An NBA champion is now a name associated with former WSU big man Aron Baynes. With Klay Thompson’s rise to stardom, Baynes is sometimes forgotten, but that will change among Cougar faithful as Baynes celebrates being a part of the San Antonio Spurs championship team.
Baynes and teammate Patty Mills join Luc Longley and Andrew Gaze as the only players from Australia with an NBA title. As the series progressed, I began to wonder what other former Cougar greats have won a championship in not just the NBA, but the NFL and MLB as well.
Dating all the way back to 1934, the WSU football program has produced ten NFL champion players in their history. Those ten players include Jason David, Mike Wilson, Allan Kennedy, Erik Howard, and Eason Ramson who join WSU Athletic Hall of Famers Mel Hein, Mark Rypien, Drew Bledsoe, Keith Lincoln, and Glen Edwards as champions of football.
The first player to win a championship was Mel Hein, who won titles in 1934 and 1938 with the New York Giants. Keith Lincoln won the AFL Championship game in 1963 winning MVP honors after rushing for 206 yards and a touchdown, while adding 123 receiving yards and a touchdown as well.
Mark Rypien won MVP in Super Bowl XXVI leading the Washington Redskins over the Buffalo Bills throwing for 292 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Drew Bledsoe is another name that pops out on the list after his New England Patriots lost in Super Bowl XXXI to the Green Bay Packers. Bledsoe won a ring in Super Bowl XXXVI after Tom Brady took over his job after Bledsoe suffered an injury at the beginning of the regular season.
Jason David is the most recent Cougar to win a ring, doing so with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. Mike Wilson has won the most rings, winning four with the San Francisco 49ers during the 1980‘s.
The Cougar baseball team has five players who have gone on to win a World Series title. The qualifications were that these five players played a role in the postseason and the World Series for their respective teams.
Ron Cey of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gene Conley of the Milwaukee Braves, Tom Niedenfuer of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Doug Sisk of the New York Mets and perhaps most notably, John Olerud of the Toronto Blue Jays all won championships.
The first title belongs to Gene Conley in 1957 when his Braves beat the New York Yankees. This wasn’t the only title Conley won, but more on that later. Olerud perhaps played the biggest role of all the champions hitting.267 over the course of his two World Series titles with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993. Olerud with those two rings has the most World Series rings than any other Cougar baseball player.
Cougar basketball has produced the least amount of champions, but that doesn’t come as a surprise as roster sizes are much less in basketball than in the other two sports. This makes Baynes’s feat that much more impressive. He joined Gene Conley (yes the same Gene Conley who won a World Series) as the only other Cougar basketball athlete to win a championship in professional basketball.
Conley is one of only two athletes in history to win titles in two of the four major professional sports. Otto Graham won a title in the National Basketball League for the Rochester Royals while also winning multiple NFL Championships.
Cougar fans can hope that one day Conley and Baynes will be joined by Klay Thompson. Thompson’s Golden State Warriors are a young and talented team poised to make a run at a championship of their own. Until then Cougar fans, enjoy the championship for Baynes, because as we’ve learned, championships for Cougar athletes don’t come around often.