A Little Know-Howe: Some NBA and NFL Greats that Have Squared off Against West Virginia University

By Brad Howe on May 06, 2017 from A Little Know-Howe via Connect-Bridgeport.com

The biggest story in sports this week was the amazing performance turned in by Boston Celtics guard, Isaiah Thomas on Tuesday.
Thomas put up 53 points in a playoff win over the Washington Wizards. 29 of those points came in the fourth quarter and overtime. 
The 53 points were the second most points scored in Celtics playoff history. 
 
If I stopped right there, you would have enough to realize why it was the performance of the week. 
 
But, there's more to the story. Just two days prior to lighting up the Wizards, Thomas had a front tooth knocked out in game one of the series. 
 
In the days between games one and two, Thomas had surgery to try and re-attach the tooth and fix some other teeth that had been jarred loose as well. 
 
You know how you feel after a trip to the dentist. Playing against the best basketball players in the world in a highly meaningful game wouldn't be next up on my wish list after dental surgery. 
 
Makes the 53 points even more impressive, doesn't it?
 
Well, the story doesn't end there. Tuesday's game fell on what would have been Thomas' sister's 23rd birthday. Chyna Thomas was tragically killed less than a month ago.  It was a gutty performance for the ages for Thomas. 
 
I have obviously heard of Thomas prior to this week, but only (or so I thought) in the context of being one of the NBA stars of the moment. When I hear Isaiah Thomas' name, I think Boston Celtics. 
 
I'll admit, it took someone mentioning it to me before I realized West Virginia faced Thomas when he was at the University of Washington. WVU beat the Huskies 69-56 in the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2010 NCAA tournament. Thomas only had 13 points on 5-11 shooting. He had four turnovers in the game.
 
Once my friend brought this up, I did remember watching Thomas. I probably wouldn't have remembered his name, but I did recall the small point guard from Washington that had all kinds of trouble when Devin Ebanks matched up on him. Thomas was a really good college player, but at just 5'8" he really struggled to get shots off against 6'9" Devin Ebanks who guarded him for much of the game.
 
It got me thinking. Thomas may be one of the best players many fans don't remember WVU playing against. 
 
You probably remember Carmelo Anthony in the Coliseum as a freshman (the year he led Syracuse to a national title). 
 
You most likely remember Allen Iverson playing against WVU. And Doug Flutie or Michael Vick in football.
 
West Virginia has played some unbelievable individual opponents over the years.
 
On our radio show Wednesday night, we opened up the phones, our text line and Twitter. We encouraged people to send in votes on the best player WVU has faced that many fans may not remember until they hear the name. Much like I was with Isaiah Thomas.  
 
The response was overwhelming. The answers were great. 
 
Russell Westbrook - the recently named NBA MVP. His UCLA team lost to West Virginia 70-65 in 2007.  Westbrook was just 1-11 from the floor and had just four points. 
 
Steph Curry - the two-time NBA MVP, led Davidson to a 68-65 win over WVU in December of 2008 at Madison Square Garden. Curry put up 27 points and 10 assists against West Virginia that night.
 
On the football side, here was a sneaky good opponent: Reggie Wayne from Miami. Wayne was really good in college, but those Miami teams were loaded with bigger stars than he was at the time.
 
Wayne caught seven passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns against WVU in 2000. Impressive. But not as impressive as what he went on to do in the NFL. 
 
Wayne is seventh all-time in NFL history in receptions and ninth all-time in receiving yards. 
 
He was good at Miami, but became a Hall of Fame caliber player in the NFL. 
 
My favorite answer of the night came in from two people on Twitter nearly simultaneously. Both answered with Dwayne Johnson. The Rock. (or as he also refers to himself "The Great One.")
 
Dwayne Johnson played football at Miami in the early '90s and then went on to become one of the biggest starts in WWE history. He now is arguably the biggest movie star in Hollywood. 
 
An out of the box vote, but exactly what we were looking for on the show. The Rock was a WVU football opponent that you may not have remembered, but chances are good you know who he is now. 
 
Those are just a few of the names. I could give you 50 more. The response was so great, we decided to do another show this summer on the topic. 
 
Who comes to your mind? Who's the most overlooked, best player West Virginia has ever played in football or basketball?
 
Leave a comment with your answer or send me a tweet @BradHowe07. 
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Washington's Isaiah Thomas against the defense of Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks, while Russell Westbrook goes up against Jamie Smalligan in the second photo and battles against Darris Nichols in the Coliseum. All photos courtesy of WVU Sports Communications.


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