Leadership

9 NBA all-stars who played in March Madness

March Madness is officially underway. This year, Americans are expected to wager more than $10 billion on the basketball tournament (though most of it will be illegal), according to the American Gaming Association. Notable people are even getting in the action, including former President Barack Obama who tweeted his bracket last Thursday.

The NCAA tournament also has a way of throwing lesser known athletes into the spotlight. Just last week No. 16 ranked team UMBC toppled No. 1 seed UVA in a historic win that put the focus on a university that's better known for its academics.

Additionally, former players who made March Madness appearances have since gone on to play professional basketball. Here are nine players who led their college teams in the annual tournament and have gone on to have highly successful NBA careers:

1. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse University

Now with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Anthony played one season at Syracuse University from 2002-2003. During this time, he led the team to its first NCAA championship title and earned the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Award. Shortly after, he declared himself eligible for the 2003 NBA Draft, where he was selected by the Denver Nuggets. Today, he's a 10-time NBA All-Star.

2. Joakim Noah, University of Florida

The New York Knicks' center played for the Florida Gators' basketball team from 2003-2004. During his sophomore and junior year he helped lead the Gators' to two back-to-back national championships. In 2007, the Chicago Bulls selected Noah as their ninth overall pick.

3. John Wall, University of Kentucky

Wall played one year at the University of Kentucky from 2009-2010. The team made it to the March Madness regional final before losing to West Virginia 73-66. In 2010, he was drafted by the Washington Wizards.

4. Blake Griffin, University of Oklahoma

Griffin was one of the most decorated players at Oklahoma. His sophomore year, he was ranked No. 1 in rebounding and double-doubles and took home all six of the national player of the year awards. In 2009, he made his March Madness appearance with the Oklahoma Sooners but the team ultimately lost to North Carolina in the regional final 72-60. That same year, he announced his NBA draft eligibility and was selected as the first overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers. He now plays for the Detroit Pistons.

5. Derrick Rose, University of Memphis

Rose played for one season at the University of Memphis. During the 2008 NCAA basketball tournament, the team swept past No. 2 Texas and No. 1 UCLA to advance to the national championship game. However, the Memphis Tigers fell to the Kansas Jayhawks in overtime, 75-68. The Chicago Bulls selected him as their first overall pick in 2008 and is currently signed to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

6.  Dwyane Wade, Marquette University

During the 2002-2003 season, Wade led Marquette University to its first final four appearance since 1977. The team ultimately lost to the Kansas Jayhawks, 94-61. In 2003, the Miami Heat selected Wade as their fifth overall pick.

7.  Kevin Love, UCLA

The Cleveland Cavaliers player guided the UCLA Bruins to a No. 1 seed during the 2008 NCAA basketball tournament. The team made it to the Final Four but lost to Memphis 78-63. In 2008, he was drafted fifth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies.

8.  Russell Westbrook, UCLA

The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard played for UCLA from 2006-2008. The Bruins advanced to the final four both years of Westbrook's seasons, however, they failed to win the overall championship. OKC drafted Westbrook in 2008.

9. Steph Curry, Davidson College

Curry played for the Davidson Wildcats from 2006-2009. In 2009, he led the Wildcats to the regional finals but they were defeated by Kansas 59-57.

Curry was taken by the Golden State Warriors during the 2009 NBA draft as a seventh overall pick and has since led the organization to two NBA championship wins.