1965. Back in those days Kareem was known as Lew Alcindor.
1965 was Kareem’s freshman season, and as was the standard back then, he played on the freshman team and not the varsity. In a pre-season warm up game prior to the start of the regular season, the Bruins, ranked #1 in the country, played the freshman team, led by the 7’+ Alcindor.
The freshman team won by 15 points. Alcindor had 31 points and 20 rebounds. And so began the college basketball career that would change the face of college basketball forever.
The following year, the 1966-67 college basketball season, was dominated by Lew Alcindor and the UCLA Bruins. The Bruins went 30-0. Lew averaged 29.5 points per game and 15 rebounds. The NCAA, seeing the future and apparently fearing the dominance of Alcindor and the Bruins, outlawed the slam dunk; they actually changed the rules of the game, acknowledging that UCLA had an unfair advantage over the rest of the country. It took the NCAA 12 years to change the game back and allow the dunk.
The 1967-68 Bruins won their 2nd straight NCAA basketball championship. The Bruins, after extending their winning streak over 2 seasons to 47-0, lost to the University of Houston Cougars and Elvin Hayes in the Astrodome 71-69, in a game that became known as the Game of the Century. Alcindor and UCLA closed out the season from there with 16 more wins, ending the year with the national championship and a 29-1 season. The Bruins avenged their loss to Houston by beating the Cougars by 32 points in the Semi-finals. UCLA’s 2-season mark stood at 59-1…..even without using the slam dunk.
The 1968-69 Bruins lost 3 of their best players to the NBA draft. Alcindor was left with a new cast of characters for the new season. The Bruins adapted, once again going 29-1, with the only loss being to cross-town rival USC in a slow-down game 46-44. Again UCLA went on to the national championship. Cumulative record now stood at 88-2 for the Alcindor Era.
1969-1970 saw the departure of Lew Alcindor to the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Alcindor-less Bruins slumped to 28-2, but managed to win their 4th consecutive NCAA championship. The Bruins would go on to win the National championship in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975. Counting the titles they had won with Gail Goodrich and Walt Hazard prior to the Alcindor years, UCLA won 10 championships in 12 years; dominance that likely will never be repeated in any sport at the collegiate level.
SSOMG grew up in Southern California and even while at Fresno for the last 4 championship years, watched the Bruin basketball games with great interest and expectation. The Bruins were built to win, and over the many seasons while I was growing up, that is just what they did…
Lew Alcindor took over where others left off, and then handed off the program to an equally dominant group of basketball players including Steve Patterson and Bill Walton.
UCLA basketball, 1964 to 1975; a truly amazing legend.