Chalmers was the 2008 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player on Kansas’ NCAA National Championship team, but is most widely known for his game-tying three-pointer in the title game in KU’s 75-68 overtime win against Memphis.
“Mario definitely deserves to have his jersey hung,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “He was the most outstanding player in a 2008 Final Four, which featured four number one seeds. He was as clutch of a player as we’ve ever had here. He was a guy that seemed like the bigger the stage, the brighter he shined. He had an orneriness and toughness that a lot people didn’t see because they saw the smile. He was an assassin on the court.”
Chalmers’ lists of accolades go much deeper than the aforementioned. The Anchorage, Alaska, native was the 2007 co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore and an All-Big 12 Second Team selection during his junior year. He appeared on the league’s all-conference teams all three seasons he was a Jayhawk, including every Big 12 All-Defensive squad.
Besides his 2008 Final Four MOP, he was named to the Big 12 Championship All-Tournament team in 2007 and 2008, the second of which was bestowed on him after he scored a career-high 30 points against Texas in the title game.
Statistically, Chalmers led the Big 12 in steals with 97 in 2007 and 97 again in 2008, which are Kansas single-season records. His 89 steals in 2006 are a KU freshman record and his 283 steals from 2006-08 are second on the school’s career chart list, trailing only Darnell Valentine’s 336 from 1978-81. His 1,341 three-year Kansas point total rank 27th on the KU all-time scoring list and he also is among the school career records in three-pointers made (7th, 180), three-pointers attempted (10th, 430) and assists (14th, 420).
During Chalmers’ three seasons at Kansas, the Jayhawks were 95-16 (85.6 percent) with three Big 12 regular-season titles, three Big 12 postseason championships, two NCAA Elite Eight appearances, one Final Four and one NCAA National Championship.
“Mario cares about winning,” Self said. “Points are great and steals are great and he was the best stealer of the ball we’ve ever had here, but he cares about winning. Guys that play here understand that winning trumps everything and he understood that. Brandon (Rush) understood that, Shady (Darrell Arthur), Sherron (Collins), Sasha (Kaun), Darnell (Jackson), Russell (Robinson), they all understood that. That is what made that (2008) team so cool. There were games when Mario would take four shots in a game and I’d say, ‘shoot the ball’ and he’d say ‘Why? Everybody else is making shots.’ It was such a fun team to be around, but he was clutch. Everybody throughout his tenure here would ask me who’s our go-to guy and in our players’ minds there was never a doubt who our go-to guy was. There are not many guys out there, regardless of the school, that have held that distinction. Mario will be remembered for the shot but I will remember him more for being a winner.”
Selected 34th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Chalmers was later traded to the Miami Heat. A two-time NBA Finals competitor, he joined elite company when his Miami Heat team won the 2012 NBA title. Chalmers joined former KU great Clyde Lovellette in becoming only the second Jayhawk to win both an NCAA National Championship and an NBA title. Like Chalmers, Lovellette, who was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in November 2012, was a Most Outstanding Player (MOP) when KU won the 1952 NCAA Tournament. He later won three NBA titles with the Minneapolis Lakers in 1954 and the Boston Celtics in 1963 and 1964.
“I’m proud of the career he has had since he left here,” Self said. “Being a world champion and a national champion, there’s not too many people that could have that distinction. He was an absolute treat to coach. He had great teammates and they all liked each other. It was such a fun time to be around. We’re all so proud of what he accomplished.”
Chalmers becomes the second Jayhawk in the Bill Self era to have his jersey retired. Former KU consensus All-America honoree Wayne Simien, who played at Kansas from 2002-05, had his No. 23 jersey retired during the 2010-11 season.
Becoming a near-yearly tradition in Lawrence, ESPN College Gameday will originate from Allen Fieldhouse for the fifth time in the eight-year history of the show.
— KU Sports Information —