US Stamps

Stamp for legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden to tip off Feb. 24 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles

Feb 12, 2024, 7 AM
John Wooden, whose achievements as head coach of the University of California, Los Angeles men’s basketball team still inspire awe, will be honored on a United States forever commemorative stamp to be issued Feb. 24 at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus.

By Charles Snee

Pauley Pavilion, on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles will host two notable events Feb. 24: the UCLA Bruins’ home game against the Trojans of the University of Southern California in NCAA Division I men’s basketball, and the first-day ceremony for the United States Postal Service’s forever commemorative stamp celebrating John Wooden, the legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins basketball team.

Derek Kan, a member of the U.S. Postal Service’s board of governors, will preside over the first-day ceremony scheduled for 1 p.m. Pacific Standard Time at the pavilion’s east plaza, located at 325 Westwood Plaza in Los Angeles.

Collectors desiring to attend the first-day ceremony are encouraged to register online with the Postal Service. According to the USPS, each attendee may invite up to four additional guests.

Production details published in the Jan. 25 issue of the Postal Bulletin state that Banknote Corporation of America in Browns Summit, N.C., printed a total of 18 million nondenominated (68¢) John Wooden stamps that were finished into panes of 20 for sale at post offices and other authorized philatelic outlets.

The Postal Service will also offer die-cut and imperforate uncut press sheets of nine panes of 20. Both formats are priced at $122.40, the face value of the 180 stamps.

UCLA won a record 10 NCAA Division I men’s basketball championships during Wooden’s 27-year tenure as head coach. Those 10 wins came during a 12-year span that includes a record seven consecutive championships.

Known as the “Wizard of Westwood,” Wooden coached the Bruins to four perfect 30-0 seasons.

Artist Alexis Franklin created the portrait of Wooden that appears on the stamp. Her artwork is based on an early 1970s photograph of the coach taken by Norm Schindler.

USPS art director Antonio Alcala worked closely with Franklin to arrive at the finished image of Wooden staring past the viewer with a focused gaze. Finding suitable images required diligent searching, Alcala told Linn’s Stamp News.

“Our research group provided me with reference images where we could secure rights and permissions,” Alcala said. “Of these, the selected image shows Wooden’s face during a game. It shows him mid-career — at his prime — with a focused look on his face as he explains strategy to his team. These were qualities we hoped to convey in the portrait.”

An image in the background shows a player defending a shot by an opposing player.

“The numbers on the two players’ jerseys, 4 and 10, evoke the Bruins’ four perfect seasons and the 10 national championships during Wooden’s tenure,” the USPS said.

Alcala pointed out the significance of the players in the background of the design.

“Wooden’s legacy is as a successful coach and mentor, and basketball is central to that story,” Alcala said. “By including the players in the background, this connection can be made immediately.”

Missing from the design is the number “88,” which represents UCLA’s 88-game winning streak that began Jan. 30, 1971, with a 74-61 win over the University of California, Santa Barbara and came to a halt Jan. 19, 1974, with a 71-70 loss to Notre Dame. That impressive run of victories still stands today as an NCAA record.

According to Alcala, the reason for excluding the “88” has to do with a fundamental rule of basketball.

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