I have been wanting to write this article for a long time.
And in light of the sub-par season that the UCLA Bruins basketball program has had this year (though they have been playing better as of late), this should serve as something to cheer up members of Bruin Nation.
Considering the illustrious history that this hoops program in Westwood has had, with its 11 national championships, including ten titles in a 12-year span and seven in a row from 1967-1973, it's inevitable that an all-time UCLA basketball team (according to me) be announced.
So let's get going and begin with the starters...
POINT GUARD: WALT HAZZARD. A two-time All American in the early 1960s, he ran the point on the Bruins' first title team in 1964, winning player of the year honors that season. Not only that, he won a gold medal for the U.S. team at the 1964 Olympics, enjoyed a ten-year career in the NBA, and was UCLA's coach for four years in the '80s.
GUARD: GAIL GOODRICH. Was Hazzard's backcourt partner for the Bruins' undefeated season in '64, and then led the team to a second championship with 42 points in the 1965 NCAA Final, leading the team in scoring both years. He had a stellar 14-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, having his jersey number retired by them along with UCLA.
FORWARD: SIDNEY WICKS. Another one of the many All-Americans during the glory years, helping lead the Bruins to three straight titles, leading the team in scoring and rebounding in his last two years, and becoming co-player of the year in his senior season. He also had a solid NBA career and was one of Hazzard's assistant coaches in Westwood.
FORWARD: MARQUES JOHNSON. A leader on UCLA's 1975 national championship squad, he was the first recipient of the John R. Wooden award—college basketball's answer to the Heisman Trophy—in 1977, had a very good career in the NBA, and is an outstanding TV commentator for basketball.
Picking the all-time starter at center is absolutely impossible, as the Bruins had two equally-brilliant legends at the position.
Since I truly feel that neither player can be left out in favor of the other, I've taken the unique stance of naming both of them on this list:
BILL WALTON : Had more rebounds than anyone in UCLA history and is the all-time single-season leader in that category, too. He was a three-time consensus All-American who had an epic NCAA final against Memphis in 1973 when he scored 44 points on 21-of-22 shooting, and he won two NBA rings during his pro career.
If he had been healthier and avoided all the injuries that he sustained, he would have been even better than he was.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR : If I had to pick the single greatest player in the history of UCLA basketball, this man would be it.
Going by the name of Lew Alcindor at the time, he was a three-time consensus All-American who led the Bruins to three national championships between 1967 and 1969. He's the all-time Bruin leader in scoring average, and he was so dominant on the court that the NCAA instituted a no-dunk rule for a time, all because of him.
However, his exploits in college pale in comparison to what he did afterward; six titles in the NBA, including five with Magic Johnson and the legendary "Showtime" Lakers in the 1980s in the course of a 20-year pro career, using his lethal skyhook to decimate opponents.
And most significantly, he scored more points than anyone in the history of the sport, breaking Wilt Chamberlain's record in 1984.
If doesn't justify him as the Bruins' greatest player, nothing does.
Incidentally, all of the above players have one thing in common: Their jersey numbers have all been retired. And rightfully so.
Now that the starters have been named, I'll commence with the rest of the all-time roster:
Keith Erickson, guard: one of the stalwarts on the Bruins' early championship teams.
Mike Warren, guard: another standout from the Jabbar (Alcindor) years, was the point guard on those dominant squads. Made a big name for himself as an actor after his playing days with his role on TV's "Hill Street Blues" in the '80s.
Tyus Edney, guard: one of the leaders of UCLA's last championship team in 1995. Running the show at the point, his baseline-to-baseline run and last second layup to beat Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Tournament that year puts him on this all-time roster by itself.
Ed O'Bannon , forward: The leader (along with Edney) of that 32-2 team that won UCLA's 11th NCAA hoops title, he was the John R. Wooden Award winner that year as well as winning several other player of the year titles. He led the Bruins in scoring and rebounding his last two years, was a top-ten pick in the NBA draft, and had his No. 31 jersey retired in 1996.
Don Maclean, forward: UCLA's all-time leading scorer who was the man for the Bruins in the late '80s and early 1990s. He led them to an elite eight appearance in 1992 and is currently doing very well as an analyst for Fox Sports and on UCLA's radio broadcasts.
Reggie Miller, forward: Though the Bruins weren't world beaters during his time in Westwood, as they won but one Pac-10 championship and one NIT title (a step down considering their previous NCAA success), this man has had perhaps the best post-Bruin NBA career outside of Abdul-Jabbar's; he's the all-time leading scorer for the Indiana Pacers and made more three-point baskets than anyone in NBA history.
Considering that, he was arguably the best UCLA basketball player in the '80s; it would be a sin to omit him from this list.
And along with his sister Cheryl, he was part of what is definitely the best sibling combination in the history of basketball.
Don Barksdale, forward: If there could be a basketball equivalent to Jackie Robinson, this man would be it.
A standout for the Bruins during the World War II years, he was the first African-American to make All-American status, the first black player to make the NBA All-Star team, and the first black man to play on the Olympic basketball team.
That alone merits his inclusion onto this team.
Willie Naulls, center: "Wonderful" Willie, as he called himself, was a star in the mid-1950s for a Bruin squad that was still building and feeling its oats. He provided an identity for a UCLA team that needed one at that time, as they had to play in the tiny Men's Gym, also called the "B.O. Barn" for the way it smelled when it was cramped with fans.
As for choosing a coach for this all-time team, only a complete idiot and a moronic fool would not automatically pick this man: JOHN ROBERT WOODEN.
Winning 620 games in his Bruin tenure, he was the architect of UCLA's ten national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row.
By doing what he did, he didn't just put UCLA basketball on the map, he put UCLA on the map, turning it from being seen as a nice little college before he arrived to being seen as a top-notch, all-around national institution by the time he retired in 1975.
I'm not going to go over all of his achievements, or his iconic "Pyramid Of Success" that's been like a Bible to countless numbers of people, so I'll just state this about the man:
He was the greatest coach in the history of sports. Period.
I don't care who anyone else names, Wooden was better.
And I'm sure that millions would agree with those statements.
Making up a team such as this was difficult, to say the least.
Many great basketball players donned UCLA's blue and gold-trimmed uniform over the years; if I listed all of them on the all-time Bruin team, I would be writing for three days.
So if I have left out anyone that people feel should be included in here, let me apologize in advance.
In the meantime, I hope this roster of all-time UCLA Basketball Bruins brings back some good memories and recollections of glory days and helps the members of Bruin Nation look forward to good times in the future.