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YouTube Gold: Bill Walton’s Brief Conflict With John Wooden

It didn't last long but the lesson did

UCLA’s John Wooden and Bill Walton
UCLA’s John Wooden and Bill Walton
Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images Archive/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

John Wooden set a standard for winning at UCLA that no college basketball team has ever come close to. UCLA won the national championship in 1964 and 1965 and missed in 1966.

However, Lew Alcindor, aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was a freshman and therefore not eligible at the time.

He joined the varsity team in 1967 and UCLA won the national championship from 1967 to 1973.

The last two in that string were with Bill Walton, who was a true prodigy. His team, which was known as the Walton Gang, was phenomenally good. UCLA was undefeated in 1971 and 1972 and lost three regular season games in 1973 before falling to NC State in the Final Four.

Walton was at UCLA during the Vietnam War era and after he won national player of the year, told his coach that he didn’t have the right to tell his star player that he had to get his hair cut.

Walton tells the story here and it’s a great example of how Wooden ran his program. It was firm but not at all unkind.

Long story short: Walton got his hair cut, and pronto.