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Badger basketball legend Michael Finley to speak to graduates at UW winter commencement

Michael Finley on Feb. 20, 2022, when his number was retired at halftime of the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Kohl Center in Madison. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

Michael Finley, the assistant general manager for the Dallas Mavericks, will be the winter commencement speaker at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the university announced on Monday. A basketball legend at UW, Finley is a two-time NBA All-Star who left UW as the all-time leading scorer in Wisconsin men’s basketball history.

“During my time in the NBA, I played for the Suns, the Spurs, the Mavericks and the Celtics, but one of my favorite jerseys of all time is the one I wore for the Wisconsin Badgers back in college,” Finley said in a video announcement. Holding up his UW commencement speaker gown, he added, “And I’m extremely honored to wear this version as your commencement speaker for the winter ceremony on December 17. Join me at 10 a.m. at the Kohl Center.”

Wisconsin retired Finley’s No. 24 jersey last year. He’s also a high-ranking sports executive, a Hollywood film producer, and the founder of a nonprofit organization that helps children and families reach their full potential.

“It will be such an honor to welcome Michael Finley back to campus, a place where he brought so much joy to Badger fans and left such an impressive legacy,” says Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin in a statement. “Mr. Finley is one of our most accomplished alums, on and off the courts. I know he will have a lot to share with this year’s graduates.”

Born and raised in Maywood, Illinois, Finley played for the Badgers from 1991-95 and helped lead the Badgers to the 1994 NCAA tournament. At the time, he set UW–Madison’s all-time leading scoring record with 2,147 points and left UW as the 12th leading scorer in Big Ten history, according to a press release from UW.

Finley was selected in the first round of the 1995 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns and was named to the First Team All-Rookie Team. The following year, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, where he played from 1996-2005 and was a two-time All-Star (2000, 2001). Finley later played for the San Antonio Spurs — winning an NBA championship in 2007 —and the Boston Celtics. He played a total of 15 seasons in the NBA, retiring in 2010.

Finley will give the charge to graduates at UW–Madison’s 2023 winter commencement on Sunday, Dec. 17, 10 a.m. at the Kohl Center, 601 W. Dayton St. Commencement speakers are chosen by the senior class officers in consultation with the Chancellor’s Office.