NBA greats Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler teamed with long, athletic and talented basketball teammates at the University of Houston to form the fictional dunking fraternity known as Phi Slamma Jamma.
Houston Post sportswriter Thomas Bonk first used the Phi Slamma Jamma nickname in 1982.
This fun phrase replaced the less popular label of Texas’ Tallest Fraternity. It married the high flying dunking style of basketball with Greek fraternity life found on college campuses.
The University of Houston Cougars quickly adopted the splashy, new nickname. They even proudly displayed the name on the back of their warm-ups during games.
Legendary Coach Guy V. Lewis
Phi Slamma Jamma teams were coached by legendary Guy V. Lewis who won 592 career NCAA games. Coach Lewis’ record included 27 consecutive winning seasons and five NCAA Final Four appearances.
During a time when college basketball coaches encouraged a more conservative style of play, Coach Lewis was a maverick. He shaped his athletic squads to use their speed, quickness and athleticism in a more wide open game.
Lewis even joked about how much he liked dunking because it was such a high percentage shot. Today, everyone dunks. Duh!
Under Coach Lewis, Phi Slamma Jamma appeared in three Final Fours between 1982 and 1984. However, they lost to the University of North Carolina in 1982, North Carolina State University in 1983 and Georgetown University in 1984.
In spite of the hype, the University of Houston Cougars team was made up of far more than dunkers who played frenetic playground style basketball.
Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Larry Michaeux & More
Phi Slamma Jamma members Olajuwon, Drexler, Larry Micheaux, Benny Anders, Michael Young, Alvin Franklin and Reed Gettys could not only run and jump, but they could win, and win regularly.
In perhaps their best year, the Cougars held the nation’s number one ranking for most of the 1982- 83 season. The team built an impressive 31-2 record before advancing to the NCAA Championship game. They lost on an air ball shot that NC State’s Lorenzo Charles tipped in at the buzzer. Charles’ basket secured the late Jim Valvano his only NCAA championship.
The Houston Cougars pioneered a highly entertaining and energetic style of basketball that NCAA college basketball fans had never before seen. Because of their exciting, up-tempo play, the Cougars ushered in a new norm for NCAA college basketball.
In addition to their above the rim wizardry, these dunking, scoring and winning Cougars, best known as Phi Slamma Jamma, may be college basketball’s best team ever to never win an NCAA title.
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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!