By: Adam Chalifoux and Hami Arain
January 23, 1971: The UCLA Bruins lose to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Southbend, Indiana. The loss pushed them behind the Marquette Warriors (Yes, that was their name back then). But as the late Harvey Dent once said, ‘it is always darkest before the dawn…’
And what a sweet dawn it was… In fact, it was 1,450 dawns until the Bruins next loss. The Bruins bounced back against U.C. Santa Barbara following their loss to the Irish and went on to win all of their games from January 30, 1971, until they finally lost number 89 on that same Southbend floor, January 19, 1974.
UCLA’s 88 wins is to this day the longest streak in men’s basketball history. From 1971 through 1974, the Bruins were led by the greatest player in the nation, Bill Walton. Over his three seasons of play, Walton averaged 20.3 points per game and 15.7 rebounds.
Incredibly, Walton’s win streak was even longer than UCLA’s, having won his last 49 high school games at Felix High in La Mesa California. When Walton started playing for Coach Wooden and the Bruins, they had already won five straight NCAA championships spanning from 1967 through 1971. Walton and the Bruins would continue to win, win, win, no matter what… banners on their mind, that they would never give it up.
By the time the Bruins visited South Bend again January 19, 1974, Walton was going for his 143rd straight win, UCLA going for their 89th straight. With the Bruins up 70-59 with 3:32 it looked like #89 was in the bag… Lets pick up with 4 minutes left in the video below.
While the 89th game ended up becoming a heartbreaker as well as the upcoming March where the Bruins fell to North Carolina State in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, the only dynasties comparable to UCLA’s include all three UConn women’s basketball streaks; winning seventy straight in the early 2000s, then winning ninety straight in the late-2000s and going 111/111 from 2014-2017 and losing on a buzzer beater against Mississippi State in the championship game.
The Bruins accomplishments within the 1,450 day span includes three straight championships (four before them) and three straight Player of the Year honors for Bill Walton. The dynasty stands as one of the greatest, most improbable runs in NCAA history and something we may never see again.