Sunday, January 13, 2008


New York City high schools turn out an abundance of scholastic basketball All-Americans each year. Few choose to attend an Ivy League college and even fewer opt for Columbia.
“Jimmy Mac” did and Columbia will never forget him.
A native North Carolinian, Jim McMillian grew up in Brooklyn, where he was All-City and a high school All-American at Thomas Jefferson High.
Newspaper articles had him going to St. John’s or NYU if he stayed local, Providence if he didn’t.
But McMillian fooled them. He chose Columbia, entering in the fall of 1966.
“It was a strong school academically and it was close to home,” McMillian said.
McMillian moved up to the varsity in 1967-68 with another celebrated New York City player, Stuyvesant High’s Heyward Dotson.
Teaming up with several other talented players, McMillian led the Lions to the winningest season in the school’s history, a 23-5 campaign that included the Ivy League championship.
The success continued the next two years, as Columbia posted 20-4 and 20-5 seasons, narrowly missing Ivy titles each year. Jimmy Mac was All-Ivy and All-American each season.
In leading Columbia to a three-year mark of 63-14, McMillian not only was a three-time All-American and All-Ivy Leaguer, he was All-East each year, the ECAC Sophomore of the Year, and became the first person ever to earn the Haggerty Award in each of his three varsity seasons.
He was drafted in the first round by both the L.A. Lakers of the NBA and N.Y. Nets of the ABA. He chose the Lakers and spent three years there, scoring 3714 points, an average of 15.3 per game.
He won an NBA title with the Lakers in 1972.
Jim played no game more memorable than on the night of November 5, 1971.
When NBA legend Elgin Baylor announced his retirement. McMillian stepped into his starting position at forward and provided a 22-point, 13-rebound performance to lead a win over Baltimore. It was the first of a 33- game win streak, still the longest in pro basketball history and McMillian starred throughout it.
He went on to own his own clothing business, and then to work for a large clothing manufacturing company.
McMillian cherishes his family. Listing his greatest accomplishment since graduation as “being married for 31 years ( to the same lady),” he and Alexis live in Greensboro, N.C., where he enjoys gardening, fly fishing and scuba diving.
And “Jimmy Mac” is now a grandfather.


Bill Van Eron said...

I grew up playing CYO and PAL basketball with Jimmy Mac and then for many years at George Gershwin JHS 166 where the likes of Kareem Abdul Jabbar and others played often. Jim and his brother Nate were always the best, down to earth, classy guys. You could just see at an early age that Jim was going to be great. The games between Jefferson and Boys High (Eldridge Webb and friend Larry Cheatum) were phenomenal. I was and still am proud to have known Jimmy back then and had the honor to play with him and other great players. Jimmy, Bill Blandon and I used to scrimmage against the Marquette team that went on to win the National Championship. I do not recall us ever losing to them. Dean (the dream) Meminger and George Brother Thompson were on that team. I was approached to play but personal responsibilities to help my mom with polio kept me in Brooklyn. Love to say hi to Jim. I caught up with friend and Jefferson team mate to Jim - Whitney Campbell. Miss the good old years. Bill Van Eron. Fort Collins Colorado

Bill Van Eron said...

Celebrating the life of a quiet, modest champion