UCLA Basketball: Ranking 5 Best Players from the 1990s
This was not an easy list to make and, by necessity, a lot of worthy players have been left off. If your hero is not here I encourage you to make another list of your own.
With a pantheon of some of college basketball's greatest players, and more NBA draft selections than any other school in America—North Carolina and Kentucky are second and third, respectively—there was an embarrassment of choices.
To put some sort of criteria down that might make elimination a simpler job, I considered basketball as it ought to be considered—as a team game. That made three of the selections fairly easy as it constituted the core of a national championship team in 1995.
Of the two others rounding out the list, one is surprisingly obscure given his incredible accomplishments, and the other is an all-out superstar that would have delegitimized this effort had he been left off.
One thing that stuck out in putting this ranking together: Every player was recruited out of Los Angeles County, UCLA's backyard.
5. Don MacLean 1988-1992
The obscure one.
It was difficult to put a giant, semi-mullet'd man on this list when there are so many other artistic choices, but the fact is that Don MacLean tore it up at UCLA.
A four-year starter, MaClean left school not only as UCLA's all-time leading scorer—I SAID UCLA's ALL-TIME LEADING SCORER—at 2,608 points, but the Pac-10's all-time leader, too, beating out Arizona's Sean Elliot.
For his career, MacLean shot 53 percent from the floor, 86 percent from the free-throw line and averaged 20.5 points per game.
A highly skilled giant at a full 6'10'' and 235 pounds, MacLean had a deft, rangy shooting touch and an effective set of moves in the low blocks. He enthusiastically ran the floor when he sniffed points at the end of the sprint, making him a perpetual scoring machine.
MacLean's senior team finished 28-5, 16-2 in the conference, winning the Pac-10 outright. A No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Bruins lost in the regional final to Indiana, 106-79.
He played nine seasons in the NBA and won the league's Most Improved Player Award in 1994. He is now a play-by-play man for both UCLA television and radio broadcasts.
4. Tyus Edney 1991-1995
From Long Beach, Calif., Tyus Edney is one of a stable of Southern California thoroughbreds UCLA harnessed on its way to the 1995 national title.
Edney saved the Bruins' season against Mizzou in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He sprinted the length of the floor in 4.8 seconds, planting his foot and shifting directions with a beautiful behind-the-back dribble before burying a running bank shot at the buzzer, putting UCLA ahead 75-74.
When the Bruins won the championship four games later without ever having been truly threatened, Edney's desperate scamper took its place in tournament lore as one of its supremely magical moments. It also sent that squad into the select constellation of stars reserved for teams of destiny.
Edney led the Bruins in assists three consecutive seasons from 1992-1995, averaging 6.75 as a senior. Today he remains second all time in assists at 652, third in steals at 224 and holds the all-time single-game steals record at 11.
After three moderately successful years in the NBA, and 12 superlative seasons in the Euroleague, Edney came back to UCLA to take the job of head of basketball operations under Ben Howland.
3. Toby Bailey 1994-1998
Another Los Angeles kid—Loyola High School on Venice Boulevard—who made good at the local university, Toby Bailey was the freshman hero of the 1995 national championship game.
His reverse dunk in the middle of UCLA's crushing second-half run over Arkansas became one of the Final Four's iconic moments. That night, Bailey scored 26 points to go with nine rebounds on college basketball's biggest stage.
Bailey started four seasons for the Bruins, a rare achievement in Westwood—or anywhere else, for that matter. He finished his career fifth all time in total scoring and was three times All-Pac-10 First Team.
A natural shot-maker, Bailey was streaky from beyond the arc but lethal in the mid-range and open floor. He was a game-changer slashing to the rim in the half court en route to a catalog of vicious dunks.
Still a supremely stylish player, this powerful slam during a super-intense 2010 German-league game shows Bailey never stopped representing UCLA basketball in the best way possible.
Whether it is in the United States or one of the far-flung countries he has played in over 12 seasons of professional basketball, Bailey will put you on a poster, stamped: Made in Los Angeles.
2. Baron Davis 1997-1999
An immediate and flat-out superstar, Baron Davis came to UCLA in 1997 as a high school Parade All- American, McDonald's All-American and Gatorade National Player of the Year.
To see him live was to witness the embodiment of explosive athleticism. Exceptionally fast end-to-end, the 6'3'' Davis launched off the hardwood as if the last place his foot hit had been spring-loaded to send him skyward.
A spectacular open-floor dunker and masterful ball-handler with an aficionado's feel for the floor, Davis led UCLA in assists his sophomore season at more than five dimes a game.
Despite tearing an ACL in the NCAA tournament at the close of his freshman season, he returned the next year apparently unchecked in his stratospheric development. He left Westwood after his sophomore season averaging 14 points and five assists per game.
Davis was selected third overall in the 1999 NBA Draft and spent 13 years in the league. During his time at Pauley Pavilion, the proud son of Santa Monica was one of the three most electric basketball players in America—amateur or professional.
This blurry highlight video does not do him justice, but it is the best the internet has to remember the college years by.
1. Ed O'Bannon 1991-1995
The leader of UCLA's 1995 national championship team, O'Bannon was the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, a consensus All-American, the Pac-10 co-Player of the Year and winner of the school's namesake John R. Wooden Award as national player of the year.
O'Bannon came to UCLA in 1991 as a California state high school champion, McDonald's All-American and Basketball Times national high school player of the year.
A long-limbed, 6'8'' smooth-shooting southpaw, O'Bannon was a powerful force in both the half and full courts. He drove the 1995 team, his senior season, to that national championship, playing outstanding game after outstanding game to advance in the most pressure-packed, do-or-die tournament in American sport.
O'Bannon scored 30 points and collected 17 rebounds in the national title game victory over defending champ Arkansas at the now-demolished Kingdome in Seattle, Wash. It was UCLA's "Return to Glory" as the Sports Illustrated cover proclaimed.
Over the duration of his senior season, he averaged 20 points and eight rebounds a game. UCLA finished the year 32-2 and 17-1 in the Pac-10.
O'Bannon can be found today attempting in all earnestness to dismantle a great deal of the financial framework on which the NCAA exists.