The memory of Phi Slama Jama will be passed on to another generation when Houston faces Baylor in a national semifinal of the Final Four on Saturday in Indianapolis.
The phrase was coined by Houston Post columnist Thomas Bonk during the Cougars’ run to three consecutive Final Four appearances from 1982 to 1984. Those teams, led by Guy Lewis, produced Hall of Fame players like Hakeem. Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, not to mention some of the most memorable moments in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
Here is everything you need to know about Phi Slama Jama:
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Who trained Phi Slama Jama?
Guy Lewis coached the Cougars for 11 seasons from 1975 to 1986, but his tenure peaked from the 1981-82 season through 1983-84.
Houston was 88-16 in that three-year stretch and made the Final Four every season.
Phi Slama Jama Players
In 2011, the Bleacher Report ranked the 1982-83 Houston team as the third best starting lineup of five of all time. That’s because it featured two members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-0 center, was a member of all three teams. He averaged 13.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in his college career. “The Dream” went on to be the first overall pick and two-time NBA champion with the Rockets.
Clyde drexler, a 6-7 forward, starred in the 1982 and 1983 Final Four teams. Drexler averaged 14.4 points per game. “The Glide” was NBA champion with the Rockets in 1995 (Olajuwon was also on that team) and a member of the 1992 Dream Team. He returned to coach Houston from 1998 to 2000.
Other NBA players included Michael Young, member of the three teams; Rob williams, Larry Micheaux, Rickie winslow and Greg Anderson.
Reid Gettys, Alvin Franklin and Dave rose were role players during the Phi Slama Jama era, and Benny anders – a 6-5, 200-pound forward – was a fan favorite and a key figure in the ESPN Documentary 30 of 30 “Phi Slama Jama”.
Why were they called Phi Slama Jama?
The Cougars played a fast-paced style that produced 78.8 points per game during that three-year stretch, and they did so with the dunk.
Houston Post columnist Thomas Bonk coined the term “Phi Slama Jama” after the Cougars defeated Pacific 112-58 on January 2, 1983. Their popularity soared from there, and the team became a cult phenomenon during the 1983-84 season.
Did Phi Slama Jama win a national title?
No. Houston suffered three consecutive losses in the Final Four from 1982 to 1984. A look at those games:
No. 1 North Carolina 68, No. 6 Houston (March 27, 1982)
The Tar Heels, who won the national championship with coach Dean Smith, beat the Cougars in a national semifinal of the Final Four at the New Orleans Superdome. Sam Perkins scored 25 points, and James Worthy and Michael Jordan had 18 and 14 points, respectively. North Carolina limited Williams, Houston’s leading scorer, to two points on 0-of-8 shooting.
No. 6 NC State 54, No. 1 Houston 52 (April 4, 1983)
In one of the most memorable upsets of all time, Jim Valvano led Wolfpack past the Cougars in a national championship thriller at The Pit in Albuquerque, NM Drexler had foul trouble in the first half, and NC State held out 20 points, 18-rebound performance by Olajuwon. The Wolfpack won with Lorenzo Charles’ last second dunk.
No. 1 Georgetown 84, No. 2 Houston 75 (April 2, 1984)
Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing met in a dynamic center showdown in a national championship game at the Seattle Kingdome. Olajuwon had 15 points and nine boards, while Ewing had 10 points and nine boards. Five Hoyas scored in double figures and Georgetown won the national championship with coach John Thompson.
What is the legacy of Phi Slama Jama?
Those Houston teams are among the best teams to never win a national championship, and the Cougars’ career ended the year before the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams.
Houston is one of 10 schools to reach the Final Four in three consecutive seasons, but eight of those schools won national championships. UCLA (2006-08) is the only other school to accomplish that feat without winning the national title.
Now, Houston is in the Final Four for the first time since 1984, and it would be impossible not to mention the teams led by Elvin Hayes that made it to the Final Four in 1967 and 1968 as well. This team of Cougars will bring them back to life too.
And Phi Slama Jama? It is best to watch 15 minutes of math:
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.