Edgar Lacey: Basketball star who lost his shine in 1 night

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A funeral for Edgar Lacey is scheduled today in Downey. The 66-year-old former UCLA basketball star died last week. Southland fans remember Lacey as a bright basketball star who lost much of his shine on one angry night.

Edgar Lacey’s basketball career began beautifully. The Jefferson High star and L.A. high school player of the year was a sophomore starter at forward when UCLA won the NCAA title in 1965.

Two years later, after he’d missed a season with a knee injury, Lacey skipped a shot at the NBA to stay with UCLA and Lew Alcindor – you know, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Together, they were unbeaten for 13 games – until January 20, 1968.

The Bruins met the unbeaten Houston Cougars at the Astrodome before 50,000 fans and a giant TV audience. Lacey had to guard Houston’s Elvin Hayes. He couldn’t; no one could.

Hayes, a future NBA superstar, scored at will; Coach John Wooden benched Lacey early in the game and never put him back in. Houston won, and Lacey – furious with Wooden – quit the Bruins three days later and refused to return.

That fall, Lacey joined the ABA’s L.A. Stars – the last time one of L.A.'s brightest basketball stars was still a star.