inducted October 2, 2008
Alton Byrd flew from San Francisco to New York, excited to see what Columbia could offer him. Four years later, Byrd left as one of the most decorated basketball players in Columbia history. If that wasn’t enough, Byrd took his skills overseas and became known as “Great Britain’s greatest ambassador of the game.”
Byrd made an immediate impact, being named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year after his first varsity season. The point guard would go on to receive first team All-Ivy League recognition in his three seasons.
Despite only playing three varsity seasons, Byrd still holds the career and single season records for assists. His 210 and 193 assists rank first and second all-time in a single season, while his 526 career assists is in a world of is own.
A three-year captain, Byrd was awarded the Frances Naismith Award by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, given to the nation’s top collegiate player under six feet tall, elected after his senior season.
Byrd was selected by the Boston Celtics in the tenth round of the draft, but didn’t make the team, however, he had another offer awaiting him. A Columbia alumnus, David Dubow ‘56BUS, offered Bryd the opportunity to work in his market research company in London and play for a basketball team he owned, Crystal Palace.
Once again, Byrd’s impact was immediately felt, as Crystal Palace went 50-5 during his first year in England. He was named the Player of the Year in the British professional league after the 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons.
Byrd remained in the British Isles for almost 15 years as a player, coach, and team president. He is regarded as the most important figure in the growth of British basketball. He returned to the United States in the 1990s, joining the NBA’s Sacramento Kings as a vice president. He and his family still reside in Northern California.