WHO’D REMEMBER JOHN BLOCK, AN NBA PLAYER DRAFTED BY THE LAKERS?

This is part of a series of mini-Redlands Connections. This is Part 3 of the series, Quick Visits. Magic Johnson and John Wooden showed up at the University of Redlands as part of a Convocation Series. This piece on Tom Flores was another one. Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, former NBA player John Block, legendary high school coach Willie West showed up. There are others. Cazzie Russell, for instance, came to Redlands with an NCAA Division III basketball team from Savannah, Ga. Russell, out of Michigan, was the NBA’s overall No. 1 draft pick by the New York Knicks in 1966.

Today’s feature: Former NBA player John Block.

By the early 1980s, I was a student of NBA history. I vividly remember those rabid NBA playoffs from the late 1960s — the Lakers and Celtics, the Warriors and 76ers … all those Russell vs. Chamberlain matchups … Kareem taking over Russell’s duels against Chamberlain.

When John Block, UC San Diego’s coach for a time (1980-83), brought his Tritons’ squad to the Redlands Tournament one year, I knew his NBA background.

It wasn’t hard to forget a former NBA player that spent a decade going up against the world’s greatest players.

Milwaukee coach Larry Costello brought Block in for a season, hoping his 6-10 bulk could take a little pressure off Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

At Redlands, I said to him, “Give me a status report on small-college basketball for the Tritons.”

He laughed. Block was just starting a coaching career. There was a lot to learn.

“Where do I start?” he asked.

This guy had been teammates with Kareem and Oscar Robertson with the Bucks.

1966 file photo of Lakers John Block.
John Block, a 6-foot-10 forward who played with a variety of NBA  teams after being drafted by the Lakers, brought his UC San Diego team in to play at the Redlands tournament in the early 1980s (photo by NBA Retired Players Association).

After his USC days, he’d been an original draft choice (third round, 27th pick), of all places, the Los Angeles Lakers. Teammates with Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. He didn’t have far to travel. USC and the Lakers both played home games at the Sports Arena.

Traded to the San Diego Rockets where Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes was an NBA scoring champ.

He didn’t last long with the Bucks. He wound up with one of the NBA’s all-time worst teams in Philadelphia, where he won a spot on the NBA All-Star team.

Teammates with Nate “Tiny” Archibald at Kansas City-Omaha.

A year later, he was at New Orleans, playing alongside “Pistol” Pete Maravich.

In his final season, 1976, he was with a Chicago Bulls’ squad that included Artis Gilmore.

This 6-foot-10 guy could shoot — 11.9 points a game, plus nine rebounds and four assists over 10 pro seasons.

All of a sudden, a guy with all those credentials showed up coaching against Redlands.

Those uneventful years at UCSD — 32-46 covering 1980-83.

Redlands beat his team in its own tournament.

“Nothing to report, really,” said Block. “I’m just getting this team going. I’ll know in a year, or so.”

It was tough recruiting at an NCAA Division III campus, he told me.

Redlands’ recruits beat his recruits that night in Currier Gymnasium.

 

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