Happy Tuesday saints.
Many of us in Houston and around the nation are avid sports fans. Most Houstonians would agree that the Phi Slamma Jamma alumn, NBA Hall of Famer, NBA 50 great, Houston Rocket world champion… I could go on and on… you guys know who I’m talking about MR. Clyde Drexler is an influential figure in the Houston community. Well recently he took a stroll down memory lane with the writers from foxsportshouston.com.
I saw this very good artical written by Moisekapenda Bower and thought I’d share it with you. (from the foxsports.com website)
The closing week of March and opening weekend of April always inspire jaunts down memory lane for Clyde Drexler, whose renown as an NBA champion and Hall of Famer becomes secondary to his standing as a member of the Phi Slama Jama fraternity as winter transitions to spring.
Drexler doesn’t mind that his celebrity is threefold. He won an NBA title with the Rockets yet built his Hall-of-Fame résumé the Trailblazers. And though his professional career was legendary, Drexler carries as much clout from his three-year run on Cullen Boulevard with the Cougars, who thrice ran roughshod through the NCAA Tournament and advanced to three consecutive Final Fours, twice with Drexler completing breathtaking transitions from defense to offensive with vicious dunks.
Those memories don’t fade, despite the fact that nearly three decades have passed since Drexler and the Cougars participated in the 1983 NCAA title game at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. With the Final Four arriving in Houston and landing at Reliant Stadium this week, Drexler was reflective as he prepared for an ancillary hosting role for the event.
“Because Houston had so much success with the Phi Slama Jama teams – three straight Final Fours – coming back here is a lot of nostalgia, a lot of great memories of my college career as a student-athlete,” Drexler said. “We’re going to have Phi Slama Jama reunions. We’ve got a Guy Lewis breakfast, lunch and then dinner (honoring the former UH coach), and so it’s just a good time to reconnect with all your college colleagues, comrades and friends, and enjoy what brought us all together.”
Even now, some 30 years later, the association between Houston and the Final Four automatically pulls Phi Slama Jama into the conversation. During that three-season span Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Young, Larry Micheaux, Rob Williams, Benny Anders, Reid Gettys, Ricky Winslow, Cadillac Anderson, Dave Rose and several others revived what Lewis constructed in the 1960s as a national program. Their acclaim was a byproduct of their aerial exploits, their assaults on rims across the country and their flair for entertaining basketball. Those Cougars were the precursor to the Fab Five, a sensational collection of athletes culled largely from area high schools and cultivated under Lewis’ adept hands.
Those Cougars didn’t just win, they enthralled. They were local kids done good, rising stars who stood toe-to-toe with ballyhooed national programs like Louisville and North Carolina and Georgetown, matching their star power with their own brand of basketball celebrities. The Cardinals had the Doctors of Dunk; the Tar Heels features James Worthy, Sam Perkins and a neophyte guard named Michael Jordan; the Hoyas inspired paranoia with Patrick Ewing and Sleepy Floyd and Reggie Williams. Those teams cemented their legendary status by winning national championships. The fact that Phi Slama Jama remains as revered without a title speaks to the influence of their assemblage.
There can be no marginalizing the fact that the majority of those rosters were stocked with homegrown talent: Drexler hailed from Sterling; Young and Winslow were stars across Scott Street at Jack Yates; Williams graduated from Milby; Anderson and Micheaux were products of Worthing. Lewis not only had the wherewithal to restock his program with local products, which only helped fuel the fervor of support for UH, he had the acumen to lead those athletes to the pinnacle of their sport.
“When you’re young you dream about playing in the Final Four because you aspire to be the best team in the country,” said Drexler, who is serving on the Houston Final Four Local Organizing Committee. “And so it’s a tremendous honor just to make it, and then to have a chance to fulfill your dreams. I was lucky enough to go to two in my three years in college. Guy Lewis was the main reason for that though, I believe. He was the chief architect of those teams.”
Lewis joked with those squads during preseason camps that he would attend the Final Four with or without them, providing playful motivation that proved effective. Lewis had led the Cougars to consecutive Final Four appearances in 1967-68, so his reconstruction of a national power was deemed exceptional, particularly given the Cougars’ run of consecutive Final Fours starting in New Orleans in 1982.
That feat would represent the apex for Phi Slama Jama. In the 30 seasons since the Cougars’ third overall Final Four appearance in 1982, only four programs have advance to the Final Four in three consecutive seasons: Duke (1988-92); Kentucky (1996-98); Michigan State (1999-2001); and UCLA (2006-08). During the Cougars’ run they fell to the eventual national champion each time, falling to North Carolina in the semifinals before dropping back-to-back title games to North Carolina State and Georgetown in 1983 and ’84. The loss to the Wolfpack was particularly sobering because the Cougars were the nation’s top-ranked team and had won their four previous NCAA Tournament games by an average of 12 points, including a 94-81 semifinal victory over second-ranked Louisville – a contest billed as the de facto championship game.
Lorenzo Charles shattered that perception. Coincidentally, the 1983 Final Four was the last such event held on a college campus, with the NCAA producing a grander stage the following season at the Kingdome in Seattle. One can only imagine what kind of scene would have unfolded had the Astrodome, site of the 1971 Final Four, served as host a dozen years later when Phi Slama Jama was atop the college basketball world. Perhaps fate would have smiled upon the Cougars a while longer.
“I think our chances would have been greatly improved,” Drexler said with a hearty chuckle. “That place would have been red and white all over, and Guy Lewis would have been pumped up. Those are the things you kind of laugh about, but I like to think we had a lot of success. We were the No. 1 team in the country and made it to the finals two straight years and the semifinal game the year before that. The hardest part when you’re ranked as one of those superpower teams is not being upset. On the road to the Final Four we never got upset. That was one of the things we were very proud of because that’s what we focused on.
“Obviously you’d love to have three wins, and that’s what you play for. But if you come up short you’ve got to say, ‘You know what? We were there.’ We gave it three straight tries and lost three different ways, but at the same time all you can do is the best you can do while you’re there. Looking back on it we never got upset on the way to the Final Four because everybody was gunning for us. Make no mistake – we got everybody’s best game.”