Published Sep 2, 2011 8:00 AM
NBA pickup games let Bruins learn from pros—while all-stars play free of fans and referees—on the court where Coach Wooden trained basketball greats.
Walk into the UCLA Student Activities Center on any summer weekday afternoon and you may find such NBA stars as Ron Artest of the L.A. Lakers, Andre Miller of the Denver Nuggets and Elton Brand of the Philadelphia 76ers shooting hoops in an informal, all-star game.
NBA stars play at UCLA every summer to get ready for training camp. Ron Artest of the Lakers, Elton Brand and Andre Miller talk about the tradition.
It’s a decades-old tradition, stemming from UCLA’s reputation as a basketball powerhouse. “There’s no better pickup game anywhere in the country,” says Bruins Assistant Coach Scott Garson.
And it takes place on a hallowed floor. The former Men’s Gym court is where Coach John Wooden trained Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he was still Lew Alcindor and where the Bruins played in the days before Pauley Pavilion.
The NBA guys love the informality. Philadelphia’s Brand says, “It’s a great, pure feeling. You’re just playing for the love of the sport.” One of the few rules of the games is that at least one current Bruin player has to be out there, too, learning from the pros. After all, says Mitchell Butler, a former Bruin who went on to play for the former Washington Bullets, “We were all [once] young pups.”