Friday, January 28, 2005

Welcome and Introduction

On January 20, 1968, one of the most famous college basketball games of all time was played, pitting the perennial champion UCLA Bruins against the University of Houston Cougars. In fact, many people call it the "Game of the Century." The many significant aspects of this game are summarized concisely in the following quote from a UH athletics document:

Featuring the nation's top two teams and two of college basketball's greatest players of all time, the University of Houston met UCLA in college basketball's first nationally televised regular season game on January 20, 1968 in The Astrodome before a then-record 52,693 fans.

Top-ranked UCLA entered the game with a 13-0 record and a 47-game winning streak, and second-ranked Houston had a 16-0 record and a 17-game winning streak. The Cougars had also won 48 consecutive home games.

The game, which featured a battle between future Hall-of-Famers Elvin Hayes of Houston and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of UCLA, remained close throughout. Hayes decided the difference in the final 30 seconds when he scored two free throws to give Houston a 71-69 victory.

The box score of the game is available at the aforementioned UH link (it should also be noted that Kareem was known as Lew Alcindor at the time).

Although I was not at the Game of the Century (I was a little over five years old and living in Los Angeles at the time), I have always been fascinated by it. I grew up a big UCLA hoops fan and earned my Bachelor's degree there in 1984. Then, after receiving my Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1989, I did a two-year post-doctoral fellowship (1989-1991) at the University of Houston. I thus have formal ties to both UCLA and UH. (I am currently a faculty member at Texas Tech University, thus maintaining my connection to the Lone Star State).

Recently, the Fox Sports cable network in my region (and perhaps in others) has been airing a documentary on Guy V. Lewis, the longtime UH coach (1956-1986) and prime mover behind the Houston-UCLA showdown.

(UCLA, of course, was coached by the "Wizard of Westwood," John Wooden, about whom I'll have a lot to say in upcoming postings.)

The Guy Lewis documentary rekindled my interest in the Game of the Century and made me wonder whether there was a website devoted exclusively to compiling links on the game. Accordingly, I did a Google search using the keywords ["Game of the Century" UCLA Houston]. Naturally, there were numerous write-ups on the game, but I could not find a comprehensive website of the type I was envisioning (if there's one that I missed, please e-mail me a link at the address below).

I love creating webpages, so I thought, why not? Thus, in the weeks, months, and perhaps years ahead, I plan to build this page. I will compile additional links pertaining to the Game of the Century and write as many profiles as I can of the key actors in the game (not just the coaches and players, but the announcers and even the venue itself, the Astrodome). I would also be happy to post comments sent in by readers.

The Houston-UCLA game, as an historical icon, is transitioning from something that large numbers of basketball fans could connect to personally (whether having actually watched the game in '68 or seeing Elvin Hayes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar play during their NBA careers) to an entity that people will know about purely via history books and video clips. In fact, the "tipping point" in this transition may well have already passed. It is my intent with this website to do my small part to keep the game a vibrant part of contemporary conversation. I look forward to this project!

Alan Reifman