1. Lew Alcindor (UCLA, 1966-1969): This, I cannot deny, is a form of cheating that even Sam Gilbert would find egregious. Obviously, Alcindor changed his name in 1971 and had a decent pro career; one could make the argument that perceiving “Lew Alcindor” as a separate entity from “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar” is essentially a question about the definition of personhood. But here’s the rub — I suspect Jabbar himself would argue that he is not the same Catholic stickman who showed up at Westwood in 1965, and it was that pre-Kareem who remains the most jaw-dropping college player to ever walk the planet. The fact that UCLA won the national title during all three seasons Alcindor played is merely the third-most interesting detail of his college career; the fact that the NCAA outlawed dunking due to his dominance is probably second. But to me, the thing that will always be most unfathomable about Alcindor was his very first game, played when he was an ineligible freshman: UCLA was coming off back-to-back national championships. As an exhibition, the Bruin varsity — ranked no. 1 in the nation — opened the season by scrimmaging the freshmen team. Alcindor had 31 points, 21 boards, and eight blocks. The freshmen hammered the varsity by 15 points; the no. 1 team in the country could not beat a player who could not yet play. As an ineligible 18-year-old, Alcindor was (at worst) the fourth or fifth-best basketball player in the world. So I guess talent does matter, sometimes.