Class of 2017Active: 1968 - 1974
8 Open Victories
There has always been a close tie between basketball and volleyball. The list of great players who made their marks in both sports is long: Mike Dodd, Mike Whitmarsh, Greg Lee, and, of course, the legendary Wilt Chamberlain. But John Vallely may be the greatest two-sport athlete of them all.
On the hardwood, Vallely was an all-CIF performer at Corona Del Mar high school and a two-time NCAA Champion at UCLA, making the all-tournament team both times. He was named an All-American in 1970 and was drafted in the first round of the NBA where he played for the Atlanta Hawks.
As impressive as Vallely was in hoops, he was equally dominant in the sand game. Introduced to beach volleyball while in high school, when he was only 19 years old the legendary Ron Von Hagen asked Vallely to team up. The two would form one of the game’s most intimidating duos. In 1969, Vallely and Von Hagen put together a perfect season, winning all of the five open tournaments they entered, including the Manhattan Open where they beat Henry Bergman and Larry Rundle in the finals. Vallely would go on to win three more tournaments with Von Hagen as well as the 1970 Santa Cruz Open with Brian Lewis, Sr. the father of Hall of Famer Brian Lewis.
Vallely was an explosive player with great hops, but he complemented his athleticism with impeccable ball control. He was one of the best passers and setters of his era, and when combined with Von Hagen’s similar talents, Vallely would wear other teams down by siding out flawlessly time and time again.
His basketball commitments limited his time on the beach. There is little doubt that if he had been dedicated full-time to the beach the record books would look very different today.
Following his basketball career, Vallely built a successful real estate portfolio and a sports apparel business. Since the passing of his daughter from cancer at the age of 12, he has been actively involved in pediatric cancer research, serving on the Board of Director of the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation.
Vallely faced his own battle with cancer, being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2002. After a successful stem cell/bone marrow transplant in 2006, Vallely lives and works in Orange County, married to his wife Karen of almost 50 years and close to his son Eric and granddaughter Erin.
John Vallely. A basketball legend. A beach volleyball legend. And a hall of famer.
Written by: Chris Warshaw