Former Bruin Lucius Allen Talks Hoops and Life

As a high schooler he also turned out to be the best of the best. In 1999 the Topeka Capitol Journal named Allen the greatest high school player in the 20th Century. New Arena named him the best basketball player ever from the state of Kansas.  

Lucious Allen (42) had a 10-year pro career that included three with the Lakers, Known for his speed and quick jump shot, Allen won an NBA title alongside future Laker Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971. He was traded to the Kansas City Kings in 1977 and retired in 1980. (Courtesy Photo)

By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer 

On a warm sunny day at the Bloom Cafe on Pico boulevard in the Midtown area of Los Angeles sits former UCLA basketball star Lucius Allen and childhood friend Willis Belton. They are here to enjoy a lunch and talked about Allen’s basketball life from high school and college to the NBA. He shared memories on and off the court.  

I was an invited as a third wheel to the lunch. It was fascinating listening to “old school” stories from an era where America wasn’t quite set as it is today.       

The eatery is full of great tasting food good for your mind, body and soul. Items like their free range turkey burger, vegetarian curry and brown rice, the three grain veggie burger, and miracle vegan whole wheat wrap.  It’s the kind of place the health-conscious Allen frequents regularly.    

Early on Allen sipped on a cup of hot water and later ordered a grill chicken as he shared stories of yester-year.     

 “I’m at my playing weight right now,” said the 74-year-old. “I’ve been feeling good.”  He said it in the way like he was ready to come out of retirement. Belton and I had a good laugh.   

Allen did look in good shape and was ready to share some good memories.   

He was born and raised in Kansas City. “We had a lot of good players around the city,” Allen said. “There were good ones everywhere.”   

 Belton was a good basketball player but a better athletic. He had a 90 mile per hour fastball that helped him earn a scholarship to Texas Southern University.   

Kansas City was a hot bed for talented hoop players. There’s a comradery with them as several have transplanted to Los Angeles. Former Laker John Drew who attended Wyandotte now lives in the So-Cal area. Claude Hardy played at Rosedale High would fire it up and hit a basket from anywhere on the floor. His nickname was ‘lights out’ Lenard Gray played at crosstown Sumner high and went on to play at Long Beach State under Hall of Fame coach Jerry Tarkanian. He later played under the great Bill Russell with the Seattle Supersonics. In June of 1969 ‘Coach and Athletes’ Magazine named Gray one of the top 100 players in the US.    

He was a quick guard with a dangerous outside jump shot and could easily take it to the basket.  

Kansas City natives Lucious Allen (L) and Willis Belton(R) share  a moment at Bloom Cafe in Los Angeles. (Photo: Earl Heath)


Allen also played at Wyandotte High under head coach Walter Shublom. As a prep All-American he won back-to-back Class AA state championships in 1964 and 1965. He had only lost 4 games total while at Wyandotte.    

As a high schooler he also turned out to be the best of the best. In 1999 the Topeka Capitol Journal named Allen the greatest high school player in the 20th Century. New Arena named him the best basketball player ever from the state of Kansas.     

 He is one of only a few players to have a ‘mega trifecta,’ winning a State Championship, Collegiate National Championship, and NBA Title.     

 When he arrived at UCLA freshman weren’t allowed to play varsity sports. It was during the annual Freshman vs Varsity game Allen caught your eye. The freshmen defeated the varsity 75-60. It was in that game Allen scored the first points in the history of the newly built Pauley Pavilion. His frosh teammate Lew Alcindor (now know as Kareem Abdul Jabbar) had 31 points and 21 boards.     

The UCLA freshmen team finished the season undefeated and Allen averaged 22.4 points a game.   

“Walt (Hazzard) and them were the first to win it (National title),” said Allen. “Sometimes when we got together he would let me know all about it.”     

Hazzard was joined by Gail Goodrich, future Laker Keith Erickson and Fred Slaughter from Topeka High (Kansas). They were part of Coach Wooden’s first NCAA championship team in 1963-64- The squad that went 30-0!     

Hazzard was named tournament Most Outstanding Player, year’s later he would become head coach of the Bruins. Gail Goodrich went on to play 14 years in the NBA and is now a Hall of Famer.   

Slaughter earned his MBA from UCLA and his Law Degree from Columbia University and became the first black sports agent representing former Jamaal Wilkes, Clyde Drexler and Dennis Johnson.  

One day he and I was on the sideline at a UCLA football game, He talked about his Bruin teams. “We were killing them, killing them,” said the 6’5 Slaughter. “No one could touch us. After the first few minutes of a game we knew we had most teams beat. You could see it in their eyes.”   

That was part of a cautious optimism taught by coach John Wooden.   

That was the attitude most Bruin players had. They were confident because they were so “prepared” said Allen.    

In 1967 his sophomore year with the varsity he averaged 15.5 points a game while helping lead the Bruins to a 79-64 win over Dayton in the title game. That wrapped up an undefeated 30-0 season as Allen was named to the All-Regional and Championship teams.  

In Allen’s Junior campaign they were off and running until they ran into a Houston Cougar team led by Elvin Hayes. It was billed as the “Game of the Century” with two of college basketball’s big men Hayes and Alcindor squaring off.  

It was the first syndicated nationally televised college game played in the Astrodome in front of a then record 53,000 fans. The COUGS and Hayes came out on top 71-69. The loss ended a 47- game UCLA win streak.   

The teams met later in the NCAA West Regionals, this time UCLA assistant coach Jerry Norman designed a diamond defense that had two men on Hayes throughout the game. At times Allen was one of the two. Hayes had been averaging 37.2 points per game only had 10 on the night.   

The Bruins came away with a 101-69 win that propelled them to the Final Four again. They went on to rout Dean Smith and North Carolina 78-55 for their second straight National championship. Lew Alcindor was named most outstanding player. He along with Allen and Mike Warren were named All-Tournament team.   

Allen didn’t play his senior year. He finished his collegiate career averaging 15 points and 6 rebounds a game. He entered the UCLA Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.  

 He became a first-round draft pick, the third overall selection for the Seattle Supersonics in the 1969 draft.  

A year later he along with Bob Boozer were traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He rejoined Kareem who was the number one overall pick in the 1970 draft. A 31-year-old Oscar Robertson was acquired by the team also along with Bobby Dandridge.   

They won the NBA title in 1971 sweeping the Washington Bullets 4 games to 0. Led by Finals MVP and the previous season’s Rookie of the Year Lew Alcindor and Hall of Famer Robertson the Bucks were the fastest expansion team (3-years) to win a title.  

It was Robertson that helped him grow as a person and as a professional. He would frequent the Hall of Famers room on road trips.  

On one visit the 31-year-old Robertson was unwinding with a bottle of champagne. Allen entered to the room with a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine.    

“I could see the difference right away,” said Allen. “He had been around and he had class.”  

  Allen would be dragging a bit at practice and Robertson would notice. “He would let me know you can’t burn the candle at both ends,” said Allen. “Staying up all night is not a professional. You’ve got to separate good people from the ‘riffraff’ everyday. He (Robertson) was my best teammate as a pro he helped me grow in the league.”   

Because of his quickness Allen was known as  a solid defensive player. However  Earl “The Pearl ” Monroe would always give him fits. Monroe a Hall of Famer had more moves than a moving van, more moves than ex lax. He was thee top playmaker in the NBA.  

  “When we lined up for the jump to start the game,” said Allen. “There was Earl looking at me grinning like a Cheshire cat. I knew I was in for a rough night.” 

Today he and Monroe are friends off the court. They play tennis occasionally and Allen gets the better of this game. 

Nate “Tiny” Archibald was another tough one to guard. “Nate was the real deal he could go by you and leave you grasping at air.” 

After a deal that sent Allen to the Lakers he reunited with Kareem and they reached the conference finals. The following season started he asked Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke for a raise to 150,000 dollars. Cook reaction: “I speak very good English, NO!” Allen thought the subject was closed and it was. The next day he came to practice only to find out he was traded to the Kansas City. 

He retired after one season with the Kings and concluded his 10- career averaging 14 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists per game.    

He went to coach AAU and other youth teams. He has coached pros like Spencer Dinwiddie, Baron Davis, DeMar DeRozan and others. 

Former LA Clipper owner Donald Sterling was a big contributor with the Junior Clipper program. The same Sterling who was ban for life from the NBA for insensitive racial remarks. 

‘When it came to kids he saw no color,” said Allen. “He gave them shoes and nice uniforms. The Clippers always donated a lot more than the Lakers.” 

Allen also worked with the NBA when the All-Star game came to Los Angeles. In 2010 he and Doctor J (Julius Erving) organized a breakfast and concert that featured Janet Jackson for the retired players as part of All-Star weekend. Laker GM Jerry West also played a major role. 

Allen had four boys that played college basketball and received their degrees – Geoffrey Allen-Eastern Washington, Jarred Allen attended Southern U, Kahlil Allen-University of San Diego and Bakir Allen went to UCSB.  

Eve his wife of more than 30-years passed early in 2022. 

Allen doesn’t attend NBA games but he drops by Pauley every so often to watch the team play. He inducted to Kansas Hall of Fame 2004. 

Life goes on for Allen. He’s in a good spot at the Bloom Café.  

Earl Heath