In the 1990s, the name Ed O'Bannon was as well known around Los Angeles as Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. He was a superstar forward for the UCLA Bruins, and in 1995 he led the team to victory in the NCAA Championship, in the process scoring 30 points and being named the tournament MVP.
But his biggest win might not have happened on the basketball court but in the courtroom. As part of the class action lawsuit, O'Bannon v. the National Collegiate Athletic Assn., he and his fellow plaintiffs challenged that the NCAA's use of a student's likeness or image violated the law. It argued that upon graduation, former student athletes should be financially compensated for future commercial uses of their image or likeness.
O'Bannon has a book about that experience titled, "Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA." He joined Take Two to talk about it, and he said that the suit stemmed from a wildly popular video game series, NCAA March Madness by EA Sports, a game he first became aware of in 2009 when he went to a friend's house after an afternoon of golf.
We were just really kind of hanging out that day, and he told me that his son was playing a video game, with me in it. I was pretty amazed, and flattered, and I was thrilled to be on it ... and then my friend said, we payed X amount of dollars for it, and you didn't get a penny. And he sort of said it jokingly, but he was sort of serious, and I laughed, but then I got serious.
Here's an excerpt from his book where he talked about what he was feeling when his friend told him that his likeness was in a video game.
I'm not a gamer. My prime years as a video game player occurred back in the early 1980s when my brother Charles and I would spend hours on our Atari 2600 moving PAC-MAN through a maze or blasting asteroids. I realized that games had evolved quite a bit since then, but why the heck would I be in a game? I'm no Pitfall Harry jumping over crocodiles. I'm not Frogger trying to avoid becoming roadkill. I'm just Ed.
The lawsuit argued that upon graduation, a former student athlete should become entitled to financial compensation for future commercial uses of his or her image by the NCAA. It made its way through the legal system for years leading to a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2015 in favor of O’Bannon. We spoke to him about the case, and what he hopes is his legacy.
Here's a digital preview of the book, courtesy of his publisher, Diversion Books.