Greg Ballard, small forward for the mid-1970’s Oregon basketball squad dubbed by journalists as the “Kamikaze Kids,” was among the most talented basketball players to ever grace the hardwoods of McArthur Court. Today, Ballard will be honored as Oregon’s Progressive Classic Legend of the Game at Matthew Knight Arena.
Ballard’s contributions to the halls of Oregon athletic history are truly incredible. Ballard holds the most all-time rebounds in Oregon history with 1,114. He is fourth on the career-scoring list with 1,829 points, and still carries Oregon’s highest single-game scoring mark of 43 points against Oral Roberts University in 1977.
The former Oregon MVP was also an All-American his senior year and became the highest overall NBA draft pick in Oregon history, selected fourth by the Washington Bullets in the first round. The Kamikaze Kids were known for their frenetic style of play, suffocating defense, and pack-hunter-style scoring.
Ballard joined other Oregon athletic stalwarts such as Stu Jackson, Greg Graham, Steve Manker, Ronnie Lee, and Ernie Kent. The nickname “Kamikaze Kids” still evokes images of players dive-bombing for loose balls, crashing the boards and explosive fast-breaks. It is similar to Oregon’s current basketball philosophy of a run-and-gun offense and relentless press defense.
However, the 1970’s was a different era. Oregon’s aggressive style of play caught coaches and players by surprise, causing intense rivalries to develop with UCLA and Washington. The “Kids” upset a number one ranked UCLA team in 1974, and in 1976 Oregon hammered the Bruins again, 65-45. However, the Ducks lost the following game in ’76 against an irritable Washington team and their infamous Groucho Marx masks.
During Ballard’s tenure, the Kamikaze Kids had three consecutive NIT appearances, beating St. John’s University for third place at Madison Square Garden in 1975. But Ballard went on to do great things in the NBA as well, winning a championship with the Washington Bullets in 1978. Ballard also ranks as the all-time leader of Oregon alumni in NBA career games played with 802.
The Progressive Legends Classic is an opportunity for Oregon fans of all ages to appreciate the individual contributions from athletes in Oregon’s rich sports history. Ballard will be honored today at 4pm during the Oregon mens basketball game against visiting Toledo at Matt Knight Arena.