The 30 Most Influential NCAA MBB Teams of SLAM’s 30 Years: ‘99 UCLA

To celebrate SLAM’s 30th anniversary, we’re spotlighting the 30 most influential men’s college teams from our past 30 years. Stats, records and chips aren’t the main factor here, it’s all about their contribution to the game’s cultural fabric.

For the next 30 days—Monday through Friday— we’ll be unveiling the full list here. We’ve also got an exclusive retro collegiate collection, out now, that pays homage to each squad’s threads. Shop here.

The ‘99 UCLA men’s basketball team had everyone buzzing. Draped in bold powder blue and gold, the coastal Pac-10 squad embodied an unseen swagger in Westwood. Picture this: a lethal Baron Davis and Earl Watson backcourt with Third-Team All-American and Pac-10 All-Freshman Team honors to their name. A supporting cast of bucket-getters and defensive specialists in Jaron Rush, Jérôme Moïso, Dan Gadzuric and a budding freshman in Matt Barnes.  

At the wheel was none other than Steve Lavin, a young coach with a fiery passion for the game and a knack for getting the best out of his players. Lavin wasn’t just a coach; he was a motivator, a strategist and a mastermind of the game. His flashy offensive schemes and innovative tactics kept fans on the edge of their seats and opponents guessing. With Lavin calling the shots, you never knew what kind of magic the Bruins would produce next. 

Then there was star guard Baron Davis, the hometown kid who enacted a spectacle under the lights of Pauley Pavilion. Moïso was an ace on defense, while Rush cleaned the glass with 7.3 boards a game, and Ray Young splashed down spot-ups from beyond the arc. Between their toughness, versatility, and willingness to put their bodies on the line, these players dominated the court every time. Back in March of ‘99, we documented the team’s recapturing of UCLA’s standard traditions. A rebirth was taking place in Westwood spearheaded by a youthful roster with only two upperclassmen to claim.  

Despite falling short of their eventual personal expectations with an opening round loss to Detroit Mercy in the tourney, the UCLA Bruins, soaking up LA’s sunny vibes, brought a lot more than just wins to the table. They echoed the essence of a city that is vibrant and full of energy. Their electrifying performances on the court brought people together from all corners of the city, uniting fans of every background under one common passion. Whether it was students packing into Pauley Pavilion or families gathering around their TVs at home, the Bruins had a way of captivating audiences and instilling pride within the community. The wins and losses didn’t just measure their impact; it was felt in the hearts and minds of everyone touched by their presence. They were LA’s own hometown heroes, inspiring future generations to dream big and reach for the stars. 

Photos via Getty Images.

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