UCLA Names Basketball Court For Nell And John Wooden

Dec 20, 2003

AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) - UCLA honored John Wooden and his late wife Nell by namingthe Bruins' basketball court for them Saturday, 28 years after Wooden retiredfrom coaching with a record 10 national titles.

Wooden, 93, coached the Bruins from 1948-75. During that time, UCLA wonseven straight national championships, an NCAA record 88-game winning streak,and four 30-0 seasons.

'I'm glad that they did this in a timely way because we take it for grantedthat he's going to be around forever,' said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, known as LewAlcindor when he starred for UCLA in the late 1960s. 'He can enjoy it and wecan enjoy him and the day.'

More than 70 of Wooden's former players - many with gray hair and heavierthan their playing days - were on hand. They included Bill Walton, Mike Warren,Rafer Johnson, Walt Hazzard, Marques Johnson, Gary Cunningham, LynnShackelford, Sidney Wicks, current Southern California coach Henry Bibby, andJamaal Wilkes.

'I know what made this day possible, it's those young men down there,'Wooden said, turning to look at his former players seated off-court. 'I'mextremely proud of all of them. Many never had the opportunity to play inPauley Pavilion.'

Wooden stalked Pauley's sideline holding his ever-present rolled up programduring the final 10 years of his career.

'I'm proud of the fact that this floor is being named for my late Nellieand me,' he said.

Seven of Wooden's 12 great-grandchildren helped pull two pieces of bluevelvet away to reveal the words 'Nell and John Wooden Court' in blue on thefloor of Pauley Pavilion. Wooden's 12th great-grandchild was born Saturday.

Abdul-Jabbar recalled Nell Wooden as a woman of few words.

'She was like everybody's aunt,' he said. 'It was always about a smile.We won so often, there wasn't much occasion to be sad.'

Clutching his cane, Wooden was helped to center court by his two children,James and Nancy. Nell Wooden died in 1985 after 53 years of marriage.

'I am thankful to see so many of you here today,' Wooden said. 'I hope tosee you every game. And I hope you'll all really back our team with a lot ofenthusiasm. But at the same time, let's be gracious to our opponents, too.'

Wooden made his way to his usual seat in the stands a few rows behind UCLA'sbench to watch the Bruins play Michigan State. Wooden remains in relativelygood health with a sharp mind that can recall details from games and eventsthat occurred decades ago.

Abdul-Jabbar said Wooden downplayed being in the spotlight during a pregameluncheon with his former players.

'He sees himself as a little gear, but he's the master wheel,' he said.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of UCLA's first title under Wooden, theBruins wore replica jerseys similar to those used in the 1963-64 season.However, their shorts were baggy, unlike the short, tight shorts worn inWooden's era.

He is the first person to be inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame asboth a player and a coach. The Martinsville, Ind., native played guard onPurdue's 1932 national championship team.

Since Wooden's retirement, the Bruins have won just one NCAA title in 1995.

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