UCLA’s all-time basketball greats, an embarrassment of riches

I am delighted that UCLA made this year’s Final Four. It gives me the opportunity to review the Bruins’ great basketball history and to select the program’s top players from an embarrassment of riches.

UCLA has won eleven national championships, more than any other school. It won ten of them during a remarkable twelve year run under legendary coach John Wooden. That includes seven consecutive championships from 1967 to 1973. Four of Wooden’s teams were undefeated (1964, 1967, 1972, and 1973).

Those Bruin teams were a joy to behold. They played basketball the way it’s supposed to be played.

I had the privilege of seeing two of coach Wooden’s national championship teams in person while I was at Stanford — the 1972 and 1973 champions. What a thrill.

And what a classy guy Wooden was. When Stanford’s star Claude Terry, a senior, left the game with Stanford hopelessly behind, Wooden walked to the Stanford bench to shake his hand.

UCLA’s history since Wooden departed is impressive, or would be if he hadn’t cast such a long shadow. In this 45-year period, the Bruins have won another NCAA championship and made the Final Four five times. That’s more than any of the other three teams in this year’s Final Four can say.

The number of great players who have passed through Westwood is staggering. But enough of them stand out above the rest to make picking all-time teams (or at least the first few, I had to cheat and name six players to my last all-UCLA team) less difficult than one might imagine. Obviously, the top Wooden-era players have priority because of what they accomplished as a team.

Here are my selections:

First Team:

Walt Hazzard (later Mahdi Abdul-Rahman) (1961-64)

The two first-team guards pick themselves. Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich were the stars of Wooden’s first national championship team which, unlike the last eight, was guard oriented.

Hazzard was twice a first-team all-American. As a senior, he was voted national player of the year by the United States Basketball Writers Association, and was the MVP of the Final Four.

Hazzard had a long NBA career, making one all-star team in a season in which he averaged 24 points per game. Later, he coached UCLA for four years. His teams won an NIT title, a regular PAC-10 season crown, and a PAC-10 tournament.

Hazzard died in 2010.

Gail Goodrich (1962-65)

Goodrich co-starred with Hazzard on the 1964 championship team and then led the Bruins to the crown in 1965. In the 1965 title game against Michigan, he scored 42 points.

Goodrich was an outrageously good shooter. In his last two seasons at UCLA, he averaged 21.5 and 24.9 points per game. As a senior, he shot .525 from the field. Naturally, he was a first-team all-American.

Goodrich continued to light it up as a pro. Six times, he averaged more than 20 points per game in the NBA, and he finished with a scoring average of 18.6

Sidney Wicks (1968-71)

Wicks was UCLA’s top star in the two years between Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. The Bruins won the NCAA championship both years. They lost only three games in those two seasons.

Wicks averaged 18.6 and 21.3 points per game in his junior and senior years. His rebounding averages were 11.9 and 12.8.

He was a first-team all-American both seasons and the USBWA and Sporting News player of the year as a senior. He was also an honor student.

In the national championship game Wicks’ junior year, he went up against Jacksonville’s massive front line, led by the great Artis Gilmore. Wicks dominated the game.

The following season, word got out that at Jacksonville practices, players used a “Wicks stick” to replicate Wicks’ ability to block and alter shots, in anticipation of a rematch (that never occurred). Morgan Wooten had used a broom at DeMatha for this purpose to prepare his 6-6 players to go up against the 7-2 Lew Alcindor in high school.

But here’s the thing — Gilmore was listed at 7-2. Wicks was listed as half a foot shorter at 6-8.

As a pro, Wicks was rookie of the year and an all-star in 1972. He averaged more than 20 points per game in each of his first four NBA season and for his career, averaged 16.8 points to go with 8.7 rebounds.

Bill Walton (1971-74)

Five decades ago, that flakey guy who talks about whatever during broadcasts of PAC-12 games was the best player in college basketball. Arguably, he’s the second best ever to play the sport at that level.

Walton was national player of the year in all three of his college seasons. UCLA went undefeated and won the NCAA championship in the first two of them.

Walton was a model of consistent excellence. His scoring averages during his three years at Westwood were 21.2, 20.7, and 19.3. His rebounding averages were 15.5, 16.9, and 14.7. For his career, he made 65 percent of his field goal attempts — 64 percent in his “worst” season and 66 percent in his best.

In the 1973 Final, Walton scored 44 points. He made 21 of his 22 shots and collected 13 rebounds. This is the best performance ever in an NCAA championship game.

Walton’s defense was elite and his passing unsurpassed by any college big man.

Walton’s pro career was held back by injuries. However, he still managed to play for two NBA champions (Portland 1977 and Boston 1986), win an NBA MVP award, and make two all-star team, two all-NBA teams, and two all-defensive teams.

Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) (1966-69)

Alcindor is the best college basketball player ever, in my opinion. Like Walton, he was a three-time national player of the year. Unlike Walton, he led the Bruins to the national championship in all three of his seasons.

Alcindor averaged 26.4 points per game at UCLA, to go with 15.5 rebounds. He shot .638 for his career.

As a pro, Abdul-Jabbar was arguably the best NBA center of all time. He’s first all time in NBA points scored (but only second at UCLA, behind Don MacLean) and third in rebounds (second at UCLA, behind Walton).

Second Team:

Henry Bibby (1969-72)

Bibby was the starting point guard on three national championship teams. He is one of only four players to have started for three NCAA champions and the only player to do so completely outside the Alcindor era.

As a sophomore and junior, he starred on the two teams between the Alcindor and Walton eras. As a senior, he provided leadership for the sophomore-oriented “Walton gang.” That year, he was named first-team all-American.

My abiding memory of Henry Bibby comes from a game against Stanford his senior year. The Bruins must have been up by around 20 points and Wooden was about to pull Bibby. Yet, there he was, diving full tilt for a loose ball.

Bibby went on to play nine years in the NBA. Later, he coached UCLA’s arch-rivals, USC.

His brother Jim was a major league pitcher. His son Mike won a national championship starring for Arizona.

Reggie Miller (1983-87)

Miller is UCLA’s fourth all-time leading scorer. He averaged 25.9 and 22.3 points per game in his final two seasons, during which time he made 55 percent of his field goal attempts. He also chipped in with 5.4 rebounds per game.

UPI named Miller to its third-team all-American squad in 1986.

Miller was as good a pro as he was a collegiate. He averaged more than 20 points per game six times and, at least until Steph Curry came along, was probably the best three-point shooter the league had ever seen.

Reggie’s sister Cheryl was a legendary women’s basketball player. A brother, Darrell, was a major league catcher.

Marques Johnson (1973-77)

As a sophomore, Johnson was a starter on John Wooden’s last NCAA championship. By his senior year, he was a first-team all-American. That season, he averaged 21.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, while making a remarkable 59 percent of his field goal attempts.

Johnson could play at least three positions (wing guard, small forward, and power forward). His versatility was key to the 1975 championship team because Wooden normally used only six players in important games.

Johnson went on to have a fine pro career, mostly with the Milwaukee Bucks.

One of his sons, Kris Johnson, played for the 1995 UCLA national championship team (see my honorable mention list). This makes the Johnsons the only father-son combination to win titles for the same school.

Keith Wilkes (later Jamaal Wilkes and Jamaal Abdul-Lateef) (1971-74)

Only at UCLA could players the caliber of Marques Johnson and Keith Wilkes not be first-team all-timers. “Smooth as Silk” Wilkes was Bill Walton’s running mate on two national championship teams. Together, they won 88 consecutive games.

Wilkes averaged 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game during his three years at Westwood. He made 51.4 percent of his field goal attempts. Twice, he was a first-team all-American.

In the NBA, Wilkes was rookie-of-the-year in 1974. In his second season, he helped lead the Golden State Warriors to the NBA title. He played for three other NBA championship teams with the Lakers.

Ed O’Bannon (1991-95)

Ed O’Bannon led the Bruins to their only post-Wooden NCAA championship (1995). That season, he averaged 20.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and shot .433 from three-point territory.

O’Bannon was a first-team all-American in 1994 and 1995. He won the Wooden Award as best college player in 1995.

Surprisingly, O’Bannon lasted only two seasons in the NBA.

Later, he became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NBA. The plaintiffs claimed that former college athletes should receive financial compensation for future commercial uses of their image by the NCAA. The suit was successful.

Ed’s brother Charles O’Bannon makes my honorable mention list.

Third Team:

Lucius Allen (1966-68)

Named the greatest Kansas high school basketball player of the 20th century, Allen starred on UCLA’s 1967 and 1968 national championship teams. He averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds those two seasons.

He made the NCAA all-tournament team both years and was a second-team all-American selection in 1968.

Allen was unable to play for the 1969 championship team because Wooden suspended him for violating team rules.

Allen had a successful ten-year NBA career. He played with his UCLA teammate, Alcindor, on the 1974 NBA championship Milwaukee team, for whom he averaged 17.4 points per game. He averaged 13.4 points for his career.

Aaron Afflalo (2004-07)

He was the star of two Final Four teams under coach Ben Howland. In his final season, he averaged 17 points per game. He set the school record for most three-pointers made and converted on 37.5 percent of his three-point attempts.

Defense was the calling card of these Howland teams, and Afflalo was a ferocious defender.

Put it all together, and you have a first-team all-American (in 2007).

Afflalo had a long and successful pro career, during which he averaged 10.4 points per game.

Tracy Murray (1989-91)

Murray is number ten on UCLA’s all-time scoring list. He accomplished this in three years. During the last two of them, he averaged 21.3 points per game and made 52 percent of his field goal attempts. In his last season, he made 50 percent of his three-point tries. He led UCLA to the Elite Eight that season.

Murray had a twelve year NBA career during which he made 39 percent of this three-pointers. There haven’t been many purer shooters than Tracy Murray.

Don MacLean (1988-92)

MacLean, not Alcindor, is the all-time leading scorer for the Bruins (he played one more year, though). The guy was a scoring machine from the get-go, averaging 18.6 points per game as a freshman (and 20.5 for his career).

MacLean could also rebound. He averaged 7.8 boards per game during his career.

As a senior, MacLean was named second-team all-American.

MacLean scored in the NBA, too. His best season was his second, when he averaged 18.2 points per game for Washington, along with 6.2 rebounds.

David Greenwood (1975-1979)

After a fabulous high school career, Greenwood entered UCLA the season after Wooden retired. He was unable to lead the Bruins to glory, but did have an outstanding college career.

He’s the Bruins’ 14th most prolific scorer, and he’s third all time in rebounds.

Greenwood was a first-team all-American as both a junior and a senior. He had a fine 12-year pro career, averaging 10.2 points and 7.9 rebounds.

Fourth Team:

Pooh Richardson (1985-89)

Richardson is hands down the all-time assist leader for the Bruins. He averaged 6.8 of them per game during his career and 7.6 as a senior. He also averaged 15.2 points per game his senior year.

Richardson continued to be an assist machine in the NBA. At the end of his ten year career, he moved to Italy, joining Milan’s team at the request of Kobe Bryant, a co-owner.

Jason Kapono (1999-03)

He’s UCLA’s number three all-time scorer. Kapono averaged 16.5 points per game in his four years as a starter. He made 44.6 percent of his three-point attempts.

Naturally, Kapono was a three-point specialist in the NBA. In his best season, 2006-07, he made 51.4 percent of his attempts from downtown (best in the league). That season, he averaged a career-high 10.9 points per game.

Keith Erickson (1962-65)

An overlooked star on those first two NCAA championship teams, Erickson nonetheless was a key piece. As a senior, he averaged 13 points and nine rebounds per game.

As a pro, Erickson averaged 9.5 points per game during a twelve year NBA career.

A star in volleyball as well, Erickson played in the 1964 Olympics in that sport. Wooden called him the finest athlete he ever coached.

Curtis Rowe (1968-71)

Rowe was Sidney Wicks’ partner at starting forward on the 1970 and 1971 championship teams. He also started on the 1969 team.

As a senior, Rowe averaged 17.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. His shooting percentage was .523, a shade under his career mark.

Rowe played eight years in the NBA, averaging double-figure points per game in six of them.

Richard Washington (1973-76)

Washington played power forward and center for John Wooden’s last championship team. That season, he averaged 16 points and eight rebounds, while making 58 percent of his field goal tries.

The following year, Washington averaged 20 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest. That season, he was named first-team all-American.

He played in the NBA for seven years, averaging just under ten points per game.

Fifth Team:

Tyus Edney (1991-95)

Edney was the point guard on the 1995 championship team. He’s best remembered for his length of the court drive and winning basket with time running out in UCLA’s second-round game that year.

Edney is second all time in assists at UCLA.

Mike Warren (1965-68)

Warren’s best production came in 1966, the year UCLA did not win the championship. He averaged 16.6 points per game that year. After Alcindor arrived, he was more of a role player, but a vital one. For example, he provided 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game for the 1967 champions.

After basketball, Warren became a successful television actor. He’s probably best known for his part in “Hill Street Blues.”

Bryce Alford (2013-17)

He’s number five on the Bruins all-time scoring list. He made just under 40 percent of his career three-point shots and 43 percent of them as a senior.

Bryce is the son of former star Steve Alford, who coached him at UCLA. Bryce currently plays in Portugal.

Toby Bailey (1994-98)

Another starter on the 1995 championship team, Bailey is sixth all time on the Bruins’ scoring list and eighth in assists. As a senior, he averaged 17.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game.

Bailey had a brief NBA career before moving on to Europe. After retiring, he became a sports agent.

Dave Meyers (1972-75)

Meyers was an important reserve on the 1973 championship team and a starter on the 1975 champions, leading that team in scoring and rebounding with 18.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, and posting a .484 field goal percentage.

Meyers had a successful NBA career with Milwaukee. His sister Anne Meyers Drysdale was a women’s superstar basketball player and the wife of the late, great Don Drysdale.

Don Barksdale (1946-47)

Barksdale was an all-American at UCLA, the first African-American player ever to be so honored. He was also the first African-American to play on a U.S. Olympic basketball team and to play in an NBA all-star game.

He is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Honorable mention:

Dick Linthicum (1930(?)-32)
Willie Naulls (1953-56)
Walt Torrence (1956-59)
John Green (1959-62)
Fred Slaughter (1961-64)
John Vallely (1968-70)
Steve Patterson (1968-71)
Larry Farmer (1970-73)
Swen Nader (1971-73)
Roy Hamilton (1975-79)
Kiki Vandeweghe (1976-80)
Rod Foster (1979-83)
Darren Daye (1979-83)
Kenny Fields (1980-84)
Trevor Wilson (1986-90)
Darrick Martin (1988-92)
Shon Tarver (1990-94)
Charles O’Bannon (1993-97)
Kris Johnson (1994-98)
J.R. Henderson (1994-98)
Baron Davis (1997-99)
Earl Watson (1997-01)
Dan Gadzuric (1999-02)
Dijon Thompson (2001-05)
Josh Shipp (2004-09)
Darren Collison (2005-09)
Russell Westbrook (2006-08)*
Kevin Love (2007-08)
Norman Powell (2011-15)
Jordan Adams (2012-14)
Thomas Welsh (2014-18)
Aaron Holliday (2015-18)
Lonzo Ball (2016-17)
Johnny Juzang (2020-present)

*Inadvertently omitted from original list