There used to be a sports event based in Hawaii that was an important proving ground for elite college talents wanting to show scouts that their skills would translate to the next level and earn a prime position in the upcoming draft.

The event died, though, gradually losing its relevance as the preferred route to the pros underwent drastic changes, and the pro league pulled its support, starting its own similar event elsewhere. At the time of its demise, Hawaii sports fans pretty much just shrugged it off. Whatevers.

No — good guess, but not the Hula Bowl. All of the above is true about what used to be a can’t-miss for college football stars who wanted it certified that they were can’t-miss prospects for NFL success.

Today’s topic is the Aloha Classic — one of those annual sports events that too many of us didn’t appreciate enough while we still had it. The format of the college seniors-only pre-NBA Draft showcase would be laughable these days, when attending college at all is debated as a prerequisite for hoops’ highest level.

But it was certainly legit during its 1969-1987 run, when careers and fortunes were made and lost in a rough-and-tumble four-team round-robin tournament comprising top pro prospects for the upcoming NBA Draft — back when many, if not most, completed their senior year of college eligibility.

More than twice as many NBA scouts and decision-makers attended than the 32 players.

Many college superstars who were seniors, but felt they had nothing to prove, turned down the invitation to Hawaii. Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing, chosen by the Knicks with the No. 1 pick in 1985, is a good example of that.

But, a decade prior, two-time NCAA Player of the Year David Thompson from NC State cemented his No. 1 draft status — in the NBA and its rival ABA — with an MVP performance at the Aloha Classic. “Skywalker” chose the ABA’s Denver Nuggets over the Atlanta Hawks — which didn’t matter in the long run, since the leagues merged in 1976.

The Aloha Classic was also where no-names improved their stock, including some future Hall of Famers.

An undersized guard from UTEP named Nate Archibald scored 51 points in one game and 122 in the three-game tournament in 1970. It wasn’t enough to get “Tiny” into the first round, but the Cincinnati Royals took him in the second round with the 19th pick.

In his third season, Archibald became the first player to lead the NBA in points and assists averages. His 34 points per game that year stood as a record for point guards until James Harden’s 36.1 in 2018-19 (Luka Doncic came close this year with 33.9, and Stephen Curry checks in seventh at 32.0 in 2020-21).

Archibald ended up on the Celtics, where he won his only NBA championship in 1981. That team included another key player and future Hall of Famer who helped his draft stock at the Aloha Classic — Kevin McHale.

McHale was considered far from a sure thing before he took MVP honors at the 1980 Aloha Classic, averaging 22 points with 11 blocks and 23 rebounds in the three games.

Red Auerbach was among those paying attention and performed one of his magic tricks. He somehow worked a pre-draft trade where the Celtics ended up with McHale AND veteran center Robert Parish from the Warriors for the No. 1 pick — with which Golden State took Joe Barry Carroll. (who, by the way, had bypassed the Aloha Classic).

It’s one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history.

But, as what happened with the Hula Bowl, the Aloha Classic eventually was defined more by what players didn’t play in it than those who did.

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas couldn’t anyway, because they went pro before their senior years. Larry Bird? Auerbach had done another Auerbach thing, and locked up the rights to Bird before his senior year.

The other side of this is that in the pre-internet age, most fans — and a lot of scouts — didn’t know who Joe Dumars, Scottie Pippen and Terry Porter were before they shined in the Aloha Classic, or at least did not know what they could do against other great players. If they did, more than a couple thousand a night would have attended at the Blaisdell.

Hawaii’s Bob Nash was the Aloha MVP in 1972, and was picked by the Pistons with the seventh overall pick in the draft a few weeks later. That doesn’t happen if Nash’s last showing before the draft was his 3-for-16 shooting performance in UH’s NCAA Tournament loss to Weber State.

“He had an excellent Aloha Classic shortly after,” said Red Rocha, in 2001.

Rocha was Nash’s Fabulous Five coach, and tournament director of the Aloha Classic.

“He knew he had to go into that strong. And that’s what he did.”

Read More: World News | Entertainment News | Celeb News
Star Ads

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Mustafa Goelbasi

Mustafa Goelbasi is a well-known German TikTok and YouTuber. Mustafa Goelbasi is…

Paul Dini

Paul Dini is a screenwriter and comic creator from the United States.…

Jack Del Rio Biography: Net Worth, Wife, Children, Biography

• Jack Del Rio was born on April 4, 1963 and is…

Jaysee Lopez Net Worth, Sneakerhead, Age, Relationships and Wiki!

Quick Wiki! Jaysee Lopez is the billionaire behind the billion-dollar sneaker resale…