Glory Road/Khadeem Lattin

Watching his grandson brings David Lattin back. Khadeem Lattin is busy making his own memories now, starting for an Oklahoma Sooners squad that has reached the Sweet 16 in this year's NCAA tournament.

It's a special moment for the whole family, 50 years after David "Big Daddy" Lattin won his own NCAA championship. But that was no ordinary title game: David, playing for Texas Western, was a starter on the first college basketball team to feature an all-black starting lineup.

And that championship, played against a favored, all-white Kentucky team led by a coach who did little to mask his racism, is now regarded as perhaps the most important college basketball game ever played.

Khadeem Lattin

You might be familiar with the story, which was re-created in the 2006 film "Glory Road." Watching Khadeem take part in his own tournament run, David can't help but feel nostalgic about that experience, and the path it helped pave for his grandson.

"Things have changed dramatically since then," David says. "For example, if Khadeem was in high school back in 1966, he might not have been invited to go to Oklahoma. Probably not.

"Things have changed dramatically. I'm excited about it. We did something to help make change."

***

David Lattin is 72. But Oklahoma's shot at reaching the Final Four has him feeling 50 years younger.

"I know exactly what he's going through. I'm as excited as he is," David says of Khadeem. "It's almost like I'm playing myself. Watching his teammates get better and better, and just hoping they can go far."

At the same time, David is reluctant to look too far ahead -- even to the prospect of reaching this year's Final Four in Houston, where David lives and where Khadeem graduated high school. Such a homecoming would be a dream for them both, but David wants Khadeem and his Sooners teammates to focus on the next game, and to take the journey one step at a time -- just like the 1966 Texas Western team did.

Don Haskins

"We were just youngsters trying to win," he says. And winning was something the Texas Western Miners did well. In the 1965-66 season, they stormed out to a perfect 23-0 start before losing their final game of the regular season. In the NCAA Tournament, they survived two overtime games in the second and third rounds, the latter against No. 4 Kansas.

They reached the championship game with a battle-tested 27-1 record. But despite their overall record and a No. 3 national ranking, Texas Western was seen as a heavy underdog to No. 1 Kentucky. As players were introduced in the nationally televised game, the broadcaster noted that, "The Washington Post has pretty well conceded that Texas Western cannot stand up to Kentucky."

The lineup introductions were interesting for another critical reason: Texas Western's starting line was different than the official roster sheet handed out to media. Miners coach Don Haskins made a last-minute decision to compose his starters of all African-American players.

"The starting lineup we were given was not the one that was used tonight," said the broadcast.

From the tip, Kentucky looked like the slick, polished team everyone knew they were. But Texas Western quickly proved its place on the court, starting with David Lattin's thunderous dunk to put the Miners on the board:

That dunk, for what's it worth, was over a young Pat Riley. The Miners kept cool and played an aggressive game, and in front of a mostly white crowd, they pulled off the upset, 72-65.

Some had speculated that Haskins' move to play an all-African American lineup was a pointed statement -- possibly one directed at Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp, who all his life resisted recruiting black players and is well-known for his contempt toward them. Haskins never admitted such a motivation.

"I really didn't think about starting five black guys," Haskins said. "I just wanted to put my five best guys on the court. ... I just wanted to win that game."

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Years later, in his book, Glory Road, written with Dan Wetzel, Haskins insisted that he didn't intend to become a historical figure: "I certainly did not expect to be some racial pioneer or change the world."

David, who played five seasons in the NBA and ABA, felt the same way, at least in the immediate aftermath of the win. Texas Western had won, but the world seemed unchanged: Facilities staff didn't offer ladders to let them cut down the nets after their win, and they weren't invited to "The Ed Sullivan Show" as was customary for champions in past years.

Texas Western's victory was a landmark moment for college sports. It is widely regarded as tipping off the integration of minority student-athletes into college sports. That 1966 team was elected to the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

But wasn't until a Sports Illustrated story the following fall, David says, that the team started to realize the historical significance of what they had done.

In the locker room, though, there was a sense that they'd toppled Goliath -- even if they weren't sure what that meant.

"Bobby Joe [Hill] had mentioned something after the game," David says. "'There's never been a game like it before, and there never will be again.'"

***

Right now, David Lattin is trying to give his grandson some space. He'll exchange texts with him every now and then, but he knows Khadeem has his hands full with school, basketball and advice from his mom.

Khadeem's mom, Monica Lamb-Powell, who divorced his dad Cliff Lattin in 1996, was a great basketball player in her own right, starring at USC before playing two seasons in the WNBA. She's got her own pointers to pass on to her son.

David Lattin

"She's texting him 24 hours a day," David says, laughing.

Still, he's quick to offer his feedback and constructive criticism to Khadeem, a 6-9 sophomore forward, whether it's on the court or off the court. Last year, when a racist video featuring members of Oklahoma's SAE fraternity tore the campus in half, David texted his grandson, then a freshman, to make sure he handled the situation right.

"My advice to him was to try and stay away from it," David says. "He's there to go to school, go to class, play basketball. Sometimes when you get sidetracked, you lose your concentration on why you're really there."

David has plenty of basketball advice to offer, too. He'll share his thoughts on Khadeem's recent performance, and even offer advice and guidance to pass on to other players on the team.

"I tell him all the time, I wish I had a grandpa who was in the Hall of Fame, to give me pointers," David says. "It's just difficult for him to know how well he has it."

Khadeem has teased his mother and grandfather that he wants to eclipse their accomplishments on the basketball court. In both measures, he has a long way to go. But David says that some parts of Khadeem's game are already better than his ever were. His shot-blocking, for example.

"Rebounding has to come up a little bit, though," David says. "And the points. I'd like to see him lead the nation in rebounding, blocked shots and finish in first 15 in scoring. If he did that, he'd be the man, much better than me."

Best Players In March Madness History

 

16. Stephen Curry, Davidson

He averaged nearly 26 points as a sophomore, helping the Wildcats to a 26-6 regular-season record in 2008. He went absolutely crazy in the tournament by draining insanely long-range shots and making some of the top teams look silly. Curry hit eight 3-pointers and notched 40 points in No. 10 seed Davidson's first-round win over No. 7 seed Gonzaga. After a slow first half vs. No. 2 Georgetown, Curry went off for 25 in the second to take down the Hoyas almost single-handedly.

 

Stephen Curry, Davidson

Another 33-point effort sealed his legendary status against No. 3 seed Wisconsin as little Davidson made it to the Elite Eight. "His run really encompassed all that was great about March Madness," says Greg Anthony, CBS Sports' lead college basketball analyst. "The baby-boy look coupled with the assassin's killer instinct! I just recall thinking that no one should be able to shoot the basketball like that, then I remembered his dad and it became clear that we were watching greatness."

 

15. Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston

Olajuwon is the last player to be named Most Outstanding Player in the tournament from a losing team. That was following his 1983 championship loss to an N.C. State team that won on an airball-turned dunk in the final seconds. (Check it out in Best Buzzer Beaters.) Then known as "Akeem," he had 20 points and 18 rebounds, but because of that defeat it's easy to forget how fun Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and the rest of Phi Slamma Jamma -- the so-called dunking fraternity -- were to watch.

 

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston

"Olajuwon led his school to an 88-16 record and three straight Final Four appearances from 1982-84," says Randy McClure, executive editor of Rush the Court. "Although he never cut the nets down during his three-year career -- losing to Michael Jordan's North Carolina Tar Heels in the semifinals in 1982, N.C. State's miracle run in the championship game in 1983, and Georgetown's Patrick Ewing in the same spot one year later -- he was a dominant post force on both ends of the floor."

 

14. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse

One year was all Melo needed to give Syracuse and legendary coach Jim Boeheim their first national title in 2003. Anthony led the Orange in every offensive category in the regular season: Scoring, rebounding, minutes played. Once March Madness rolled around, Melo again put the team on his back. His 33 points against No. 1 seed Texas set a Final Four record for most by a freshman. In the title game against Kansas, Anthony had 20 points and 10 rebounds in a snug 81-78 victory.

 

Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse

It was no question he would win the Most Outstanding Player award. "I called his game when they won the regional finals to move onto the Final Four as a freshman,” says Gus Johnson, Fox Sports lead college basketball play-by-play announcer. "He was a boy who was playing as a man among everybody else. College was just way too small for him before he turned pro." (Be strong, energetic, and healthy like you were at 25!)

 

13. Patrick Ewing, Georgetown

Few players have had more tournament agony. As a freshman, Ewing almost helped Georgetown win it until Michael Jordan stuck a dagger of a shot to give North Carolina the lead in the closing seconds. "What a lot of people don't know is that Ewing actually considered quitting basketball before his junior year when his mother passed away," says Tom Hager, author of The Ultimate Book of March Madness.

 

Patrick Ewing, Georgetown

Luckily for Georgetown and coach John Thompson, he stayed and outdueled Olajuwon in the 1984 title game. He was named the Most Outstanding Player, menacing the lane with 15 total blocks. It was the only title Ewing would ever win, though, as the very next year as a senior, another heralded Hoyas team stunningly lost to Villanova in the championship. (Fans always love rooting for the underdog: 16 Greatest March Madness Upsets that busted brackets across the country.)

 

12. Larry Bird, Indiana State

Larry Legend was born at little Indiana State. It could have been with the Indiana Hoosiers, but Bird couldn't adjust to the "big city" of Bloomington. So for the Sycamores, he averaged a humble 30 points during his three seasons, and they rolled into the 1979 title game against Michigan State without a loss. He rolled in his first four games of the tournament, but Bird's 19 points weren't enough to top Magic Johnson in the highest rated college basketball game ever during the championship.

 

Larry Bird, Indiana State

However, it was the antithesis of a rivalry that would only grow. "No other player can claim to have carried a team to the extent of Larry Bird," says Andy Katz, senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com. "Bird had to lead Indiana State to a title game with talent that wasn't equal to Michigan State. Bird's NCAA Tournament play was the precursor to one of the greatest careers and eras in the NBA." (Discover these four proven tips on how to win your next pickup game.)

 

11. Bill Bradley, Princeton

More than 70 schools offered Bill Bradley a scholarship, but he chose Ivy school Princeton. Not having a scholarship didn't deter Bradley, as he was a three-time All American. After his junior year, he captained the U.S. Olympic basketball team to a gold medal then shined even more as a senior. He helped the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in 1965, where he averaged 43.5 points and set a scoring record of 58 points against Wichita State in the tournament's consolation game.

 

Bill Bradley, Princeton

"He was something else. He could be a one-man show a lot of the time with a style like a Reggie Miller or Ray Allen," says Bill Raftery, Fox Sports lead college basketball analyst. "He was always busy without the ball, coming off screens and setting his man up." He'd go on to do much less interesting things -- like becoming a U.S. Senator. (What is the Secret to Athletic Success? Stop comparing yourself to the competition.)

 

10. Elgin Baylor, Seattle

One of the all-time greats that regularly gets overlooked, Baylor originally began his college career at the College of Idaho. He averaged over 30 points per game and tore down 20 rebounds per game his first season, but decided to transfer to Seattle University when his coach was fired. Following a season on the sidelines, Baylor left his mark on the college game, being named second-team All-American his first year with Seattle and first-team his second season.

 

Elgin Baylor, Seattle

“Elgin Baylor was one of the first combo guard/forwards whose elite athleticism made him impossible to defend,” says McClure. Seattle was ranked 18th heading into the 1958 tournament, and little was expected from it. But Baylor, a junior, scored 27 points per game in his five tournament games and put the Chieftans in the title game against Kentucky. He missed 23 of 32 shots against Kentucky in the loss -- still scoring 25 points with 19 rebounds -- but was named Most Outstanding Player.

 

9. Christian Laettner, Duke

Many loved him, and many detested him. But you can't deny Christian Laettner’s imprint on college basketball. "One of the great performers in the clutch in hoop history," says Jay Bilas, a college basketball analyst for ESPN. "Laettner didn't care whether you liked him. He just wanted to win, and he wasn't afraid of losing."

 

Christian Laettner, Duke

Just look to our list of the Best Buzzer Beaters in March Madness history for evidence of his clutchness, and you'll find Laettner there -- twice. It wasn't just big shots that he hit on the big stage. He played in four consecutive Final Fours -- winning in 1991 and 1992 -- and he holds NCAA Tournament records for points (407) and games played (23).

 

8. Danny Manning, Kansas

Larry Brown was lucky his Jayhawks even made the 1988 tournament. His team battled injuries all year but limped into the field as a No. 6 seed with 11 losses. Luckily he had Danny Manning. "Danny was always productive, but he was so unselfish it took him a long time to grow comfortable with being great," says Mike DeCourcy, a college hoops writer for Sporting News. "At the core, he really was a 6-foot-11 point guard.

 

Danny Manning, Kansas

"But Kansas needed him to be a 6-11 forward who was okay with scoring all the points if necessary. He figured that out just in time." In the championship game against conference rival Oklahoma, Manning recorded 31 points, 18 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 blocked shots. It capped a career where he led Kansas to the Final Four in 1986 and a regional semifinal in 1987.

 

7. Jerry Lucas, Ohio State

Ohio State's 1960 national title team -- the only one in school history -- was loaded with players like John Havlicek and Bobby Knight, plus they averaged over 90 points per game despite not having a 3-point line. But few had the overall raw talent of a young Jerry Lucas.

 

Jerry Lucas, Ohio State

As a super sophomore -- his first year playing since freshman weren't allowed to play varsity -- Lucas poured in 24 points per game during the Buckeyes' tournament run and grabbed a mind-boggling 16 rebounds per contest. "He may be the best rebounder besides Kevin Love I ever saw," says Raftery. Lucas would help lead Ohio State to two more title game appearances only to be beat by Cincinnati twice.

 

6. Magic Johnson, Michigan State

Magic is six spots higher than Larry for a good reason: He won the 1979 championship. While his 24 points and seven rebounds were impressive against Bird -- who struggled in the final game -- many point to the triple-double against an overmatched University of Pennsylvania in the semifinal contest as the game that truly made "Magic" shine. "Magic helped define with Bird a generation of fans in the NBA and to some extent in college basketball," says Katz.

 

Magic Johnson, Michigan State

"His showtime antics and re-defining a position drew an immense amount of attention in that era.” He was a guard in a forward's body, making him unstoppable at the time. (Here are the 5 unorthodox strategies that could boost productivity and lead to success.)

 

5. Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas

Chamberlain only had one run in the tournament, and he did the most he could to get Kansas a title. But there's only so much a 7-foot-2 sophomore can do when he’s getting triple teamed and verbally abused. In 1957, Chamberlain took a heavily favored Jayhawks squad to a 23-team tournament. He scored 36 points in an overtime win over SMU and then 30 points against Oklahoma City to reach the Final Four -- all the while hearing racial barbs slung his way.

 

Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas

A blowout of San Francisco took them on to face No. 1 seed North Carolina. Despite the championship being played essentially at home in Kansas City, Chamberlain was "held" to 23 points and 14 rebounds as the Tar Heels won 54-53 in the only triple-overtime NCAA Tournament contest with a strategy of triple-teaming and holding the ball as much as possible. Wilt would win Most Outstanding Player that year, and then go professional after his junior season.

 

4. Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati

For the time, the "Big O" was just a step ahead and did everything well -- guarding, passing, shot selection. He won the national scoring title each of his three years at Cincinnati. Unfortunately, a title was the only thing that eluded Robertson in college. The Bearcats made back-to-back NCAA Final Four appearances in 1959 and 1960, losing to Cal each time in the semifinal round. But Robertson was known for his triple-doubles, and he delivered in a third-place game against Louisville in 1959.

 

Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati

It was the first triple-double in Final Four history with 39 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. "Some who were around when he played, including me, still think he might have been the greatest all around player ever," says Verne Lundquist, CBS Sports play-by-play announcer. Now when you see combo guards/forwards, remember that it started with Robertson.

 

3. Bill Walton, UCLA

Walton was the workhorse of John Wooden's and UCLA's 88-game winning streak in the early 1970s. He and his flowing red locks of hair won three straight college player of the year awards, and he won two national titles. But when we brought up Walton's name and the NCAA Tournament, most experts pointed to his dazzling performance against Memphis State in the 1973 championship game.

 

Bill Walton, UCLA

His 44 points on a 21-for-22 outing is all the proof one needs to show Walton's dominance. "So many of the 21 baskets Walton made were essentially dunks that it sort of numbed you to the reality of how brilliantly he was playing," says DeCourcy. "Go back and watch it now, four decades later. He was being defended hard by legit big guys -- Larry Kenon and Ronnie Robinson -- and Walton made some dazzling shots. No one’s ever played better in the NCAAs."

 

2. Bill Russell, San Francisco

Most people only think of Bill Russell when it comes to his 11 NBA championship rings. But he was a force even in college with the University of San Francisco Dons. "Russell won the 1955 and 1956 national titles with San Francisco, and helped the team win 55 consecutive games," says Hager. He was Most Outstanding Player in 1955, and in the second of his national championships, the 6-foot-10 Russell poured in 26 points and notched 27 rebounds in the title game against the University of Iowa.

 

Bill Russell, San Francisco

For his college career, Russell averaged over 20 points and 20 rebounds per game. His long limbs also made him a force defensively. "I don't think I've ever seen anybody like him,” says Raftery. "Defensively it was like he had three or four arms.” Another sign that Russell couldn’t be stopped: the NCAA widened the lanes and eliminated goaltending after he went pro.

 

1. Lew Alcindor, UCLA

Exactly how dominant would the UCLA Bruins have been if Lew Alcindor -- you know him now as Kareem Abdul Jabbar -- been allowed to play as a freshman? So let's just list the accolades for his three years on varsity: three time national college player of the year, three NCAA Championships, three Final Four Most Outstanding Player awards.

 

Lew Alcindor, UCLA

The NCAA essentially banned the dunk because of Alcindor. (He was smart enough to perfect the also indefensible hook shot.) "He might be the best offensive player with his back to the basket of all time," says Raftery. "He made his time at UCLA worth it." And he didn’t shy away on the big stage of the Final Four. He averaged 18.8 boards and 25.7 points in his six games. Nobody can match him.

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Oklahoma faces a tough road to the Final Four. The No. 2 seed faces third-seed Texas A&M on Thursday before a showdown with the winner of Oregon-Duke.

But if the Sooners can win those two games, Khadeem will get to come home to Houston -- and play on the championship stage where his grandpa helped make history.

"I've had people tell me, 'It's amazing that your grandson is in the position where he could be in the Final Four,'" David says. "I don't want to think past these guys playing tomorrow. But that would be something special."

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