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A Look Back: "Alcindor Picks UCLA"

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Celebrating the Golden Anniversary of the arrival of a great Bruin and a great man to UCLA.

Daily Bruin, May 5, 1965
Daily Bruin, May 5, 1965
Fox 71

I think it's worth taking another look at the Daily Bruin headline from fifty years ago Here's much of the May 5 DB story. While we can't reprint it in its entirety, we wish we could because it is hard to read to a scanned version. This was written by Arnold Lester, the sports editor at the time.

The article starts off like this:

UCLA, two time national basketball champion, got some three year title insurance Tuesday - Lew Alcindor.

Alcindor, the seven-foot one-inch superstar from New York, told a full-blown news conference in his Power Memorial Academy Gym, "I chose UCLA because it has the atmosphere I wanted and because the people out there were so nice to me."

Alcindor visited campus April 2-4, accompanied primarily by Bruin basketball stars Mike Warren and Edgar Lacey.

His first performance in the Memorial Activities Center will be on November 27 in the annual Varsity-Frosh game, where he and his frosh teammates will test the defending national champions. Alcindor's decision came after two weeks of waiting, during which he was apparently making a choice between home-school St John's of Brooklyn and UCLA.

The article also discusses Alcindor's style of play and says that he was known as team player which made him an excellent fit for Coach Wooden's style of play. And, in his typical humble manner it quotes Alcindor as having said:

I think I'll be able to play with [the UCLA team].

The article mentions that Coach Wooden had visited the Alcindors about a week before the announcement and notes that Coach Wooden had never had a player before Abdul-Jabbar who was taller than 6'9" tall. It quotes Coach Wooden:

It should be no surprise to anyone who follows basketball that I am delighted that Lewis Alcindor has announced that he has selected UCLA as the university of his choice.

This boy is not only a fine student and a great college basketball prospect, but he is also a refreshingly modest young man who shows the results of excellent parental and high school training.

After meeting Mr. and Mrs. Alcindor, I could easily understand the fine impression Lew made on all of us when he visited our campus. Their guidance has enabled him to handle the fame and adulation that has come his way in a most gracious and unaffected manner.

He is a polite, well-mannered, intelligent and unselfish young man who plays basketball at both ends of the floor in the best interests of his team.

Everyone with whom I have spoken, who has seen him perform, has been as much impressed with his team play, hustle and desire as they have been with his physical abilties. (sic).

The article also quotes Michael Warren who hosted Abdul-Jabbar on his visit to UCLA as saying:

One of the nicest persons I've ever met, as far as high school basketball players go. When he came out here, he didn't want to visit the local tourist attractions, but was just interested in seeing the campus.

Bruinette88 found a YouTube video which shows why so many people thought Kareem might possibly be an asset to a basketball team.  Thanks to the Wilt Chamberlain Archive for that footage.

I remember hearing a naysayer suggest that Coach would just waste Alcindor's talents, because Coach was strictly a high post offense guy. History proved that to be incorrect. Indeed, when some of his scoring records were about to be eclipsed, Coach told the LA Times that he told Alcindor he could devise a way to make Alcindor the all-time NCAA scoring champ, but the team would not win national championships. Coach explained that Alcindor said, "Coach, you know I wouldn't want that."

Alcindor's first game in Pauley was also the first game ever at Pauley. It was the annual Freshmen versus Varsity game. The Varsity team was the returning NCAA champions. The Freshman team was a great team. In addition to Alcindor, the Freshman team had Lucius Allen (the best guard ever at UCLA, in my opinion), Lynn Shackleford, Kenny Heitz and Kent Taylor, but naturally they did not have a lot of time to practice together. Nonetheless, they beat the two-time defending champs 75-60. Alcindor had 31 points, 21 rebounds and 8 blocked shots.

His varsity career started the same way. He scored 56 points his first game, making 23 out of 32 shots in a 105-90 win over just$c*.

Lastly, I'll leave you with this video.

Be sure to also read our interview with Bruin legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Go Bruins!!!