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When Giants Ruled the Tournament

March 24, 2008
March 24, 2008

Table of Contents
March 24, 2008

SI Players: LIFE ON AND OFF THE FIELD
SI Bonus Section: Golf Plus
Dan Patrick
2008 NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
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PRO BASKETBALL
MOTOR SPORTS
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When Giants Ruled the Tournament

By Text by Elizabeth McGarr

From Bob Kurland to Patrick Ewing traditional back-to-the-basket big men have played a pivotal role, towering over the low post—and their often helpless opponents. For years the center was the centerpiece, and no team could harbor championship hopes without a true titan blocking the basket on one end of the floor and scoring at will on the other

This is an article from the March 24, 2008 issue

WILT CHAMBERLAIN, Kansas
As a sophomore the 7-foot Chamberlain averaged 29.6 points in the regular season and then a tournament-high 30.3. Proclaiming that Chamberlain was "not going to give us the jitters" in the title game, North Carolina guard Tommy Kearns jumped center against Wilt, and the Tar Heels triple-teamed him. He still scored 23 points and had 14 rebounds, but North Carolina prevailed in triple overtime.

BILL WALTON, UCLA
Walton dominated at both ends of the floor as a sophomore in '72 and again in '73, averaging tournament highs of 16.0 and 14.5 rebounds. His defense—along with his two-year Final Four points total (115)—brought the Bruins their eighth and ninth titles in 10 years, and his three-year tournament field goal percentage (68.6) remains a record.

LEW ALCINDOR, UCLA
The only three-time most outstanding player, the 7' 2" Alcindor had the highest tournament scoring average (26.5) in '67, the highest rebounding average (16.0) in '69 and—despite opponents' best efforts to bait him—stayed out of foul trouble in three title games, which the Bruins won by an average of 19.3 points.

BILL RUSSELL, USF
"We can stop him only by keeping the ball away from him," La Salle coach Ken Loeffler said of Russell before facing San Francisco in the '55 finals. Loeffler's plan failed; Russell grabbed 25 rebounds to key USF's 77--63 win. The next season he helped the Dons stretch its winning streak to 55 and repeat as champ.

BOB KURLAND, Oklahoma A&M
The 7-footer LIFE magazine described as "balanced and coordinated in spite of his height" won titles for coach Henry Iba in 1945 and '46 and led the tournament in scoring (21.7 and 24.0 points per game, respectively) both years. Kurland was also one of the first to effectively use what LIFE called the "dunk shot."

BILL SPIVEY, Kentucky
Spivey dominated the game in 1950-51, averaging 16.3 rebounds as the I Wildcats won Adolph Rupp his third championship. Had the 7-footer played as a senior, UK might have repeated. But Spivey was injured and later implicated in a point-shaving scandal.

KENT BENSON, Indiana
A three-time All- America, 6' 11" Big Red anchored the Hoosiers' 32-0 1976 title squad, the last undefeated team in college basketball. He led IU in rebounding in the '76 Final Four and scored 25 points in the championship win over Michigan.

AKEEM OLAJUWON, Houston
Phi Slamma Jamma lost the 1983 and '84 finals, but the Dream averaged tournament highs in rebounds both years and was the top scorer (20 points) in the '83 loss to N.C. State. Olajuwon was the last player from the losing side to be named MOP.

PATRICK EWING, Georgetown
Ewing led the Hoyas to the title game in three of his four seasons. His team came up short in 1982 and '85, but in '84 the Hoya Destroya got the better of fellow 7-footer Olajuwon and Houston, winning the much-hyped matchup of All-America centers 84-75.

JERRY LUCAS, Ohio State
After leading the Buckeyes to the championship—and winning MOP honors—in 1960, the 6' 8" Lucas followed up with sensational junior (24.9 points and 17.4 rebounds) and senior (21.8 and 17.8) seasons that both ended with title-game losses to rival Cincinnati.

FINAL FOUR MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYERS

Until the mid-80's, centers (IN BOLD) had an outsized impact on the Big Dance

View this article in the original magazine

YEARPLAYER, POSITION, COLLEGE
1939Jimmy Hull, F, Ohio State
1940Marvin Huffman, G, Indiana
1941John Kotz, F, Wisconsin
1942Howie Dallmar, G, Stanford
1943Kenny Sailors, F, Wyoming
1944Arnie Ferrin, G-F, Utah
1945BOB KURLAND, C, Oklahoma A&M
1946BOB KURLAND, C, Oklahoma A&M
1947GEORGE KAFTAN, C, Holy
1948CROSS ALEX GROZA, C, Kentucky
1949ALEX GROZA, C, Kentucky
1950Irwin Dambrot, F, CCNY
1951BILL SPIVEY, C, Kentucky
1952CLYDE LOVELLETTE, C, Kansas
1953B.H. BORN, C, Kansas
1954Tom Gola, G-F, La Salle
1955BILL RUSSELL, C, San Francisco
1956Hal Lear, G, Temple
1957WILT CHAMBERLAIN, C, Kansas
1958Elgin Baylor, F, Seattle
1959Jerry West, G-F, West Virginia
1960JERRY LUCAS, C, Ohio State
1961JERRY LUCAS, C, Ohio State
1962PAUL HOGUE, C, Cincinnati
1963Art Heyman, G-F, Duke
1964Walt Hazzard, G, UCLA
1965Bill Bradley, F, Princeton
1966Jerry Chambers, F, Utah
1967LEW ALCINDOR, C, UCLA
1968LEW ALCINDOR, C, UCLA
1969LEW ALCINDOR, C, UCLA
1970Sidney Wicks, F, UCLA
1971HOWARD PORTER, C, Villanova
1972BILL WALTON, C, UCLA
1973BILL WALTON, C, UCLA
1974David Thompson, G, N.C. State
1975RICHARD WASHINGTON, C, UCLA
1976KENT BENSON, C, Indiana
1977Butch Lee, G, Marquette
1978Jack Givens, F, Kentucky
1979Earvin Johnson, G, Michigan State
1980Darrell Griffith, G, Louisville
1981Isiah Thomas, G, Indiana
1982James Worthy, F, North Carolina
1983AKEEM OLAJUWON, C, Houston
1984PATRICK EWING, C, Georgetown
1985Ed Pinckney, F, Villanova
1986PERVIS ELLISON, C, Louisville
1987Keith Smart, G, Indiana
1988Danny Manning, F, Kansas
1989Glen Rice, F, Michigan
1990Anderson Hunt, G, UNLV
1991CHRISTIAN LAETTNER, C, Duke
1992Bobby Hurley, G, Duke
1993Donald Williams, G, North Carolina
1994Corliss Williamson, F, Arkansas
1995Ed O'Bannon, F, UCLA
1996Tony Delk, G, Kentucky
1997Miles Simon, F, Arizona
1998Jeff Sheppard, G, Kentucky
1999Richard Hamilton, G, UConn
2000Mateen Cleaves, G, Michigan State
2001Shane Battier, F, Duke
2002Juan Dixon, G, Maryland
2003Carmelo Anthony, F, Syracuse
2004EMEKA OKAFOR, C, UConn
2005SEAN MAY, C, North Carolina
2006JOAKIM NOAH, C, Florida
2007Corey Brewer, F, Florida
PHOTOSHEEDY & LONG (WALTON)PHOTORICH CLARKSON/NCAA PHOTOS (ALCINDOR)PHOTORICH CLARKSON/NCAA PHOTOS (BENSON)PHOTORICH CLARKSON/NCAA PHOTOS (OLAJUWON)PHOTORICH CLARKSON/NCAA PHOTOS (LUCAS)PHOTOAP (CHAMBERLAIN)PHOTOAP (RUSSELL)PHOTOHUGH MORTON (KURLAND)PHOTOTHE COURIER-JOURNAL (SPIVEY)PHOTOMANNY MILLAN (EWING)PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (BASKETBALL FLOOR)