UCLA's domination of college basketball hit its title-hogging peak with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton in the middle.
The two big men helped drive the Bruins' unprecedented run of seven straight NCAA championships (1967-73) along with impacting the history of the Associated Press men's college basketball poll.
As the AP marks the 75th anniversary of the poll this month, the 7-foot-2 Abdul-Jabbar — then known as Lew Alcindor — and the 6-foot-11 Walton were on teams that combined to spend 81 weeks ranked No. 1. That included four wire-to-wire runs, first with Abdul-Jabbar (1966-67 and 1968-69) and then Walton (1971-72 and 1972-73).
Each was a two-time pick as AP national player of the year and three-time AP first-team All-Americans, and combined to be named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player five times.
They were not, of course, the only players to have a major impact on the rankings.
BILL RUSSELL, San Francisco
Russell led the Dons to consecutive NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956, leading them to the No. 1 ranking for five weeks in the first season and then a wire-to-wire stay at No. 1 in the second.
WILT CHAMBERLAIN, Kansas
The 7-1 center was a force in his two college seasons, the first ending with a triple-overtime loss to North Carolina in the 1957 NCAA title game. Chamberlain's Jayhawks were ranked No. 1 or No. 2 for every week of the 1956-57 season, then spent the next season inside the top 10.
OSCAR ROBERTSON, Cincinnati
The Bearcats were ranked No. 7 or better for every poll but one with the 6-5 guard and three-time AP All-American. Cincinnati spent two weeks at the top in the 1958-59 season then was a wire-to-wire No. 1 in 1959-60.
ELVIN HAYES, Houston
The 6-9 center put up big numbers in a career that included being AP national player of the year over Alcindor in 1968. The NCAA Tournament's No. 2 all-time scorer helped the Cougars spend the 1966-67 season inside the top 10 and then stay at No. 1 or No. 2 throughout 1967-68.
DAN ISSEL, Kentucky
The 6-9 Issel remains the storied program's all-time scoring and rebounding leader. The Wildcats — named the No. 1 all-time team in AP poll history — remained a top-10 team for all 45 polls of his three-year career, including six weeks at No. 1 and every week in the top 3 for the 1969-70 season.
DAVID THOMPSON, North Carolina State
The 6-4 athletic guard nicknamed “Skywalker” was a two-time AP national player of the year who led the Wolfpack to the 1974 NCAA title, ending the Bruins' title run. N.C. State remained inside the top 10 for all three years of Thompson's career, including 12 weeks at No. 1. The program has been No. 1 for one other week (January 1959) in its history.
LARRY BIRD, Indiana State
The 6-9 forward was AP national player of the year in 1979, the season that ended with the famed matchup with Magic Johnson and Michigan State in the NCAA title game. Bird's Sycamores spent 16 weeks in the top 10 in his three-year career, including four weeks at No. 1, but hasn't been ranked before or since.
RALPH SAMPSON, Virginia
The 7-4 center was a three-time AP national player of the year who singlehandedly made the Cavaliers a power in the early 1980s. Virginia spent Sampson's last three seasons entirely in the top 10, including 12 weeks at No. 1.
PATRICK EWING, Georgetown
The 7-footer was the center of an incredible four-year run that included the 1984 NCAA title and two other trips to the title game. The three-time AP first-team All-American and 1985 national player of the year helped the Hoyas remain inside the top 10 in his last two seasons, with 12 weeks at No. 1 in 1985.
CHRISTIAN LAETTNER, Duke
The 6-11 center led the Blue Devils to their first two NCAA titles under Mike Krzyzewski (1991 and 1992) while reaching four Final Fours — two of those secured on his own last-second jumper. He closed his career as AP national player of the year and the NCAA Tournament's all-time scoring leader with a team that was a wire-to-wire No. 1 in 1991-92, and Duke rarely fell out of the top 10 in his career.
TYLER HANSBROUGH, North Carolina
The 6-9 forward was a four-time AP All-American (twice on the first team) and 2008 national player of the year who won the 2009 NCAA title and owns the Atlantic Coast Conference’s career scoring record (2,872). His teams spent his last three seasons inside the top 10, the last two inside the top 5 and 24 weeks at No. 1.
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