UCLA Basketball Heroes take 2 of the 5 Inaugural spots in ESPN’s (trojan-free) L.A. Hall of Fame

Maybe SIZE doesn’t matter, but CLASS apparently does, at least as far as the brand new ESPN Los Angeles Hall of Fame is concerned.  You know how you can tell?  Because no class-challenged, class-skipping trojans are going to be enshrined when the five Charter Members are inducted for 2011.  Instead, voters have selected two Bruin legends, plus three other L.A. icons who have always conducted themselves with the utmost Class.

The UCLA honorees are John Wooden and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  No, Wooden didn’t attend UCLA as a student, but he became the most respected Coach of all time during his tenure at UCLA, and his Love and support of UCLA for half a Century classifies him as a true Bruin in my book.  As far as the voting went, Wooden was a shoo-in for this award because it recognizes off-the-court life as well as on-the-court performance, and Wooden was ALWAYS the epitome of Class.

Now I will admit that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has had a few moments that I would not consider the most Classy, like when he recently complained about not having a statue outside of Staples Center.  But he definitely didn’t DOUBLE-MURDER anyone, and he has had success as an Author and as an a Special Assistant for the Lakers.  He has also given back to the community in many ways, including by being a shining example to minorities all over the World, of how getting a good education and persevering through racism and derision can enable someone to reach the pinnacle of his profession.  And reach the pinnacle Kareem DID, having scored more points than anyone else in the history of the NBA, not to mention all his MVP and Championship Trophies, and Championship Banners while at UCLA.

I was actually surprised to see Abdul-Jabbar make the Final Cut, considering the stiff competition, including two other Bruins who didn’t make it.  But first, let’s talk about the other three stars who joined JRW and KAJ in the initial class.

Also from the Basketball (and Laker) World, Magic Johnson will be a Founding Inductee.  No need to rehash everything he has done for the Sport, AND for the World, as an Ambassador of a deadly affliction, of which he has single-handedly changed the World’s perception (for the better).

Another minority Athlete, albeit a very different minority, will be joining Magic at induction day:  Dodger Pitcher Sandy Koufax, who dealt with severe anti-Semitism, and who refused to pitch on Jewish Holidays.  Koufax’s exploits on the mound are well-known, including 4 No-Hitters, and his classy behavior through all the persecution is also well-documented.

Rounding out the Class is The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.  Many people disagree with this choice, because Wayne’s best days were NOT in L.A., and very few people in the Hockey World even associate Gretzky with L.A.  However, he did skate in this town for 7 years, making the All-Star team every season, and leading the league in scoring for his duration here, according to a comment on ESPN defending his inclusion (I can’t be certain, as I am not a Hockey buff).  And it COULD be said that Gretzky “put L.A. on the map” in the World of Hockey, and put Hockey on the map in the city of L.A., as the Kings became poplular with scores of non-Hockey fans while he was here.

While I am trying to justify his selection, I must admit that I personally did not vote for him, like I did for the other 4 winners — MY fifth vote went to another Bruin:  Jackie Robinson.  And I am stunned that he didn’t win the vote hands down.  Considering what he did for the World with his breaking of the color barrier, I would think that would be enough to top the charts, but I guess because his glory days were really more in Brooklyn than in L.A. during his Bruin years, people voted for Gretzky et. al. instead.

One other Bruin who didn’t make the cut was another Jackie:  Track Star Jackie Joyner-Kersee.  This poll, voted on by ESPN followers, wasn’t likely to recognize figures from Track & Field above those from the four major Sports.  But that does not explain why the Football player from U$C failed to gain enough votes…

If you are thinking O.J. Simpson was on the ballot, you weren’t paying attention.  I said that this award recognizes OFF-THE-FIELD conduct, which leaves Mr. If I Did It out in the cold.  The actual trojan nominee was Marcus Allen, who not only had success at sc, but also here with the Raiders.  But either the voters know that Marcus was also involved with Nicole and even a SUSPECT in her murder, in some conspiracy circles, OR they just felt like his accomplishments were NOT worthy of inclusion in the Hall’s inaugural group.

The other two trojans who didn’t make it were Swimmer Janet Evans and Basketballer Cheryl Miller.  Evans’ candidacy didn’t float because we’re talking about Swimming!  Not a game, but Swimming!  And Miller didn’t make it because we’re talking about Women’s Basketball.  I wonder if she got ANY votes at all?

On the other hand, there WERE several other nominees that probably got a ton of votes and just barely missed the cut.  The two who got mentioned a lot in the comment section — as getting robbed — were iconic Laker representatives Jerry West and Chick Hearn, who are both deserving and will soon grace the Hall I’m sure.  If Chick Hearn’s name makes you ask about Vin Scully, I believe you have to be retired to be eligible.

Some other top vote-getting runners-up (I’m assuming)  were Don Drysdale and Elgin Baylor.  The other nominees were Phil Jackson, Deacon Jones, Billie Jean King, Pat Riley, Pete Sampras, and Fernando Valenzuela.

I would guess that ALL the nominees will eventually be inducted, but for now at least, the Hall’s membership is 40% Bruin Legends, and 0% trojans, marking the first time ever that ESPN has gotten something remotely close to being right.  Insert Jackie Robinson for Gretzky, and they really would have had something.  Usually I would suspect a company like ESPN of manipulating the vote to suit their agenda, ala American Idol, but Robinson not making it while Kareem and Gretzky did, makes me think that they actually tallied the votes legitimately.  That being said,  Koufax made it only because the Jews control the Media, of course!!