Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spent four seasons at UCLA, winning three NCAA championships, before being selected with the first overall pick in the 1969 NBA draft.
Jabbar recounted his collegiate experience in a self-written column Thursday.
“When I left high school, I could not play professionally in the NBA,” Jabbar wrote. “It had a rule that prohibited me from playing until after the year that I would have graduated from college. For me to have played pro ball I would have had to play overseas or for the Harlem Globetrotters (which I never seriously considered, because college was my goal).
“I chose to go to UCLA, which had just won back-to-back NCAA championships. The rules of the NCAA stated that freshmen were ineligible to play varsity. My freshman team was very good, so good that we beat the varsity team in the season-opening freshman-varsity game. So to begin the 1965-66 season, the Bruins varsity was No. 1 in the country but No. 2 on campus. Coach John Wooden had an embarrassment of riches.
“When I finally got to play varsity, the Bruins went on to one of the greatest demonstrations of dominance college sports has ever seen. My team won the NCAA tourney for three consecutive years, and after I left they continued to dominate the game, winning four more consecutive titles and finally totaling 10 championships in 12 years. It's impossible to imagine this ever happening again.”
If the rules had allowed it, Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) probably would have declared early for the NBA draft.
“The starting five (three freshmen and two sophomores) from this year's NCAA champion, the University of Kentucky, declared for the NBA draft this week,” Jabbar wrote. “I can't say that I would chose differently today. In that hypothetical vein, if I and my teammates from 1965 had been freshmen this year, the 2012 trophy would be headed home to Westwood. It's also likely, in that dream scenario, that Anthony Davis would not be the presumptive No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft.”