If you were ever asked, out of the blue, to re-edit a great director’s movie from the full original footage, you might feel the dread responsibility of being called to trim down something sublime that you hadn't helped to grow. There is no reason I can think of that that hypothetical situation would ever drop onto a private citizen trying to enjoy his coffee and eggs, but I believe that is what "hypothetical" means in the original Latin: dumb scenario.
It didn’t feel quite like that—but it felt something like that—when the editor sent an article pitch asking for the “biggest” NBA success stories in the history of UCLA basketball. If it wasn’t the first thought, it was the second: How many apologies will the article have to include to be considered legitimate from a standpoint of consideration. Because there are a lot of former Bruins who played a long time in the NBA to consider.
In the end, the list was capped at 10—that round number with the mystical property of satisfying everyone and no one simultaneously—giving it a right-proper balance. For the 10 included, far in excess of 20 did not make the cut—a cold reality few or any of the players likely encountered while they were playing.
But it was difficult. Only North Carolina—Chapel Hill—has produced more NBA players (81) than UCLA (80). With three more first-round picks for the Bruins coming this year (Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine) and an unknown number out of North Carolina, the lead likely could change hands. But the Tar Heels lead UCLA in another professional category, and that is championships won by their former athletes. Again it is close, with UNC marking 29 and the Bruins three lengths back at 26.
This evaluation would not meet scientific rigor. Some of the names were so obvious they made the list without a second thought. Others got in through regular channels: significant contributions to championship teams, superb statistics over a respectable number of seasons, election to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, potential future election to the HOF, numbers that could be considered HOF worthy and lastly, playing jerseys retired by former teams.
Before getting to the article, it is the time to say it comes with apologies to a few former Bruins. From the old days: Lucius Allen, Walt Hazzard, Henry Bibby, Mark Eaton, Swen Nater, Kiki Vandeweghe, Don MacLean, Pooh Richardson and Jack Haley. From more recent vintages, many of them still with their opportunity ahead of them to make the list: Tracy Murray, Jeloni McCoy, Ryan Hollins, Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison, Trevor Ariza, Matt Barnes, Earl Watson, Jrue Holiday, Jordan Farmar, Dan Gadzuric, Jason Kapono and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
Now, it is time to inspect the 10.