Columbia legend Jim McMillian dies at 68

Jim McMillian, one of the greatest men’s basketball players in Ivy League history, died Monday at 68. (Big Gaff Sports)

Jim McMillian, one of the most celebrated players in Columbia and Ivy League basketball history, died Monday at 68.

The Los Angeles Times reported McMillian died from heart failure complications at a hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. after being in failing health in recent months.

McMillian led Columbia to a No. 6 national ranking and the program’s last Ivy championship to date in 1968 and a No. 14 national ranking in 1969. In 1970, McMillian made his third consecutive All-America team, his third consecutive All-Ivy team, and won his third consecutive Haggerty Award for the best New York City college basketball player.

Columbia went 63-14 during McMillian’s three years as a varsity Lion, and the program’s ’68 league title was due to his 37 points on 22 shots in the team’s 92-74 Ivy playoff win over Princeton.

McMillian was the Los Angeles Lakers’ first-round draft choice in 1970 and a member of the Lakers’ 1971-72 NBA Champions. The Lakers won 33 games in a row immediately upon McMillian’s insertion into the starting lineup following Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor’s retirement nine contests into the season. (Baylor said in his retirement speech that he felt he was “depriving Jim McMillian of playing time.”)

McMillian also played for the Buffalo Braves, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers during a nine-year NBA career and played professionally in Italy for two more years. He returned home to work in clothes manufacturing and was inducted into the inaugural Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame as an individual and as a member of the 1967-68 men’s basketball team in 2006.

According to Columbia Athletics, McMillian is survived by his wife Alexis, son Aron and his daughter Emon.

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