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Know Your KU History: Bill Bridges

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Everyone around Jayhawk nation knows the names Chamberlain, Manning, Self, and Chalmers. The Know Your KU History series digs deep into KU’s illustrious basketball history to give you the story of Bill Bridges.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

You can make quite the name for yourself in professional basketball as a great rebounder. Just ask a guy like Dennis Rodman. He was a rebounding machine despite his relatively small stature. Before Dennis Rodman, there was Bill Bridges, a defensive and rebounding specialist from the University of Kansas who went on to have 13 very productive years in the NBA.

If you’ve never heard of Bill Bridges, you’re probably not alone. The six foot five forward from Hobbs, New Mexico came along just after Wilt Chamberlain left Kansas and despite the fact that he was All-Big Eight in 1959, 1960, and 1961, and even though he was a first team All-American in his senior season of 1961, he had never really gotten the recognition around the Kansas basketball community as he has deserved. Despite only playing for three years because of the freshman eligibility rules in place at the time, he still ranks fourth on the all time list at KU in rebounds with 1,081 and first ever in rebounds in conference games with 580. While dominating the boards, he also managed to put up 13.2 points per game in his three years at KU. It shouldn’t have taken the school 43 years to retire the number of a guy with these kinds of numbers. But that’s what happened. Bill’s number 32 was officially raised to the rafters in 2004.

Bill Bridges’ stats are comparable to some modern day Jayhawks who also spent three years in Lawrence. The fan base looks favorably upon Cole Aldrich and Thomas Robinson so we’ll compare the stats of these three Jayhawks. Sure, this comparison may not be totally fair considering that both Aldrich and Robinson were used minimally during their freshman seasons and that may skew their stats a little in the wrong direction so we’ll only use the final two years for Aldrich and Robinson. Aldrich played 71 total games during his sophomore and junior seasons; Robinson played 72. Bridges played a total of 78 games in three seasons, so for a statistical analysis, these players match up pretty well as far as games played goes. Plus, on the all time scoring charts at KU, Aldrich sits at #48, Bridges is #50, and Robinson is #51.

Bridges

Aldrich

Robinson

Height

6’5"

6’11"

6’9"

Games

78

71

72

PPG

13.2

13.1

12.7

RPG

13.9

10.5

9.2

FG %

40.1

58.0

55.3

BPG

NA

3.1

0.8

As you can see from the above chart, Bridges stacks up admirably to Aldrich. Aldrich was a center and still pulled down a full 3.5 boards fewer than Bridges did despite standing a half foot taller and in theory being in a better position to grab a rebound more frequently. Granted, players are bigger now, so in comparison to other players of his era, Bridges 6’5" frame would have been closer to Robinson’s 6’9" in today’s game. All things considered, Bridges compares especially well to Robinson. He scored slightly more although for a much lower percentage (he took more shots away from the rim than Robinson did who looked like he always wanted to destroy the rim) but the rebounding difference is substantial. In that category, Bridges outrebounds T-Rob by a hefty 4.7 rebounds per game. Pretty crazy.


Bill Bridges went on to have a solid NBA career where he averaged 11.9 points and 11.9 rebounds per game over the course of his 13 professional seasons. He was also voted into the NBA All-Star game on three occasions (1967, 1968, 1970) and went out as an NBA champion, winning the 1975 title with the Warriors and retiring following the season. Pretty good for a guy whose own school took 43 years to recognize how great his was, don’t you think?