Image 1: UCLA Head Basketball Coach John Wooden delivers a message to his team on the practice court. 

Caption: On the hallowed grounds of the UCLA basketball court, legendary Coach John Wooden readies his newest crop of recruits for the season. Quote: Welcome, team! Before we hit the court, I want you to remember — It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen. A unique lesson on tying shoes became a trademark — and philosophy — of John Wooden as he guided his players to understanding that the key to success lies in mastering the basics. It was … A Legacy in Laces. Written by Scott Burman. Art by Eric Nguyen. Letters by Micah Myers. 

Image 2: A stern-looking Coach Wooden introduces the players to today’s lesson: shoe-tying. The players’ faces register disbelief. Coach Wooden doubles down, urging the players to remove their shoes and socks there on the practice court so his lesson can commence. 

Caption: Quote: Today, we're talking about one of those little details — tying your shoes.

Quote: Shoes, Coach? Seriously? We’ve been playing basketball for years.

Quote: Seriously. Now the first thing you’re going to do is pull up your socks. Slowly, with care, over your toes.

Image 3: Wooden watches on as the players, kneeling and hunched over their shoes, follow his instructions. Coach continues delivering his lesson, step by step. The players look at each other incredulously. 

Caption: At first, the players were skeptical, questioning how the simple act of tying their shoes could hold the key to success on the grand stage of the game. Quote: Now, move your socks up, and smooth out all the wrinkles … nice and tight … take your time.Lace your shoes from the bottom, carefully, slowly, getting each pass nice and tight … snug! Snug! Snug! Doubt etched on their faces, the players continued to question the significance of Coach Wooden’s lesson.

Image 4: A close-up on the players’ shoes as they tighten their laces according to the words of Wooden. 

Flash-forward to the Bruins — some still tying their shoes — taking the court on gameday. 

Caption: Quote: Cross, loop, and tighten! Imagine each knot is a step toward excellence! And as the knots tightened, skepticism unraveled into understanding, revealing the transformative power woven into the simplest acts.

Image 5: The Bruins begin to rampage up and down the floor, exerting maximum effort — with shoes perfectly tied — as Wooden looks on from the sidelines. 

Caption: Quote: Quick and tight, but not too tight. Let’s get it right! Now, speed it up. Be quick, but don’t hurry. Make it a reflex. In the game, split seconds can make all the difference.

Every second counts. Make tying your shoes second nature. Just like you tie your shoes with purpose, execute each play with intention! Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts. It’s not so important who starts the game, but who finishes it!

Image 6: A Bruin player soars over the opponents to deliver a thunderous putback dunk. 

Caption: Amidst the triumphant cheers and victorious embraces, the players share a moment of revelation. It dawns on them that Coach Wooden’s seemingly simple lesson on tying shoes wasn’t just about laces. It was a master class in unlocking greatness on the court. The “bunny ears” technique, once met with skepticism, now stands as a symbol of precision, speed and the transformative power of attention to detail.

Image 7: A large focused face of John Wooden watches over the years as his players triumph time and time again. Their figures are now historical, closer to black and white. At the bottom, a joyful Wooden — back in full vibrant color — celebrates an NCAA championship with the cut-down basketball net pulled down over his head and draped around his shoulders.

Caption: Quote: Remember, it’s not just about shoes or basketball. Success is a journey, and you’ve got to pay attention to every step. Now, let’s lace up and conquer the next challenge! An unparalleled coach, John Wooden led the UCLA Bruins to 10 NCAA championships in 12 years. His philosophy extended beyond the court, emphasizing life skills and character development. Coach John Wooden — A Legend’s Legacy.



Read UCLA Magazine’s Winter 2024 issue.