It’s hard, really really hard deciding where to start with Mike Bibby’s time at Arizona. The man won the National Championship as a huge underdog, debuted an iconic pair of shoes, and logged some impressive minutes for the Wildcats. Bibby’s impact on his squad was meaningful on two levels. First, as a point guard it was his job to be the on-court leader of the team. Second, he brought that sauce; the sneakerhead in Mike drove him to stand out (with his kicks) and push on-court style to new heights. So ask yourself, which of the following impresses you the most?
A) Upseting UNC to open the season and upset Kentucky to close out the year
B) Balling in an iconic Nike silhouette before anyone else
C) Dropping 19 points for the ‘Chip… NCAA & conference 1st teams honors
Completing any of these feats would be ‘legend’ material and Bibby did all three in only two seasons. Lets break them down individually.
A) The successes of Bibby and the Wildcats enjoyed during his freshman season were unexpected. Sure, the team was nationally ranked but no one could have imagined they were true contenders. During Tip-off Week, Arizona stunned the UNC Tarheels led by McDonald’s All-Americans Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, and Ed Cota. Arizona proved they were capable of competing with the nation’s best (and capable of losing to conference rivals like UCLA). Their tournament run was one of the most difficult in NCAA history:
- Paul Pierce’s number 1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks in the Sweet 16… SERVED!
- Vince Carter’s 4th ranked Tar Heels in the Final 4… canned… AGAIN!
- Derek Anderson’s 5th ranked Kentucky Wildcats… handed an L in Overtime!
B) Kick game too clean, period. Most sneakerheads know the story of Mike and the Nike Foamposite. Basically, he debuted the shoes during the tournament before Penny rocked them in the NBA. Fun side note, according to Bibby, Arizona received the shoes before the Sweet-16 but he was the only player brave enough to rock ’em. Mike credits one of the OG sneakerheads virtues; he wanted to wear the Foamposite because no one else had ’em yet. A college player will never debut a signature shoe again; the rarity of the situation has no equal. During the same interview (via Slam) teammate, Jason Terry, stated that Bibby always wanted to be the freshest and couldn’t stand wearing team editions so he’d go buy his own (do I dare say Bibby started this tradition?) off campus. Shoes like the Jordan 12 and Air Adjust Force could be seen during Bibby’s two seasons at Arizona but pulling out the Foampsoites first defiantly defines his NCAA sneaker career.
C) His numbers may not be as jarring as his contemporaries but they were good enough for Bibby to be selected second overall in the 1998 NBA draft, so they’re good enough for us at Sneaker History. Over the course of Arizona’s championship season Mike averaged 13.5 points, 2.2 steals and 5.2 assists per game. His smart, well rounded, play won him the NCAA tournament’s most outstanding player award too. The following season Bibby increased his production across the board and won the title of Pac-10 Player of the Year.
Just like last week’s winner, Kemba Walker, Mike Bibby had a complete college career at the University of Arizona (link to last week’s GOAT). We hope you enjoy our ‘3 point’ rating system for determining our NCAA GOATs. Next week’s GOAT might not have a National Championship under his belt so tune in next week to see who it is!
* statistics via Sports Reference.com
** cover image via Arizona Athletics