The memory of Phi Slama Jama will be passed on to another generation when Houston faces Baylor in a National Final Four semifinal 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. These teams, coached by Guy Lewis, produced Hall of Fame players like as Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, not to mention some of the most memorable moments in NCAA tournament history.
Here’s everything you need to know about Phi Slama Jama:
Who trained Phi Slama Jama?
Guy Lewis coached the Cougars for 11 seasons from 1956 to 1986, and he led the program to five Final Four appearances. The Cougars made back-to-back appearances in 1967-68 with All-American double Elvin Hayes.
The program reached its peak, however, during the Phi Slama years of 1981-84. Houston was 88-16 on that three-year streak with a 42-16 record in the Southwestern Conference game. The Cougars have reached the Final Four in three consecutive seasons.
Phi Slama Jama players
In 2011, Bleacher Report ranked the Houston team from 1982 to 1983 as the third best starting lineup ever. This is 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’s averaged 13.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.5 blocks for his college career. “The Dream” became a No. 1 overall pick and two-time NBA champion with the Rockets.
Clyde Drexler, a 6-7 forward, played for the Final Four teams in 1982 and 1983. Drexler averaged 14.4 points per game. “The Glide” was an NBA champion with the Rockets in 1995 (Olajuwon was also on that team) and a member of the Dream Team from 1992. 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 actors during the time of Phi Slama Jama, and Benny Anders – a 6-5, 200-pound forward – was a fan favorite and a key figure in the ESPN documentary 30 for 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 span, and they did it with the slam dunk.
Houston Post columnist Thomas Bonk coined the term “Phi Slama Jama” after the Cougars routed the 112-58 Pacific on January 2, 1983. Their popularity exploded from there, and the team is became a cult phenomenon during the 1983-84 season.
Has Phi Slama Jama won a national title?
No. Houston suffered three consecutive losses in the Final Four from 1982 to 1984. A look at these games:
No. 1 North Carolina 68, No. 6 Houston (March 27, 1982)
The Tar Heels – who won the national championship under coach Dean Smith – outlasted the Cougars in a National Final Four semifinal at the New Orleans Superdome. Sam Perkins scored 25 points, and James Worthy and Michael Jordan have 18 and 14 points respectively. North Carolina limited Houston’s top scorer Williams to two points on a 0 of 8 shot.
No 6 NC State 54, No 1 Houston 52 (April 4, 1983)
In one of the most memorable upheavals of all time, Jim Valvano led the Wolfpack past the Cougars in a national championship thriller at The Pit in Albuquerque, NM Drexler ran into big problems in the first half and NC State withstood 20 points, Olajuwon’s 18 rebound performance. The Wolfpack won on Lorenzo Charles’ last second dunk.
No 1 Georgetown 84, No 2 Houston 75 (April 2, 1984)
Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing faced off in a dynamic crossover showdown in a National Championship game at the Kingdome in Seattle. Olajuwon had 15 points and nine tables, while Ewing had 10 points and nine tables. Five Hoyas scored in double digits and Georgetown won the national championship under coach John Thompson.
What is the legacy of Phi Slama Jama?
These Houston teams are some of the best teams to ever win a national championship, and the Cougars’ run ended the year before the NCAA tournament spread to 64 teams.
Houston is one of 10 schools to reach the Final Four in three consecutive seasons, but eight of those schools have won national championships. UCLA (2006-08) is the only other school to achieve this feat without winning the national title.
Now Houston is in the Final Four for the first time since 1984, and it will bring those memories back.
What do we remember most from Phi Slama Jama? Best to watch just 15 minutes of dunks: