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ASU's 50 best professional athletes: No. 24 Lionel Hollins

Former NBA player and coach Lionel Hollins checks in at No. 24 in our list of the 50 best professional athletes to attend Arizona State.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Although he's better known for his coaching career at the moment, Lionel Hollins was a key player on a championship team and checks in at No. 24 in our countdown of ASU's 50 best professional athletes.

The Portland Trail Blazers selected Hollins with the sixth pick in the 1975 NBA Draft, and Hollins was named to the NBA All-Rookie team that year. The next season, he helped engine the Portland team that beat the Philadelphia 76ers in six games to win the NBA title.

A hard-nosed, defensive-minded point guard, Hollins twice earned NBA All-Defensive Team honors (1978, 1979). In 1978, he averaged 15.9 points and nearly two steals per game, good enough to warrant an All-Star bid.

After his four-year stint in Portland, the North Las Vegas-native bounced around the NBA but never again reached the heights he did with Portland. Following a strong 10-year career, Hollins retired and went into coaching.

Coincidentally, his coaching career began with an assistant job at Arizona State where he earned All-American and All-Pac-10 honors as a player. Hollins served as an assistant for several teams before landing his first head coaching gig with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2009.

There, Hollins thrived. In the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, Hollins led Memphis to its highest winning percentage in franchise history (41-25, 62.1 percent). The following season, the Grizzlies won a franchise-record 56 games and an earned an appearance in the Western Conference Finals.

That season, Hollins' defense held opponents to an NBA-low 89.3 points per game featuring NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol.

Hollins' contract wasn't renewed in Memphis, but he remains the winningest coach in franchise history. In the summer of 2014, Hollins was hired as the Brooklyn Nets head coach and led them to the playoffs in his first season. He was relieved of head coaching duties in 2016.