UCLA Basketball: An Open Letter To Jimmy Chitwood, Er, Shabazz Muhammad


Shabazz Muhammad (15), Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, Shabazz. You seem like a stand-up guy. During the interviews that you’ve done you come across as a thoughtful student of the game of basketball. You came to UCLA on a mission. With three other great young men, fully aware of the tradition, you all accepted the challenge of being a UCLA Bruin. We fans would like to ask you to consider something. If you don’t win the National Championship this season, please come back for one more season and try again.

There are plenty of reasons we fans would like to see you in a Bruins uniform for a second year. We have loved you from the start. Your work ethic, your drive, your grace as a spokesman for the Bruins, not to mention your talent on the court, have all contributed to a high level of admiration and pride in having you represent UCLA. We also believe that if you stay, however things go this season in the tourney, next season could be really special. In fact, you said as much yourself: “Everyone has me leaving,” Muhammad said. “There’s a lot to weigh and I have a lot of eligibility left. We’re only losing Larry. We could be really good next year.” If I may be so bold as to slightly correct you, you guys could be GREAT next year.

If you stayed another season you could help not only yourself as regards your NBA stock, but also your fellow players. Imagine a season of dominance as opposed to this current season of growing pains. It’s entirely possible. Losing only LDII while adding some talented freshmen, you and the Bruins would have depth, additional strength via off-season work-outs and plenty of experience. Yes, you’re a guaranteed NBA first rounder right now, but if you came back you could hone your skills to perfection in all aspects of the game and solidify yourself as a high lottery pick, if not the highest lottery pick.

If you and everyone else came back it’s hard to imagine a more lethal team, my friend. You’d be ranked No. 1 or close to it to open the season. As the centerpiece of a truly powerful team your NBA stock would rise, as would your teammates’ like Kyle and Jordan, so you’d be helping everyone get better.

Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Pauley would be packed every game. It would be a madhouse. More importantly, as a student of the game, you’d have a great chance to be part of something truly big—restoring the UCLA legacy. Right now you’re considered one of the most talented Bruins ever, but you could elevate yourself to the pantheon of one of the greatest and most beloved Bruins ever. That’s something worth thinking about.

Oh, and while you’re at it, you could pull a “Jimmy Chitwood.” Have you seen the movie “Hoosiers”? Who am I kidding, of course you have. There’s a point in the movie where a vocal, and pretty clearly blinded, set of parents and local fans of the team try to vote the head coach, Norman Dale, out of his job. They’re wrong of course because most of them don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground when it comes to basketball, but that doesn’t stop them from succeeding. Technically, they vote Coach Dale out. However, the most talented player in the school, Jimmy Chitwood, steps up and changes the outcome. He recognizes that Coach Dale is a good man and a good coach, and is actually turning things around. He just needs a chance to finish. So Chitwood says he will return to basketball, but only on the condition that Coach Dale is retained. The rest is history.

So what we’re saying here is that if you stay, many believe you will help not only yourself, but your fellow players and the university’s basketball program immensely. And in the process, you can help a truly good, beleaguered man and head coach in the process by suggesting staying one more season is contingent on Coach Howland being retained. Think about it, Bazz. What you do here at this juncture of your life could be the stuff of legend.

Yours truly, Shooter.