Wednesday, March 19, 2014

50 Years Since UCLA Bruins Won Their First Basketball Championship

My first semester at UCLA, Spring 1963 (yes, back then you can start school and graduate in the mid-semester, not just June).  I remember watching the basketball championships on a big tv screen in the student union.  UCLA lost somewhere well before the championship game.

But the next semester, things were different.  Walt Hazard, Gail Goodrich, Fred Slaughter,  Keith Erickson, Kenny Washington started off with a bang.  They won their first few games and then there was the LA championship (I don't recall the exact title of the tournament) at the Sports Arena.  They were playing Michigan, a traditionally good team.  A friend in LA had a boyfriend from Michigan who told us UCLA hadn't played any real teams and when they played Michigan, the winning streak would be over.  I just recall the first four minutes of the game, where UCLA put its full court press on display for the first time that I think it really got noticed.  At the end of four minutes it was 16-0 UCLA and they went on to win 30 games that season with no losses.

Every game was a nail biter as we wondered if they could extend their winning streak, which they did into the final game against Duke.

This all came back to me in January when I was cleaning things out in my mom's garage and ran across my copy of the mid-March 1964 Sports Illustrated with the cover story on UCLA's win.  I decided to wait until March to post it, but it seems, the picture I took is on an older sound card and the magazine is back home in Anchorage now.  But this is the time, so I'll put the picture up when we get back to Anchorage.

[UPDATE:   I posted the cover and the article here on the exact 50th anniversary of the Sports Illustrated date.]

A couple years later I remember watching the Freshman team with the new recruit Lew Alcindor, play the national champion varsity team and win.  A sign of even more championships to come.

UCLA basketball and football helped me understand the power of group spirit (and insanity), as the whole school, it seemed, had its spirit lifted and dashed if the team won or lost.  I got over that after I graduated, though at times in my rural Thailand town, I could listen to UCLA basketball games late at night coming via the Armed Forces Network in Saigon. 

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