ELGIN BAYLOR – A first team All-American at Seattle University, Elgin Baylor led his team to the NCAA finals in 1958. He was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers and played 14 seasons for them, twelve of which were in Los Angeles. He led his team to five NBA Series Finals. His 27.4 scoring average was third all-time in the NBA. He also held the record for most points (61), most field goals (22) and most points (33) in a half in a Championship series game. A ten time all-star, Baylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977 and in 1996, he was named to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. He is currently general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers.
BOB BENEDETTI – Named one of the best 100 athletes of the century in San Pedro, Bob Beneditti starred for the San Pedro High basketball team and in 1958 made the All-City team and was the Marine League MVP. He received 35 basketball scholarships from all over the county before finally choosing to play for the University of Southern California. At USC, Beneditti was a three-year varsity letterman and played on the Trojans 1961 Pac-8 championship team. He once scored 21 points in seven minutes during a game and has the unique distinction of being the first player to score a basket for USC at the Sports Arena when it opened in 1959.
NICK BUZOLICH – San Pedro High grad, Nick Buzolich achieved extraordinary national success in the 1940s both basketball and tennis. He gained national recognition when he scored all of his team’s points in an 84-36 amateur game. He led Compton Junior College to the State Junior College Championship. An All-American at Pepperdine, he twice led the Waves to the National Collegiate Basketball championship rounds, losing in the semi-finals one year and in the finals another year. Buzolich was also rated as one of the top tennis players in the nation.
WILT CHAMBERLAIN – One of the greatest players in the history of basketball, Wilt Chamberlain held numerous NBA records, including the highest single scoring game (100 points on March 2, 1962, against the New York Knicks). A prolific scorer, he owned the top four scoring games in NBA history and is the only player to ever average 40 and 50 points a game. In addition, he holds the NBA record for most rebounds in a career (23,924) and even once led the league in assists. A four-time MVP and 13 time All-Star, Chamberlain played with the Philadelphia 76ers from 1959-1968 and for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1968-1974, winning two NBA titles during his career. He was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978. Chamberlain was an All American for the two years he played at the University of Kansas and began his pro career as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.
BOBBY GROSS – One of the best basketball players to come out of San Pedro, Bobby Gross started at the San Pedro Boys’ Club and went on to star at Fermin Lasuen High School. In 1975, as a senior at Long Beach State, Gross was named an Honorable Mention All-American and conference MVP. He was drafted in the second round by the Portland Trailblazers, where he played from 1975-82. During that time, Portland won one NBA championship in a memorable Finals over the Philadelphia 76ers. Gross was the unsung hero of that series, shooting an amazing 67% from the floor and upping his scoring from the season average of 11.4 to 17.3 points a game, including 25 points in the pivotal fifth game. Gross played his last season in the NBA with the San Diego Clippers before retiring in 1983.
TOMMY HAWKINS – In 1959, Notre Dame grad, Tommy Hawkins was a first round draft choice of the Minneapolis Lakers and later moved with the team to Los Angeles. At Notre Dame, where Hawkins was the school’s first African-American basketball star, he held all scoring and rebounding records, and was team captain. He played a total of 10 years in the NBA, four years with the Cincinnati Royals and six with the Lakers. After completing his basketball career, Hawkins became one of the first athletes to cross over into broadcasting and had a long career in television and radio.
WALT HAZZARD – Walt Hazzard has the unique distinction of being the star player that led legendary coach, John Wooden’s first NCAA basketball championship team in his incredible run of ten titles in twelve years. During that 1963-64 season, Hazzard was named All-American and College Basketball Player of the Year. Hazzard himself went on to coach at UCLA where he won an NIT title in 1985 and the Pac 10 championship in 1987. A first round draft pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, Hazzard played 10 seasons in the NBA and he was also a member of the 1964 USA Olympic gold medal basketball team.
DENNIS JOHNSON – Dennis Johnson, who possesses three NBA title rings, is a native of San Pedro. He played two years at Harbor College before moving on to Pepperdine University. His 15-year professional career started with the Seattle Supersonics. In 1979, he led the team to the NBA title before being traded to the Phoenix Suns. From 1983 until his retirement in 1989, he played for the Boston Celtics, where he won two more titles. A five time NBA All-Star, Johnson scored his ten thousandth point in 1984 and was a part of seven division championship teams. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been named to the NBA’s All-Defense team more times than Johnson.
WILLIE NAULLS – A UCLA basketball All-American in 1955-56, Willie Naulls still holds the all-time UCLA single game rebounding record – 28 in one game. The San Pedro High graduate had a ten year NBA career that included playing for the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. He was a member of three NBA championship teams, was a four time NBA All-Star, and scored over 11,000 points in his career. Naulls was the first black athlete to be named team captain in integrated professional sports.
GEORGE PADOVAN – San Pedro native, George Padovan led Harbor College to the 1956 California junior college basketball championship and continued his college career at Oregon before playing professionally in the old American Basketball Association for the Anaheim Amigos. During Harbor’s run to the state title, Padovan, at 6’3″ held his own against centers much taller than him, including 7-footer Gary Alcorn of Fresno. While playing for Oregon, Padovan was once called the “toughest player I ever played against” by pro football quarterback Joe Kapp, then a basketball player at Cal Berkeley.
ALAN SAWYER – Alan Sawyer was one of the premier basketball players in the South Bay area during the mid-1940s, earning first string All-City basketball honors in 1945 while at San Pedro High School. He later starred for John Wooden’s first teams at UCLA, beginning with his freshman year in the 1945-46 season. After a short military tour, Sawyer returned to UCLA in 1947. He became the school’s all-time leading scorer as the Bruins won two conference titles and made two NCAA appearances. He later played for the professional Washington Capitols basketball team.
BILL SHARMAN – Bill Sharman coached the record-setting 69-13 Lakers in 1971-72, guiding that team to an NBA record 33 consecutive victories. He served as the club’s general manager when it won NBA titles in 1980 and 1982, and was club president for its championships in 1985-1987, and 1988. He also had a very distinguished career at USC and as a pro basketball player for the Boston Celtics. Arguably, the greatest shooter during the NBA’s first generation, he was the first guard to shoot .400 from the floor for a season and had an impressive .884 free throw percentage.
JERRY WEST – Twice an All-American at the University of West Virginia, Jerry West went on to become one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history. When he retired after a 14-year career with the Lakers in 1974, he had scored 25,194 points, the third player to reach the 25,000 mark. Known as “Mr. Clutch,” West was the all-time NBA playoff leader in points (4,457) and assists (970) which stood until 1985. His 29.1 scoring average in the playoffs is still the highest in NBA history. He was selected to the All-NBA first team 10 times, the second team twice, the All-Defensive first team four times and second team once. He played in 13 consecutive All-Star games. In addition to being enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, West has the unique honor of being the model for the NBA logo, which is a silhouette of him dribbling a ball.
JAMAAL WILKES – A winner both on and off the court, Jamaal Wilkes was a collegiate All-American both in basketball and scholastically at UCLA, where he played for John Wooden. He went on to play for the Golden State Warriors and received the NBA Rookie-of-the-Year award en route to his first NBA championship. Later, after being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, Wilkes won three more NBA titles. He was on three All-Star teams and retired from the NBA in 1985 after 12 seasons in the league.
JOHN WOODEN – As the most successful coach in the history of collegiate basketball, John Wooden posted a record of 88 consecutive victories and won 10 NCAA championships at UCLA. His lifetime coaching record, which spanned 40 years, was 905 wins compared with 203 losses. He is the only person to have been inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach. From 1930 to 1932, he was an All-American basketball player at Purdue University. He was named College Coach of the Year in 1973. The “Wizard of Westwood,” Wooden is loved by his former players for the lessons he taught them about life and is considered by many to be the greatest coach of any sport in the history of American athletics.