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Our top ten favorite John Wooden quotes

By Jimmy Orr / October 14, 2009

UCLA basketball legend John Wooden and current coach Ben Howland shared words at the 15th annual Wooden Classic last December.

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The best ever.

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Usually those phrases are throwaways. But not in the case of legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. He owns it.

Not that "the greatest" moniker needs any attribution. In his case, it doesn't. It's just known. But if you want "proof" (whatever that means), his peers believe he's the best too.

A couple months ago, the Sporting News released the results of a poll where they asked the question: Who is the greatest coach of all time?

Of the 118 Hall of Famers, coaches, and other "experts" surveyed, Wooden came out on top by a huge margin. Not bad when you look at number two and three – Vince Lombardi and Bear Bryant, respectively.

Hey, wait a minute -- this isn't a sports blog. We write about politics. Well, we'll veer off and do another topic if it's really important. Or if we really like someone -- like John Wooden. And he turns 99 today.

So we think it's OK. Plus, it gives us a chance to resurrect this story the Monitor did on Wooden back in 1986.

It's a typical Wooden dialogue where he discusses the value of team. Pretty much the exact opposite of Michael Jordan's acceptance speech to the Basketball Hall of Fame last month.

"[There's] too much individual showmanship," Wooden said when asked about the state of basketball. "I'm interested in teamwork; in the rhythm of the game; in the beauty of watching a play unfold that eventually leads to a basket."

"If you're big enough and strong enough, anyone can slam-dunk," he continued. "It isn't hard, and it calls attention to the man doing it. What I see mostly are too many individuals out on the court and not enough team play. And I see coaches who have stopped coaching so they can become actors and get the TV cameras turned on them. Most of them have forgotten what the game and their responsibilities are all about."

After reading this article, and two must-reads today (one from the LA Times and one from the LA Daily News), we went on a hunt for the best John Wooden quotes.

He's got a treasure trove of them. But these were the ones that made our final cut. Feel free to add your own.

Without further ado...

10. Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be.

9. Ability is a poor man's wealth.

8. It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

7. Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.

6. What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player.

5. You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

4. Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.

3. Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

2. Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

1. Never mistake activity for achievement.

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