season record 710 as a junior during the 2002-03 campaign), was tabbed as the 2003 Conference USA Player of the Year and put forth arguably the greatest single-game performance in school history.
After scoring 18 points in his inaugural postseason contest in 2002 (in which the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles were upset by Tulsa in the tournament’s opening round), Wade’s showing throughout the 2003 Big Dance was nothing short of sublime.
Upon averaging 19.0 points in Marquette’s run to the Elite Eight, the Robbins, Ill., native proved to be a one-man wrecking crew against the Kentucky Wildcats—the tournament’s overall top seed—to the tune of 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
Although the blue and gold were eventually trounced by National Runner Up Kansas in the Final Four, the legend of “D-Wade” was spawned during the aforementioned three-week stretch.
Both Lee (15) and Wade (3) have had their numbers retired by the university.