Damon Hack takes us for a little drive down the memory lane:
Tucked between Lot 6 and Drake Stadium, just a stone's throw from the Bruin Bear, sits the greatest venue in all of sports: Pauley Pavilion. It is where John Wooden used to roll up his game program and where Lew Alcindor honed his sky hook. It is where I slept out for games as a freshman and where I did radio play-by-play as a senior.
It is where I shot 0-for-11 in an intramural championship (I still don't know how we won) and where I saw my mother's smiling face on my graduation day.
It is where Bill Walton, at a jersey retirement ceremony, got caught up in a 10-minute reverie on the beauty of the UCLA campus.
It is also where I saw Shaquille O'Neal in person for the very first time.
We were both in an elevator inside Pauley, riding down. We were both in gym shorts, T-shirts and hi-tops. We were both looking for a game.
He was somewhat taller.
We rode to the bottom floor, him a college standout at LSU on his way to becoming an NBA force, me a hoops washout who failed to walk-on at UCLA on his way to a career in journalism. The court was filled with NBA players and college ones, stretching out, shooting around and awaiting instructions.
This was Magic Johnson's summer game and one of the many basketball courts in Los Angeles where he worked out after retiring from the NBA in 1991. There must have been 20 of us on the court that day, our sneakers squeaking beneath Wooden's championship banners. Magic. Shaq. Cheryl Miller. Rodney Zimmerman, a former Mr. Colorado basketball.
Actually I remember Zimm (for depressing reasons). His missing of free throws right before the end of regulation against Michigan's Fab-5 during 1992 NCAA tourney, is burned into my memory. Seriously though Rodney was a great guy and good student. I remember him letting him borrow notes from my history class when he had to miss them for those conference away games. Hope he is doing well wherever he is now.
I never ran into Shaq, but I do remember running into Magic (and George Lynch/Sam Perkins ... the Carolina grads who played for the Lakers) on their way to Pauley. Actually I am sure there were so many of us who remembered running into Magic. Magic was always as gracious and full of that huge smile he projects in public.
As for rest of the article ... make sure to read the rest of it. Brought back some great memories for those of us who spent 4 or 5 glory years in Westwood (during when we never lost to Southern Cal).