In 1965 Don Nelson was put on waivers after playing two seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers. He thought his NBA career might be over. Luckily for Nelson, Red Auerbach, the coach of Boston Celtics, called and offered him a tryout. To make the team, Nelson would have to impress Auerbach by playing one-on-one against Ronnie Watts, a player already on the Celtics squad.
Nat Holman won lasting fame in basketball as the coach of City College in New York. CCNY is the only school in history to win both the NCAA tourney and the NIT in the same year (1950), and it was Holman who coached that squad. However, before turning to coaching, Nat Holman was a star pro player for the original, pre-NBA Boston Celtics. But Holman never made big bucks as a pro. He was paid a mere six dollars a game to play for Boston.
Orlando Woolridge played for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1989. Before joining the Lakers, Woolridge had played for the Chicago Bulls and the New Jersey Nets, where hed enjoyed some of his finest moments as a player. As a Nets player, he averaged over 20 points per game. Unfortunately, his game fell off just a bit when he first came to Los Angeles.
Everybody makes mistakes, but the mistake the Cleveland Cavaliers Johnny Warren made in NBA game against the Portland Blazers in 1970 was a humdinger.
Basketball games get called off for strange reason. One of the strangest postponements ever involved a 1996 hoop contest between Dallas Baptist College and Tyler Junior College. The game was postponed because the court was just too slippery to play on! Apparently the floor had been repaired and then heavily waxed. The court was so slick that the players couldnt maneuver on it. So the game just slipped off the teams schedules until it could be played at a later date.
Can you imagine scoring 184 points in a pro basketball contest and losing the game? Thats what happened to the Denver Nuggets on December 13, 1983. At the end of regulation time, their game against the Detroit Pistons was tied 145-145. After three overtime periods, Detroit finally prevailed 186-184. The combined score 370 points is still an NBA record.
The player who replaced Bob Lanier of the Detroit Pistons had to fill some pretty big shoes. Lanier wore size 22 sneakers!
In 1979-80 the Detroit Pistons finished the NBA season with a rotten 16-66 record. To try to improve their team, the Pistons management decided to hold an open house of sorts, in hopes of discovering a new superstar. Detroit general manager Jack McClosky announced that the team would have an open tryout for people who thought they could play pro basketball. The tryout was a week-long test held at Oakland University in suburban Detroit.
In a 1979 NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and the San Diego Clippers, a veteran NBA official suffered a heart attack while refereeing the game. Luckily, there were six cardiologists in the stands to help out the two team doctors, who rushed to the officials assistance. Fortunately, the official was well taken care of and rushed to a nearby San Diego hospital, where he recovered.
In 1981 the Golden State Warriors chose a player in the eight round of the NBA draft who was just a fraction of an inch shorter than the height of the world high-jump record at the time. The Warriors picked 78 Yasutaka Okayama, who was from Japan. Unfortunately, he had played only junior varsity basketball at Portland State (Oregon) University, and wasnt interested in signing an NBA contract. He decided to return to Japan, where his nickname is Chibi, which means Shorty.
Phil Smith was a tough rookie guard for the NBAs Golden State Warriors in 1975. Smith never let the pressure of a big game affect him. He was always cool and calm during the season. But as soon as the season ended, Phil Smith got a bit rattled. As he was about to wed his college sweetheart in a big ceremony at the conclusion of the NBA season, cool-and-calm Phil Smith fainted at the altar before he could even say, I do!
Calvin Murphy of the Houston Rockets set an NBA record by making 78 consecutive free throws in a season from December 27, 1980, to February 28, 1981. In 1991 it began to look as if Ricky Pierce of the Seattle Supersonic might just beat Calvins mark. Pierce went into the Supersonics game against the Boston Celtics in Boston with 75 consecutive free throws under his belt. But unfortunately for Pierce, he had bad luck. He missed his very first free throw attempt of the night to end his bid for a record. Pierces streak came to a skidding halt on an appropriate date. The streak ended On Friday the 13th!
Center Chris Dudley refused to accept charity during a game played between New Jersey Nets and the visiting Indiana Pacers on April 14, 1990. In the fourth period of that contest, Dudley went to the charity stripe 13 times without making a single point. Dudleys 0-for-13 performance from the foul line was the worst free-throw demonstration in the history of the NBA. Even the great Wilt Chamberlain, who was a notoriously bad foul shooter, never did as poorly. Wilt once missed 10 free throws in a row, but no NBA player had ever missed 13 straight foul shots until Dudleys less-than-deadly performance in 1990.
The Los Angeles Lakers had trouble keeping a coach on the bench during the 1979 season. When head coach Jack McKinney was injured in a freak bicycle accident, Paul Westhead became the Lakers interim coach while McKinney was recovering. But then Westhead had to temporarily give up his coaching duties to have a kidney stone removed. In stepped assistant coach Pat Riley, who became the Lakers interim head coach. Coach Riley went on to become a highly successful NBA coach.
The Utah Jazz basketball squad was getting walloped by the home team Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA contest on March 12, 1985. It became evident to everyone that Utah had no chance of getting back into the contest. The score was 123-108 in the fourth period, and the Lakers were dominating play at both ends of the court. Things were so bad that fans started to leave the game.
Jerry West was an outstanding college basketball player at West Virginia, where he won All-America honors. He was also a great NBA player and helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to many winning seasons. West always loved playing basketball, even as a young boy. Once when he was ten years old, Jerry got in trouble with his parents for playing basketball outside in a driving rainstorm with one of his friends. It was raining so hard that Jerry had come into the house three times to change from soggy sneakers into dry ones.
In 1958 Wayne Goose Embry was a rookie NBA player for the Cincinnati Royals. When the Royals traveled to Minnesota Lakers (now the Los Angeles Lakers), Embry hoped to see action for the first time as a pro. But Embry was so excited about the prospect of playing that he forgot to bring his gym bag, which contained his team uniform. So when the Royals arrived for the game, Embry didnt have a uniform to wear. Luckily, he managed to play anyway. He wore a borrowed Lakers uniform turned inside out.
Jerry Lucas was an All-Star player for many NBA teams, including the New York Knicks, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a star performer for several NBA teams, including the Lakers. Not surprisingly, both were outstanding high school players too. When Lucas played at Middletown High School in Ohio in the 1950s, he led his school to 76 straight wins. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) was a high school player for Power Memorial High in New York City, he led his team to 71 straight wins.
Coach Bill Sharman was a winner when it came to managing pro basketball teams. He won titles in three pro leagues and is the only coach to ever accomplish that feat. Sharman coached the Cleveland Pipers to the American Basketball League (ABL) championship in 1962. He then led the Utah stars to the American Basketball Association (ABA) title in 1971. Finally, Sharman coached the Los Angeles Lakers to the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship in 1972. Once a winner, always a winner.
To be a good center in basketball, a player has to be tall, right? Not necessarily! At least that wasnt the case in 1953 when a center named Johnny OBrien of Seattle University was named to the Associated Press All-American team. OBrien was only 59. Even if he didnt have the usual size of an all-American center, he certainly had the credentials. He averaged over 28 points per game in his junior and senior years and tallied over 2,500 points in his college career.
Gastonia is a small town in North Carolina. Its a place where two childhood friends, Eric Floyd and James Worthy, grew up playing basketball together. When they got older, they went to different high schools, Floyd to Hunter Huss High and Worthy to Gastonia Ashbrook High. When Floyd was a junior and Worthy was a sophomore, their two schools met in the finals of the state championship. Floyds Hunter Huss High edged Worthys Gastonia Ashbrook High by a single point to take the title.
The 1966 NBA All-Star Game was held at the home arena of the Cincinnati Royals (who are known today as the Sacramento Kings). Since the game was to be played in Cincinnati, Adrian Odie Smith, a Royals player, was a late addition to the All-Star roster. Smith wasnt really a great player. He was put on the team just to please the hometown fans. But when game time rolled around, Smith showed everyone he truly deserved to be a member of the NBA East All-Stars. Smith pumped in 24 points to lead his East squad in scoring. Amazingly, the player who was a late addition to the roster just to please crowd ended up being voted the Most Valuable Player of the 1966 All-Star contest.
One of the best NBA players to ever handle a basketball was also one of the worst foul shooters in history. The great Wilt Chamberlain, who scored 31,419 points as an NBA star, was a rotten free-throw shooter. In fact, he missed more free throws than any other player in NBA history! Chamberlain attempted 11,862 free throws during his regular-season career (1960-73) and missed 5,805 of them. During the 1967-68 season, he missed 528 of 932 free throws. Chamberlains lifetime field-goal percentage of .540 is higher than his lifetime foul-shooting percentage, which is .511. Now that is a strange stat!
Bill Walton was a great NBA player who knew how to win games. Any team that had Bill Walton playing on it was hard to beat. When Bill was a student at Helix High School in San Diego, California, he led his team to a 49-game winning streak during his junior and senior years. Walton then went to UCLA, where he played on a freshman basketball team that went 20-0. As a college sophomore, he contributed to the astounding 88-game winning streak that UCLA had begun with 18 straight wins when Walton was playing on the freshman squad. Walton helped the varsity team win 70 games in a row before they finally lost to Notre Dame to snap the streak. In all, Bill Walton played 139 high schools varsity, college freshman, and college varsity games without experiencing a single defeat!
Where would any basketball player be without shoes? Basketball shoes suffer a lot of wear and tear, especially in the NBA. According to a study done in 1989, NBA centers, on average, wear out 40-45 pairs of basketball shoes per season. Forwards are little easier on their feet. They wear out only 35-40 pairs of shoes per season. NBA guards take care of their feet. They go through only about 30 pairs of shoes a year!
Forward Kelly Tripucka, who played for several NBA teams, was a hard-working player who sweated a lot on the court. In fact, Tripucka once wore out 60 pairs of basketball shoes in a single season! He perspired so much that his sweat soaked right through his shoes and ruined them.
Wilt Chamberlain, who played for several NBA teams from 1960 to 1973, did a lot of jumping on the court. Chamberlain pulled down a record 23,924 rebounds during his career. He was also a gentleman on the court. He played in 1,045 gameshis entire NBA careerwithout ever fouling out
An NBA game is supposed to be jam-packed with action, thrills, and lots of scoring. But that wasnt the case on November 22, 1950, when the Fort Wayne Pistons traveled to Minneapolis Lakers, who were led by George Mikan. Mikan, who was 610, was the most dominant player in the NBA at the time and a great scorer.
Its a common thing for two National Basketball Association teams to swap baskets in a game. But is it possible for two teams to swap players in a game? Amazingly, thats what happened during the 1978-79 season in a game between the New Jersey Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers.
In 1983 Walter Davis of the Phoenix Suns had a hot shooting hand against the Seattle Supersonics. You might even say he burned up the backboards. Davis scored the first 34 of his 36 points by shooting 15 for 15 from the field and 4 for 4 from the line. His 34 straight points without a miss broke 1 22-year-old NBA record formerly held by Larry Costello (32 points without a miss).
Only one college has ever won both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament and the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in the same year. It happened in 1950, and the unlikely champion of those two tournaments was tiny City College of New York (CCNY). Strangely enough, CCNY beat the same team in both of those finals to take the crowns. CCNY beat Bradley University 69-61 to win the NIT, and defeated them again 71-68, to take the NCAA title.
On February 13, 1954, Furman University traveled to Newberry College to play a basketball game. The game was the very first sports event in the state of South Carolina to ever be televised live.
The Northeastern University Huskies didnt get much respect in 1982. That year, in the NCAA tournament, the Huskies played St. Josephs University (Pennsylvania) in the opening round.
Its always nice if you can get your college coaching career off to a good start. And that is exactly what first-year coach Bill Hodges of Indiana State did in 1979. Hodges is the only rookie coach to ever take a team to the Final Four with a perfect record in his very first season. Hodges Indiana State squad was 32-0 when it reached the NCAA finals in 1979. Indiana State ended up losing in the tournament to Michigan State 75-64, but no other head coach of a four-year school has ever gone to the Final Four with an unblemished record in his rookie season.
West Virginia Universitys Georgeann Wells jumped into the NCCA record books in 1984. In a game against the University of Charleston, Wells, a 67 center, became the first player in womens college basketball to ever dunk a ball in a game. Wells slam helped West Virginia to a 110-82 victory.
Setting NCCA basketball record is usually something to be proud of. The Newark (New Jersey) branch of Rutgers University set an NCAA record in 1985, but they didnt feel very good about it. The record was for losing 47 straight basketball games! However, things looked up just one day after they set that depressing record. Rutgers-Newark won their very next game to end the two-year losing streak.
When Seton Hall University met Duke University in the NCAA Basketball East Regional semi-finals in 1992, it was a reunion of sorts for some the players. Bobby Hurley, Dukes star point guard, had been a high school teammate of Seton Hall superstars Terry Dehere and Jerry Walker at St. Anthonys in New Jersey. What made the matchup even more strange for Hurley was that his brother, Danny Hurley, was a freshman player for the Seton Hall squad. Bobby Hurley took the family bragging rights from brother Danny as Duke defeated Seton Hall 81-69.
In 1957 the University of North Carolina posted a 32-0 season record and won the NCAA basketball tournament to take the national title. But putting the finishing touches on that perfect season wasnt easy. In the semifinals North Carolina had to beat a stubborn Michigan State team, and the game went into a triple overtime before North Carolina won it 74-70. Less than 24 hours later, North Carolina took on the University of Kansas in the NCAA finals and won 54-53 to capture the title. However, that game also went three overtime periods. So North Carolina won it all with two triple overtime wins in less than 24 hours in its final two games of the season.
When it comes to basketball, Bobby Knight was and still is a winner. In 1960 Knight was a player on the Ohio State team that won the NCAA basketball championship. In 1976 he returned to the NCAA tourney as a coach and watched his Indiana University team take the crown. Bobby Knight was the first person to win college basketball titles as a player and as a coach.
Modern college basketball teams usually have to travel all around the country to play in various tournaments. But in 1958 the University of Kentucky didnt have to go far to be crowned the best basketball team in the country. That year, Kentucky won the Mideast Regional playoff game, which was played in its home city of Lexington, Kentucky, to advance to the Final Four. Kentucky then played in the championship round, which was held in Louisville, Kentucky, and beat Seattle University 84-72 to take the national title. Kentucky won the 1958 NCAA tourney without ever having to leave its home state!
The coach of a losing basketball team can blame a lot of people. He can blame his players. He can blame the officials. He can even blame himself. But when Penn State played the University of Maryland in March 1990, losing Maryland coach Gary Williams could have blamed the scoreboard operator for the loss, and with good reason.
In Second round of the 1992 National Invention Tournament, Manhattan College took on the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights in a big college match up. The game was a hard-fought contest, but it looked as if the Rutgers would emerge the winner, as the Knights led 61-60 with 13 seconds remaining and also had possession of the ball out of bounds.
Talk about rotten luck! On March 24, 1979, the New Jersey Nets lost not one but two games to the same team! Heres how it happened. The Nets traveled to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers in a regular-season contest. But before that game could begin, the teams had to replay the last 17 minutes of a game that had been suspended because of a protest earlier in the year. Because of the protest, the game could not count officially until those 17 minutes were replayed. In the replay of the protest game, Philadelphia beat New Jersey 123-117 (the 76ers had also won the original game) for win number one of the night.After an hours rest the teams took the floor again, and the 76ers defeated the Nets in the regularly scheduled game 110-98. Philadelphia officially won two games on the same night.
Basketball coach Joe Lapchick was well known for his emotional outbursts during basketball games. Once while coaching the New York Knicks, Lapchick saw something happen in a game that upset him. He happened to be reaching for a cup of water from a tray filled with water cups, so he vented his anger by seizing the tray and hurling it into the air. Unfortunately for Lapchick, the tray, the cups, and the water all came back down right on top of his head!
In 1980 the New York Knicks traveled west for a game against the San Diego Clippers. When the teams returned to the court after halftime, they discovered that the start of the second half would be delayed for a while. In fact it was delayed more than an hour. During halftime, there had been a pie throwing contest, and pies had spilled all over the court. The players had to stand around and wait while the pies were cleaned off the court.
In 1980 there was a professional basketball league for women in the United States called the Womens Pro Basketball League. One of the teams in that league, the New York Stars, had opponents seeing double. That was because the Stars had a pair of identical twins named Kaye and Faye Young playing for them that year!
In 1980 Doug Moe and Billy Cunningham were both NBA coaches. Moe coached the San Antonio Spurs and Cunningham coached the Philadelphia 76ers. When the Spurs played the 76ers, the two coaches didnt meet for the first time. In fact, it was just the continuation of a long-term relationship between them. Moe and Cunningham attended Erasmus High School together in Brooklyn, New York, and later they both attended the University of North Carolina. It seems that Where Moe and Cunningham were concerned, where one went the other followed.
ENJOY YOR TRIP?
Darryl Dawkins was a young NBA player who liked to joke around and have fun when he played for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1978. Dawkins was a fooling around at practice one day when Coach Billy Cunningham decided to put an end to Dawkins antics. He took Dawkins off the court and yelled at him about taking things more seriously--especially basketball practice.
Coach Jerry Reynolds of the Sacramento Kings had quite a reputation for pulling jokes and pranks. So when Reynolds collapsed to the floor during a home game against the Portland Trail Blazers, everyone thought he was just fooling around. The referee even called a technical foul against Reynolds because he thought the coach was mocking his calls. It took a while for fans, players, officials, and everyone else in the building to realize that Coach Reynolds wasnt kidding around. He had hyperventilated and actually passed out in front of the Kings bench!When everyone realized that Reynolds wasnt faking his condition, help was quickly summoned. The coach eventually came to and was rushed to a nearby hospital. Luckily tests proved negative. But through the entire ordeal, jerry Reynolds never lost his keen sense of humor. One of the first things he asked for when they wheeled him into the emergency room was a bag of popcorn!
Bill Willoughby made a big jump from high school basketball to the NBA in 1975. Willoughby, who graduated from high school in New Jersey,was signed by the Atlanta Hawks without ever having played college basketball. He made his debut in the NBA for the Hawks on October 23, 1975,when he was only 18 years,156 days old. Willoughby was the youngest man ever to play in the NBA. Although he never became a star, he played nine years in the NBA.
WAY TO GO
When basketball great Bill Russell left the University of San Francisco and joined the Boston Celtics, he made a wise move. In back-to-back season (1956-57) he went directly from a championship college basketball team to a championship pro basketball team, becoming the first player to do that.
Pro basketball players are supposed to be good shooters, and a foul shot is supposed to be fairly easy to make. Thats why some people call the foul line the charity stripe. But Garfield Smith, who played for the Boston Celtics in 1971, was a terrible foul shooter. That year Smith hit a measly 6 of 31 foul shots for a poor .194 average. One of his worst days at the line came in a game against the Phoenix Suns on November 17, 1971. Smith stepped to the line and was allowed to take three shots to score a maximum of two points. His first shot went to the left and missed everything- a classic air ball. His next shot was another air ball. His third and final shot likewise missed the rim, the net, and the backboard for air ball number three. Three consecutive air balls from an NBA player! You might not be surprised to learn that the 1971-72 season was Garfield Smiths last in the NBA.