Famous former UCLA athletes

Here is a list of some of the most famous UCLA athletes.
UCLA Bruins former player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar presented a photograph of him receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom . Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
UCLA Bruins former player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar presented a photograph of him receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom . Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA's most popular athletes of all time, along with reasons for their fame.

  • Dominant College Performances: Winning championships and individual accolades create a lasting legacy.
  • Professional Success: Athletes who excel in the pros keep the UCLA name in the spotlight.
  • Cultural Impact: Breaking barriers or captivating fans with their style can make athletes transcend their sport.

Basketball: Here is a list of some of the most famous UCLA basketball players to ever were a Bruin jersey.

Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar): He led UCLA to three consecutive NCAA championships from 1967 to 1969 dominated college basketball with his height and skill (the dunk was even banned partly due to him), and went on to become an NBA legend with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Reasons for Fame: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, known as Lew Alcindor during his UCLA days, is one of the greatest basketball players of all time and was a dominant force on the court with his skyhook shot. He's also known for his social activism and influence beyond basketball and he acted in some popular films and guest starred in some TV shows as well. Russell Westbrook: Along with Kevin Durant and James Harden, Westbrook formed one of basketball's most iconic trios with the Oklahoma City Thunder. His dazzling passing and showmanship revolutionized the point guard position in the early 2010s. Reasons for Fame: In the 2016-2017 NBA season, Westbrook achieved the remarkable feat of averaging a triple-double for the entire season (31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists per game), earning him the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. Bill Walton: A charismatic and skilled center, he led the Bruins to two NCAA championships in 1972 and 1973 and won numerous awards, with his rebounding and passing prowess. Reasons for Fame: Bill Walton is another iconic basketball player from UCLA. including the Naismith College Player of the Year. His exceptional skills as a center and his charismatic personality contributed to his fame. He was a well-known TV commentator for ESPN and the Pac-12 network. Ann Meyers Drysdale: She is a trailblazer in women's basketball. She played for UCLA from 1974 to 1978 and was the first female athlete to receive a full athletic scholarship at the university. Meyers Drysdale was a standout player, known for her all-around skills and competitive spirit. She went on to have a successful career in both professional basketball and broadcasting, becoming a pioneering figure for women in sports media. Reasons for Fame: She was also the first female player to agree to a contract with an NBA franchise which was the 1979 Indiana Pacers. Meyers held the positions of vice president for the NBA's Phoenix Suns and president and general manager for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury. She worked as a color analyst for the Phoenix Suns television broadcasts and as a network television sports analyst for TNT, ESPN, CBS, and NBC for more than 26 years.


Track and Field/Baseball: Here is a list of reason why these former Bruins athletes left a legacy from their days at UCLA what they did professionally and the impact that they had.

Florence Griffith-Joyner ("Flo-Jo"): Nicknamed "Flo-Jo," she set world records in the 100m and 200m sprints that still stand today. Her style and dominant performances made her a global icon. Reasons for Fame: In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, she won three gold medals and one silver medal. Her most notable performance was in the 100 meters, where she set a world record of 10.49 seconds. She became a cultural icon and role model for aspiring athletes, especially young women. Her charisma, confidence, and dedication to her sport inspired many to pursue their athletic dreams. Jackie Robinson: A legend before his professional baseball career, Robinson broke racial barriers in college athletics by playing four sports (football, basketball, baseball, and track) at UCLA. Reasons for Fame: On April 15, 1947, he became the first African-American player to break the color barrier in MLB by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. This courageous act challenged the racial segregation that had long existed in professional baseball and paved the way for future generations of African-American and minority players. He was named the MLB Rookie of the Year in 1947 and went on to have a distinguished career that included six All-Star selections, an NL MVP award in 1949, and helping the Brooklyn Dodgers win their first World Series in 1955. His jersey number, 42, was retired by all MLB teams in 1997, a testament to his enduring legacy and contribution to American history.

Football: Here is the most famous and recognizable former UCLA football player.

Troy Aikman - Aikman played quarterback for UCLA from 1987 to 1988 before going on to have a Hall of Fame career in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. He led UCLA to a 20-4 record as a starter and was known for his strong arm and leadership on the field. Aikman's success at UCLA helped solidify his reputation as one of the top quarterbacks in college football at the time. Reasons for Fame: He played quarterback for the Cowboys from 1989 to 2000. During his tenure, he led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories (Super Bowl XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX). Aikman transitioned into a successful career as a television sportscaster and color commentator for NFL games.


Coaches who were and are famously known for their time as head coaches at UCLA.

John Wooden: While not a player, Coach Wooden's success is unmatched. He led UCLA to a record ten national championships in men's basketball, building a dynasty and becoming synonymous with excellence. Reasons for Fame: He famously implemented his "Pyramid of Success," a philosophy that emphasized principles such as industriousness, loyalty, cooperation, and competitive greatness, among others. Coaching 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years, including seven consecutive titles from 1967 to 1973. Al Scates: He like Wooden, brought UCLA double-digit national championship as one of the most successful volleyball coaches in NCAA history. He coached the UCLA Bruins men's volleyball team from 1963 to 2012, during which he won 19 NCAA national championships, making him the winningest coach in NCAA volleyball history. Reasons for Fame: Scates' teams won collegiate volleyball championships in five different decades which is an amazing accomplishment of longevity. Known as "the other Wizard of Westwood," he technically outperformed John Wooden in NCAA championship wins. On two occasions, his teams achieved three consecutive national titles.

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