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In Wilbon's World

Wooden in L.A. hearts, minds

LOS ANGELES -- The mood wasn't entirely festive in Los Angeles before Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. John Wooden, perhaps the most revered sports figure in Southern California and certainly in basketball circles in and around L.A., was reported to be in grave condition. Wooden, 99, was being treated at UCLA, where he led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships during the 1960s and '70s.

His two most prominent players, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton were in attendance at the Staples Center in downtown L.A., as was former all-American forward Marques Johnson. Jabbar is a Lakers assistant and Walton and Johnson have long worked in sports broadcasting. Wooden has had hospital visits in the past but never was reported to be in grave condition. The NBA and media outlets scrambled to prepare tributes as Game 1 of Lakers-Celtics began.

While basketball's roots are eastern -- the game originated in Springfield, Mass. -- Los Angeles over the years has become, arguably, the basketball capital of the United States, as the UCLA Bruins became synonymous with greatness at the college level and the Lakers, with nine professional championships since 1980, supplanted the Celtics as the best franchise over the past 30 years.

Wooden, quite simply, is the greatest college basketball coach ever, and no coach will ever approach his 10 championships. Before the game, as reports circulated that Wooden was ailing, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, a man with 10 championships of his own as a coach, said, "He established a goal that is unreachable in college sports...and held it to such a standard that we all appreciated his teaching and his mentoring of college students...And I think it's a day gone past for what we see now out of NCAA college players. But at the time it was inspirational, and his coaching has been an inspiration to all of us coaches."

By

Michael Wilbon

 |  June 3, 2010; 11:24 PM ET  |  Category:  College Basketball , NBA Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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This isn't about Wilbon, it's about a very great man who just passed away.

Well done. :)

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | June 4, 2010 11:02 PM
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If I were an anger management counselor, reader comment sections would be a great place to find new patients.

Posted by: zippythepenguin | June 4, 2010 7:33 PM
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Mike, your Chicago bias is understandable (home) and a WILMINGTON NC PRODUCT made it a capital city of hoops for a relatively short (less than a decade) time, and I hate NYC and NYC media, and I love SoCal, but to say that SoCal is the heart of basketball is ridiculous. Just take it back, it's so wrong. NYC street hoops is the heart.

Posted by: dwellstelos | June 4, 2010 12:08 PM
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Wilbon should stay out west so he can beat off to the Lakers and Kobe.

Posted by: bal503 | June 4, 2010 11:41 AM
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Los Angeles over the years has become, arguably, the basketball capital of the United States, as the UCLA Bruins became synonymous with greatness at the college level and the Lakers, with nine professional championships since 1980, supplanted the Celtics as the best franchise over the past 30 years.
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I think Wilbon has become so big now, that he thinks he can write anything and people are supposed to go with what he says. Wilbon, you are a joke of a sportswriter and without ESPN you would only be a local writer struggling to keep his readers awake.

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | June 4, 2010 11:34 AM
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At 99, Mr. Wooden has lived a wonderful life. God speed!

New York is the basketball capital. LA is the movie capital. Chicago is the meat yard capital.

Posted by: KDSmallJr | June 4, 2010 6:59 AM
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Wilbon = Boring

Posted by: hessone | June 4, 2010 6:35 AM
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