Piece of UCLA history for sale — and for just $100,000!

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Paying $100,000 for a piece of wood 12 feet in diameter is hardly a bargain. Unless you’re talking about the original center circle from Pauley Pavilion.

Then it could be a steal.

The powder-blue-and-gold item – the center court for the likes of Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton and all of John Wooden’s famed UCLA teams – could reach six figures in a public auction that closes at the end of this week. As of Tuesday, the highest bid was $94,948.

“Usually things like this really start to heat up in the final days, particularly the last day of the auction,” Dan Imler of SCP Auctions told Jeff Eisenberg of The Dagger. “Interest has been strong so far, but we certainly think it has a long ways to go.”

Given what auction experts originally thought the circle could fetch, that’s an understatement.

It was replaced in 1982, languished in a UCLA warehouse and was then discovered in 1987 by a woman searching for office equipment. Hopes soared for the chance to peddle the circle as an incredible item from sports’ greatest dynasty.

From a 1998 UCLA faculty newsletter:

Eleven years later, that same chunk of wood, mothballed for years in a garage, has become a lot more than a dusty piece of athletic history. On Sept. 28, it became potentially worth more than $1 million, according to auction experts, money that is destined for the Eureka Endowment, a permanent source of support for the education and training of doctoral students in the biomedical and life sciences.

At a ceremony organized by Spillane, legendary Coach John Wooden and former Bruin hoopsters gathered in Pauley Pavilion to autograph the circle on which they all played, raising its value and raising awareness for Eureka as well. The signed jump circle will be sold next year to support the endowment.

OK, so wait. They had a ceremony so all the great Bruins could sign it, hoped to get big bucks for it, then waited years to sell it? No wonder it went from “potentially worth more than $1 million” to maybe $100,000. They let the market cool.

Not that SCP would ever let on. They’re pitching it as “one of the most important pieces of basketball history ever offered at public auction.” Hoping for $1 million when originally discovered was clearly too much, but I’d say the hyperbole isn’t helping now. (It’s also funny that SCP says the circle was “carefully preserved” in storage after its replacement. Um, it was gathering dust in a warehouse.)

It’s enough to make me wish the school had simply recognized the circle’s historic value after replacement and found a way to display it in Pauley. Sure would save athletic director Dan Guerrero ample amounts of frustration now.

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