Bill Bridges may not be one of the marquee names of the historic Kansas basketball program, but he left his mark in more ways than most people may realize.
A native of Hobbs, New Mexico, Bridges entered the program as a walk-on following the departure of legend Wilt Chamberlain.
Although he may not be a household name like Chamberlain, his numbers suggest he is one of Kansas’ elites.
Bridges only played three seasons due to freshmen eligibility rules in place at the time, but during that span he accumulated a whopping 1,081 rebounds, good for fourth-best in program history.
In his first year with the team, Bridges led Kansas in rebounding and was second in scoring.
Bridges received All-Big Eight Conference honors in three consecutive seasons. He was the captain his senior season, averaged 16.1 points per game and 14.1 rebounds per game and was recognized as a first team All-American.
One of Bridges' greatest accomplishments is being the very first Jayhawk to reach 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career, despite only playing in 78 career games. Only three other players (Danny Manning, Raef LaFrentz and Nick Collison) have reached such a milestone. Bridges’ collegiate career rebounding average of 13.9 ranks second in program history, behind Chamberlain.
Following his college career, Bridges started in the American Basketball League, playing for the Kansas City Steers. During his tenure in the ABL, he led the league in rebounding and was named All-ABL before the league folded. He was then selected by the St. Louis Hawks in the third round of the NBA draft.
Standing only 6-foot-6, Bridges was a tremendous athlete and rebounder who went on to have a successful NBA career.
After starting with the Hawks, Bridges would also play for the Philadelphia 76ers, the Los Angeles Lakers and finish with the Golden State Warriors, winning an NBA title with them in 1975.
During his NBA career, Bridges was recognized as an All-Star three times (1967, 1968 and 1970) and All-Defensive Second Team twice (1969 and 1970). He averaged a double-double in nine straight seasons from 1964 to 1973. Bridges would finish his career with 11,012 points and 11,054 rebounds. His double-double average in college (16.1 points per game and 14.1 rebounds per game) and as a pro (11.9 points per game and 11.9 rebounds per game) are a testament to the consistency Bridges brought to the court.
In recognition of the rebounding talent Bridges possessed during his career, the Bill Bridges Rebounding Award is presented annually to the leading rebounder for Kansas.
Bridges' No. 32 was raised to the rafters on Dec. 9, 2004. He was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
— Edited by Erin Brock