Ed O'Bannon is my all time favorite Bruin. Yes there are others like Robinson, Alcindor, Walton, Beban, McNowne, Easley, who have their places in the Mt. Rushmore of Westwood, but Ed is the one for me. I have already paid my tribute to the King of Westwood. So the long time readers of BN know how I feel about the guy. And Ed loves us. He loves UCLA basketball. He was leading the eight clap in this past final four:
So he will always be one of us. Why I am bringing up on a Saturday evening? Well found this great write up from Rivals on No. 31. Here are some choice grafs. on Ed describing his experience in Westwood:
"There was no second place for us. The only reason why we played that season was to win a national championship. Most teams in the country go in wanting to win their league or get an NCAA bid or make it past the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. For us, it was all about winning the national championship. There wasn't any second place. That's kind of how we entered the season. It's tough to be in an environment at UCLA and not win. We just felt we'd put in our time. We'd worked hard all offseason and during the season. Why can't we win? We're as good as every team who was winning the championship. Why not us? We kind of said, 'Hey, it's our turn. We've got to go out and take it.'
"We were pretty confident (against Missouri). I don't think you can not be confident in a situation like that and win. We felt we deserved to win the game. Even though we didn't play as well as we wanted to, we'd put in our work. We'd put in all our preparation. We felt we deserved to win the game. We weren't going to stop until we did. Our emotions were very high. We were extremely positive. We felt we could win it. There was no doubt in our minds that we were going to win the game � absolutely no doubt. Guys came to the bench during the timeout (before Edney's layup) wanting the ball. Guys who weren't in the game wanted to check into the game. We were excited. We knew we were going to win. It was just a matter of who was going to shoot the ball. It was an unbelievable experience. You see it all the time on TV. To actually be a part of one of the best games ever played in the NCAA Tournament was for me personally and for the team a dream come true. When they show (memorable tournament) games every year, they show our game. It's a great feeling, to be a part of it.
"We weren't going to lose anymore (after escaping Missouri). In fact, we felt none of our games were even going to be in question. We felt like we were going to win every game and win them pretty decisively. It's easy to say 11 years later, but quite honestly, that's how we felt.
"It felt good (to win the title). It felt great. I had a pretty good game, but everybody did. Charles played well and played extremely good defense. We had a freshman � Toby Bailey � who played out of his mind. George (Zidek), our center, he held (Arkansas star) Corliss Williamson to a good game, not a great game. It was fortunate for us and helped us win. The only thing I feel bad about � I wouldn't say it's a regret because I had nothing to do with it � but our team leader, Tyus Edney, didn't get a chance to play in that game. He's the one who got us there. But at the same time, we were happy with the win. Yeah, my numbers were good, but everybody's numbers were good. We were clicking on all cylinders that night. (Edney) sprained his wrist pretty badly in the semifinals against Oklahoma State. He tried to play and played like three minutes in the beginning of the game, but he couldn't go anymore. Cameron Dollar came in and did an excellent job of holding the team together.
"It's indescribable, to be honest with you. During that time, you kind of start thinking of all the work you put in leading up to the game. I'm talking about years of work. You think of how many people said you weren't going to be able to do it, how many teams you beat. All that kind of comes to a head with about a minute or so left in the game. The emotions start. Your adrenaline just pumps like never before. It's kind of a surreal experience. You almost feel like it's a dream. I'll tell you what, there is no drug in the world that can make you feel the way we felt. There's not enough money to buy that feeling. It's hard to explain, but it's a great experience. I'll never forget it. Hopefully, my kids and everyone else who works hard at their profession can feel the feelings I had that night.''
May be years from now some other Bruin alum (who is a student now) will be paying same tribute to King Arron. He can continue the tradition of basketball Kings of Westwood. Arron (and Jordan) needs to remember life will take them to interesting places but the values they are learning now will stay with them for rest of their lives. Okay that's it. I will not be imploring them to come back. Whatever they decide to do after it is all said and done (June 18th), I will be supporting them. Anyways that is for another post some day. Here is to Arron, Jordan or some one else bringing back similar memories that No. 31 brought us in Westwood.