John Wooden Stamp Unveiled at UCLA Honoring the Coach Who Led Bruins to a Record 10 National Titles

John Wooden Stamp Unveiled at UCLA Honoring the Coach Who Led Bruins to a Record 10 National Titles
This undated image provided by University of California Los Angeles shows a shows a newly released by the US Postal Service a stamp of UCLA coach John Wooden. The U.S. Postal Service unveils a stamp for John Wooden, who coached UCLA to a record 10 national basketball championships, outside Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles on Feb. 24, 2024. (US Postal Service/UCLA via AP)
The Associated Press
2/24/2024
Updated:
2/25/2024

LOS ANGELES—A U.S. stamp honoring John Wooden was unveiled on the UCLA campus Saturday, Feb. 24, with Kareen Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes on hand to honor their coach who guided the Bruins to a record 10 national championships in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Abdul-Jabbar used a cane to approach the lectern outside Pauley Pavilion on a sun-splashed day. He had hip replacement surgery just before Christmas after he fell at a concert. The 76-year-old was known as Lew Alcindor during his college days when he was a three-time national player of the year.

“There’s only one thing I can say and that’s, ‘Thank you, coach.’ You gave it to us on both ends, you made us champs and you made us understand life,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I don’t think any coach can do better than that.”

The stamp shows Wooden with an intense look on his face and two players in the background wearing jerseys with the numbers 4 and 10. Four represents the number of undefeated seasons under Wooden and 10 is the record number of national championships his teams won in Westwood.

“I feel his ultimate impact will be as the ultimate teacher,” said Wilkes, who wore a turquoise bolo tie gifted to him by Wooden. “He gave us a gift, a process where we could each live our best lives.”

People lined up to purchase some of the 18 million Wooden stamps that have been printed and receive a first-day cancellation featuring the zip code assigned to the UCLA campus.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block called Wooden “the university’s most legendary and beloved figure” and noted that Wooden’s famed Pyramid of Success has appeared on the hit TV show “Ted Lasso.”

“The USPS forever stamp can be used as postage in perpetuity, never to expire,” Block said, “and that’s quite appropriate for a man whose eternal, timeless wisdom will continue to shape our lives and others for centuries to come.”

Christy Impelman, Wooden’s oldest grandchild, told the crowd that the man known as Papa to his family personally replied to thousands of letters and autograph requests during his lifetime without help from an assistant.

“He would sign or write and seal the items in an envelope and put a stamp on them. In his 99 years, he used a lot of U.S. postage stamps,” she said, drawing laughter. “This honor today is a true reflection of the way he lived his entire life. Our family is so thankful for the USPS, for UCLA. It’s great to keep his name out there and relevant to younger generations to come.”

Former UCLA gymnastics coach Valerie Kondos Field wore a long gray cardigan that she said was a gift from Wooden. The two were close and Wooden regularly attended her teams’ meets, as well as men’s and women’s basketball games, until the final year of his life.

“The handwritten notes that my husband and I received from coach Wooden, that he wrote in his beautiful handwriting, and he put in an envelope and he mailed through the United States Postal Service with a stamp, makes this absolutely, not just appropriate, but brilliant,” she said.

Wooden had a post office in the Reseda section of the San Fernando Valley near his home named for him in 2006.

The Indiana native is the second college basketball coach to be honored with a U.S. stamp. The first was James Naismith, who invented the game.

By Beth Harris