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Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, Bill Walton at UCLA
Left: Photo by Rich Clarkson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images, Right: Photo by: Bernstein Associates/Getty Image

When you think Blue Blood men’s college basketball programs, Kentucky, Duke, UNC, and Kansas are quick to come to mind. Their domination in their respective conferences and postseason success over that past two decades makes them hard to miss.

But you’d be remiss if you left out the Bruins of the University of California, Los Angeles, or UCLA for short. Led by one of the greatest coaches of all time, John Wooden, UCLA’s men’s basketball team dominated way before most readers’ parents were born. From 1964-1975, UCLA won 10 out of 12 National Championships, winning seven, yes seven, in a row during that stretch.

Recently, in the last 15 years or so, UCLA has been to four Final Fours, going to three straight from 2006 to 2008. Last year, as an 11-seed, and having to win a play-in game, they went full Cinderella, only to have midnight strike in an OT loss to Gonzaga in the Final Four.

Picking an All-Time starting 5 for the UCLA Bruins is not an easy task. The talent pool is insane, many of which is from players I never got the privilege to watch. But I’ve never been one to do easy things, so here’s my attempt at putting the best lineup in UCLA history.

The UCLA Bruins All-Time Starting 5

Gail Goodrich, Point Guard

Photo by Rich Clarkson

Standing at just 6’1″, Goodrich, from Los Angeles, initially wanted to go to the rivals of UCLA, the USC Trojans. But because he was deemed small for basketball standards, USC did not give him much of a look.

After being courted by Wooden, Goodrich went on to have an incredible career at the point guard position with the Bruins. The left-hander scored 21.5 points per game (ppg) his junior year (1963-64) and helped lead the Bruins to a 30-0 season. The next year, he averaged 24.6 ppg and led the Bruins to another national championship. Overall, Goodrich’s UCLA teams went 78-11. By the time he left UCLA, Goodrich was the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,690.

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Goodrich was known for excellent ball-handling skills and great court vision. He was a two-time All American, and in 1965, he was the Helms Foundation “Co-Player of the Year,” an honor he shared with Princeton’s Bill Bradley.

Goodrich’s greatest game occurred during the 1965 NCAA championship, where he scored 42 points against Michigan. At that time, it was a record. Not bad for someone only 6’1″. 

Reggie Miller, Shooting Guard

Reggie Miller dribbles the ball
Photo by: Bernstein Associates/Getty Images

RELATED: Reggie Miller Became a Father Again at Age 55

The TNT NBA commentator, before he was dubbed a “Knicks Killer” and Spike Lee’s kryptonite, killed teams in the PAC-10. Originally from Riverside, California, Miller was given a gift when the three-point field goal was established for the 1986-87 season. In that year, a fourth of his shots made were beyond the arc.

With his sister Cheryl Miller putting the USC women’s program on the map, Miller helped his 1986-87 Bruins win the first-ever PAC-10 basketball tournament championship. He was also selected as an All-PAC-10 player for the second straight year.

Upon leaving UCLA to become an NBA All-Star, Miller was the 2nd all-time leading scorer in the history of the program. He also has the UCLA single-season records for most points, highest scoring average, and most free throws. In 2013, UCLA retired his No. 31 jersey.

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Jamaal Wilkes, Small Forward

Jamaal Wilkes looks on as the UCLA Bruins shoot warmups.
Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Hailing from Berkeley, California, all Jamaal Wilkes knows is winning. He was a part of the UCLA teams that won 88 consecutive games. That’s quite the winning streak and a record that still holds in NCAA Men’s College Basketball. During that stretch, Wilkes helped the Bruins win back-to-back National Championships in 1972 and 1973.

During his time at UCLA, Wilkes averaged 15 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game (rpg). He also shot 51.4 percent from the field. He was a two-time first-team All-American, two-time first-team All-Pacific-8 selection, a member of the 1972 NCAA All-Tournament Team, and a three-time first-team Academic All-American.

John Wooden loved Wilkes. In an interview with the New York Post in 1985, Wooden was describing his ideal player and said this:

“I would have the player be a good student, polite, courteous, a good team player, a good defensive player, and rebounder, a good inside player and outside shooter. Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that.”

Sounds like Wilkes was the ultimate student-athlete.

Bill Walton, Power Forward

UCLA forward Bill Walton backs down a Notre Dame defender.
Rich Clarkson/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Before this La Mesa, California native was wearing tie-dye shirts and discussing the benefits of psychedelics on ESPN broadcasts, Bill Walton was dominating the college basketball world. A big UCLA basketball fan growing up, it was a no-brainer for him to go there when decision time came. 

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Walton lost only 4 games during his time at UCLA. He averaged 20.3 points per game, 15.7 rebounds per game, and 5.5 assists per game (apg). He also shot 65.1% from the field.

Like Wilkes, he was a part of the UCLA teams that won 88 straight games. He also won three straight National Championships. In the 1973 NCAA championship game, Walton scored 44 points, a record that still stands.

In 1973, Walton was awarded the James E. Sullivan Award, an award given to the top amateur in the United States. He also received the Naismith College Player of the Year for three straight years.

Many people believe he is the greatest college player to ever play the game.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Center

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar goes up for a bucket as a UCLA Bruin
Photo by Rich Clarkson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

It’s impossible to hear UCLA and not immediately think about this “Airplane!” and “BASEketball” star. The Harlem native, then-known as Lew Alcindor and who is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, was an absolute giant on the court and impossible to stop with his trademark “skyhook.”

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His mantle is full of hardware he received during his time at UCLA. The Lakers legend was a three-time national player of the year, a three-time All-American, the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament three times, and was the first-ever Naismith College Player of the Year. He also won the Helms Foundation Player of the Year three times.

Abdul-Jabbar dominated the NCAA so much that the dunk was banned in college basketball after his sophomore year. He still holds countless individual records at UCLA and his number hangs in the rafters at Pauley Pavillion.

I think it’s safe to say that no other school’s All-Time starting lineup could come even close to beating this team. They are absolutely stacked. We’ve even got studs on the bench, like Don MacLean, who still holds the UCLA Men’s Basketball school record in points, Marques Johnson, Ed O’Bannon, Sidney Wicks and Walt Hazzard. Yup, there’s absolutely no way UCLA shouldn’t be considered a blue blood program. Too much history here to not consider them.

MORE: Kentucky’s All-Time Starting 5 is Loaded With College Basketball Icons

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Joseph Dalfonso is an unconventional triple-threat. Joseph grew up in the great beautiful state of Maine and now resides in New York City. Joseph is an avid New England sports fan who loves a good flannel every now and again.
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