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Update On One Of The Kings Of Westwood: Ed O'Bannon SHINING In Real Life

We just had an awesome graduation weekend in Westwood (and there was the winning of banner number 15). If you want to get a sense of how it all went read some of our posts and fanshots from the weekend here, here, and here. Coach Howland didn't hide his enthusiasm celebrating the graduation of JS, DC, and MR:

I'm out in front of Pauley high-fiving 2009 graduates. What a great class. Josh and Mike are about to walk. Another beautiful day in L.A.

Well, every day is a beautiful day in Westwood.

Anyway as we had been talking about our recent graduates and with the NBA draft night looming this week, Dave Sheinin, a staff writer for the Washington Post wrote a very timely and interesting article on Ed O'Bannon (HT bruinhoo). For the long time readers on Bruins Nation, you guys know how we all feel about Ed O. In our eyes he will always be one the Kings Of Westwood. For those of us who were lucky enough to attend UCLA in the early 90s, we have an eternal emotional bond with Ed O (and the O'Bannon family in general) we can't really put in words (although I have tried hopelessly to encapsulate it before). So, perhaps you will understand how I was getting goosebumps when I was reading about what Ed O has been up to his current life.

We have already read stories about Ed O now living out in Henderson, Nevada, working very hard in his current professional career as car salesman. What we didn't know was the difficult transition Ed O made from his professional basketball career that never panned out to living his current life to a profession, which he might have not dreamt out of college (or when he was a kid). But guess what? Just like Ed O shined when he was in Westwood, he is doing just fine and making all of us proud.

The article is very long and I urge all of you to read it. I will share some of the parts that stuck out to me. I was struck by Ed O's recounting of how he felt as an LA kid when he was drafted by the New Jersey Nets:

In a way, by quitting the NBA he was merely fulfilling the destiny that, in hindsight, appeared unavoidable to him from the very day he was drafted. That spring day in Toronto in 1995, with his girlfriend (now his wife) sitting beside him, this L.A.-born, L.A.-raised and L.A.-forever kid watched the cameras swoop in on each prospect just before NBA Commissioner David Stern announced their names, and, as the Nets' turn approached with the ninth pick, prayed they didn't descend upon him.

But they did.

"I'd had a pretty good workout with [the Nets], and I said to myself, 'Watch it be my luck -- I'll go from UCLA to New Jersey,' " O'Bannon says. "And sure enough, the cameras come and focus on me just as New Jersey's pick is about to be called. And I'm just like, 'I can't believe I'm going there.' [...]

"I wanted so bad to go to Portland, or Phoenix," he says. "It didn't have to be the Lakers. I wasn't greedy. Just give me Utah or Denver, somewhere in the West, where I could shoot home on an off day. People who don't get homesick won't understand what I'm saying, but that's how I felt, and because of that I just never got comfortable."

"That's the honest truth. Right then and there, my stomach dropped and I started to get homesick."

Can anyone discount the factor of being homesick or what it means for a UCLA kid to play out in the West Coast? I sure hope not after seeing how Baron Davis revived himself by playing for the Warriors and of course how Ariza has come of age with the Lakers.

Also, Ed O never got comfortable because he never got accustomed to playing at the 3 spot in the NBA, while he shined in college playing the 4:

By 1998, having been traded twice in a little over a year, O'Bannon was sick of the NBA, sick of getting just 16 minutes of playing time per game, sick of the bump-and-grind Eastern Conference style, sick of coaches trying to make him into a shooting guard when all he had ever played was power forward.

Then of course there was his physical issues stemming from the knee injury he suffered right before his freshman year in Westwood, which the Post article details in the story.

Still despite all the difficulties and challenges Ed O has endured through his professional basketball career (see the map from Washington Post, charting his journey), he has moved on:

"I refuse to look at any 'what-ifs,' because I love to sleep," O'Bannon says, his 6-foot-8 frame clad in a Findlay Toyota-logoed polo shirt and a pair of khakis, "and if I looked at it that way, I'd have a lot of sleepless nights."

It wasn't easy for him, but he has done it with a sense of direction, that should make everyone in the UCLA community incredibly proud:

Rosa O'Bannon, who is a counselor at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas, declined to be interviewed for this story, saying through her husband that she didn't want to "rehash the past." For Ed O'Bannon, however, rehashing the past is somehow therapeutic.

"It's disappointing to me to this day that I didn't play until I was 40," he says. "I wasn't an all-star. I wasn't a Hall of Famer. Those were all goals I had as a kid. So that's disappointing. I'll admit that. It's the truth. But once I decided I didn't want [to play] anymore -- in that respect it's not disappointing at all."

O'Bannon probably brought in close to $7 million in his career, counting the original Nets contract and all those cobbled-together one-year deals overseas, paid out in lira, pesetas and zloty. Thankfully, Rosa made sure he socked some of it away. When he decided to get a job -- or, rather, when Rosa decided he would get a job -- it wasn't so much for the money as for the sense of direction. He needed to get out of the house. He needed something to do.

You can watch Ed O sharing his perspective in the video Wash. Post. also put up to accompany this story.

So, Ed O has done pretty well. According to the story, Ed O has been promoted 4 times in his four years at his job at Findley. Not bad. As for Rosa, I remember how I used to run to Ed O and Rosa in our senior years in college. The two specific memories I have of them together is running into them at the Kerkhoff Coffee House where they were getting their snacks before heading off to study for Finals. They always had their priories straight, not to mention incredibly gracious, humble and sweet whenever you said hello to them and wish them luck both in finals and on the court.

To me Ed O is more of a hero for what he has done off the basketball court. Not that many individual who has experienced the money and glory from professional sports has the courage to walk away. Not only Ed O did just that he worked away at it (just like he did with fierce and relentless determination to come back from his devastating injury his first year at UCLA) with the help of your family and turned himself into an MVP in real life.

Lastly, Coach Howland and Coach Caldwell please take note of this part of the story:

He works six days a week, and on Sundays the kids -- Aaron, 15; Jazmin, 12; and Edward III, 10 -- like to get him out on the court, where, he says, "we get after it pretty good." Jazmin is already 6-2 and, in her father's words, "a real athlete," and it was her sudden passion for basketball -- she's the star of her middle school team -- that rekindled her father's.

"I would love to coach. I would love to coach [Jazmin], at whatever level she's at," he says. "There's absolutely no doubt I'd love to be involved in basketball again. I've been away from it long enough, and I'd love to get back in."

Uhm, needless to say we want those O'Bannons at UCLA and it would be great if we can make all out effort to make sure Ed O is part of the program. His love for all matters blue and gold is unquestioned:

Ed O' Bannon 8 Clap (via uclafan11)

Now Coach Howland (and Caldwell) need to make sure they do their part to explore every practical options that would keep the O'Bannons connected to UCLA. The legacy of Ed O is an indispensable part of Bruin lore. We can never forget him. As far as I know, he will always be one of the Kings of Westwood.

We love you Ed.