This Time, It Was All O'bannon

Posted: April 04, 1995

SEATTLE — So much was going on, UCLA forward Ed O'Bannon took some deep breaths. His point guard, his friend since grade school, was sitting on UCLA's bench. Tyus Edney's right wrist was wrapped and useless. He wasn't going to be the hero in last night's NCAA title game. He couldn't even dribble the ball.

O'Bannon saw that and did something interesting. He didn't try to take over. He wrapped his arms around big George Zidek. He let Cameron Dollar, as good a backup point guard as any team could want, do his job, run the team.

O'Bannon, who had been honored the day before by the U.S. Basketball Writers as the national player of the year, was doing all sorts of little things. He threw an instinctual touch pass on a fastbreak to his brother Charles, who fed him right back. He got a finger on the ball to break up an Arkansas fastbreak.

The only player never to leave the Kingdome court, he scored 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. His last college game was a monster. O'Bannon was the no- brainer choice for MVP of the Final Four.

"He did everything but sell popcorn," Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. "I thought he was going to go out and sell some of that while he was playing."

All game, O'Bannon never cracked a smile - not until he dunked with 35 seconds left, the game really over. He raised his arms for the cameras and grinned all the way downcourt.

"They're never nervous," said Madeline O'Bannon after giving first Ed and then Charles hugs.

Before that, Ed O'Bannon had taken his award and taken a microphone and told everyone in the Kingdome to listen up.

"This is the real MVP - Tyus Edney. Give it up. That's the real MVP," O'Bannon said.

The crowd roared for the guard who had played the first three minutes and then had had to sit down.

But this was O'Bannon's game from start to finish. It wasn't 10 seconds old, and O'Bannon was open in the left corner. He matter-of-factly tossed in a three-pointer.

He kept on scoring. He hung in the air and somehow went around Corliss Williamson for his last hoop of the half.

This was the end of a long college career. This was what the basketball world had expected all along. Ed O'Bannon had signed with UNLV, but switched to the Bruins when the NCAA police caught up with Jerry Tarkanian.

An anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee popped on Oct. 9, 1990, before he ever played for UCLA. He said this was the first season he felt he could take his man whenever he wanted to.

"Before this season, I kind of forgot what type of player I used to be," O'Bannon said the day before the game.

What has happened is not just a physical improvement, O'Bannon said. He has matured.

He attributed this to his 10-month-old son, Aaron. At his last home game at Pauley Pavilion, O'Bannon brought his son out, to cheers, during a pregame ceremony.

"I've always wondered why my parents talk about Charles and me, why they brag about me," O'Bannon said. "I found out myself. I wanted the world to see my son and how beautiful he is to me."

Last night, O'Bannon did something nobody does. He grabbed an offensive rebound right underneath. Williamson grabbed him by the arm, but O'Bannon still muscled the ball up and in. His teammates got so excited they jumped all over him.

O'Bannon made the free throw. Then he grabbed a rebound at the other end and zinged a baseball pass down to freshman Toby Bailey for a reverse slam and a 10-point lead.

The game was still very much in doubt. Arkansas was about to go on a run. But the expression on O'Bannon's face never changed. He was the guy the Bruins were going to be able to depend on, to the last minute of his career.

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