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As most of you know by now, the legendary basketball coach John Wooden died on Friday, four months shy of his 100th birthday. His 10 college championship rings as a coach remains an unparalleled accomplishments. But more important, by all accounts he was a faithful follower of Christ.

While his coaching and character were well known, most probably don’t know that his wife, the love of his life, preceded him in death 25 years ago. Since her death he has written her 300 love letters--one per month.

One of the greatest gifts the older generation can give the younger is a life of marital fidelity filled with genuine affection and love. Here’s a tribute to that legacy, filmed last Fall:

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15 thoughts on “John and Nellie Wooden: The Greatest Love Story Never Told”

  1. Terry says:

    The radio program FamilyLife Today ( is planning to re-broadcast an interview with John Wooden about his faith and his love for his wife today and tomorrow. It’s worth hearing again.

  2. So precious and rich. Terry, thanks for sharing that information.

  3. I heard John wooden speak at a prayer breakfast in 1989. He signed my Bible and right below his signature, he wrote “1 Corinthians 13.”

  4. Stephen L says:

    Wow! Simply, wow.

  5. Bill Combs says:

    “By all accounts he was a faithful follower of Christ.” Not by this account.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Bill: I would reserve judgment when you watch something edited down for a secular news program. They take hours of conversation and make it into 3-4 minutes, often with a vested interest in removing spiritual explanations, goals, etc.

      1. Bill Combs says:

        I understand, Justin. I was not trying to make some final judgment but just commenting on your comment that “by all accounts he was a faithful follower of Christ.” I pray he was. I was just making an observation that the clip on your blog gives no such indication. Any unbeliever could say what he says in the clip.

  6. If the prayer breakfast that I attended in 1989 was any indication of his true beliefs, he was indeed a Christ-follower.

  7. Bob W says:

    Wooden’s faith was often discussed among students when I was at UCLA at the turn of the century, and much admired. I am curious, Justin, why you said 12 college championships. Did he win a couple somewhere else besides the 10 NCAA titles at UCLA?

  8. Jeffrey says:


    A book 30 Christian Impact Athletes By Michael Louthian (at provides in summary form a testimony of words and life of John Wooden. Many other athletes and coaches are featured as well as the reason for highlighting their lives in the light of public persona. I am sure there is much more. As noted Wooden although post basketball retirement often spoke publicly, he was in many ways a very low key and private individual.


  9. Ivan Lambert says:

    Guys I played college ball at a small college for a coach who was a huge Wooden admirer. My coach when in LA actually went to the campus in hopes of meeting Wooden. To his amazement, Wooden was present! My coach and Wooden had a conversation in which Wooden actually lauded world religions being similar in seeking truth and loving God and our fellow man.

    It is indeed my hope that in subsequent years John Wooden, probably the greatest coach in American Sports History, learned that it is the major difference of world religions from Christianity that is the major issue to discern—- the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Justin, I’m not seeking to be a fire hydrant to quench this excitement, yet, I do feel I should communicate what I know. After being told this story 25 years ago, as a player, I’ve listened and read some of Wooden’s materials. I indeed found him to be religious, a man, working hard at serving others, loving mankind. He talked often of Mother Teresa and Abraham Lincoln, and of God in General. It is my SINCERE hope, Coach Wooden, came to embrace the wonderful gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Justin, I love your blog, keep up the good work.

  10. Britt Treece says:

    Yeah, you’re right about secular news programs, JT, but from all I’ve ever read or heard from Wooden, it seemed a lot more like he planned on worshipping his wife in the afterlife more than the Savior.

  11. arlyn meguillo says:

    Wow! what a great love story. I think God used nellie and John’s marriage to inspire many couples like me and my husband. They inspired us. I can relate to them because we (me & my husband) also had 6 days together after the wedding day. my husband left for work overseas.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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