Emails on Maravich, the Big Bowl and Billy Sims
My column on Pete Maravich’s 1968 All-College performance drew uncommon response. Lots of memories were stirred. Let’s get to it. Bill wrote, “Really enjoyed your story about Pete. I remember driving from Tulsa to OKC to see the game and how bad the roads were.”
Several people referenced the icy roads. I’m just glad to know we had ice back then. When I was a kid, seemed like it was pretty rare. Now it seems like we get hit once a month every winter. I blame it on the TV weathermen. James wrote, “Just a little humorous note on Pistol Pete’s 138-point performance at the All-College. My wife and I were at a Blazers hockey game during that time, and during the intermission between the second and third periods fans were chosen to try to shoot the puck through a slot in a board that covered the south goal. Pete Maravich was invited down to try his luck and promptly shot the puck dead-center throught the slot. 139 points!”
Sounds like the story from Seinfeld, when George rescues the beached whale and reveals the problem — something obstructing the whale’s blow hole. He produces a golf ball, which Kramer obviously had been knocking into the ocean. Kramer looks a little sheepish and says, “A hole in one.”
Jon wrote, “Enjoyed your story on Maravich. I didn’t have many idols, but he was one of them. Like a lot of kids, I tried to make sure I wore floppy white socks and had them down around my ankles when playing in the driveway. I also took a marks-a-lot and scrawled ‘Pistol, No. 23′ on my basketball. When I read in Sport Magazine that Maravich would take a basketball to the movies and dribble in the aisle, I tried to do the same and pitched a fit when my parents quickly nixed the idea. But as you know and wrote about, Maravich was like Big Foot. You seldom ever saw the guy. I remember watching him play on TV exactly twice because it was such a huge deal. Once was against Kentucky and Dan Issel and the other was when LSU was in the NIT. The rest of the time was just following his exploits in the paper. “Maravich scores 53 in win” or something like that. Can you imagine today? He’d have his own network.”
I don’t know about the movies, but former Sooner Bo Overton is a friend of mine. We grew up together. And his dad used to say that Bo would get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or something and would dribble a ball on his way to the john.
Chris wrote, “AWESOME article on Pete! Just awesome. Thank you. That brought back so many memories. I was fortunate to be at all three games. We drove in from Kingfisher and you pegged it, with 8,700 packed frenzied fans (who says Oklahoma doesn’t like basketball) it was just unbelievable. Pete probably had 15-20 assists per game as well.”
I wish we had full stats on basketball from the ’50s and ’60s. Wilt Chamberlain, for instance, I’ll bet had a ton of blocked shots. But they didn’t record them back then, so Wilt is largely forgotten as an enforcer.Lynn wrote, “Enjoyed your article on Pete Maravich. It brought back many memories. 1968 was the first year I became at all interested in basketball as a spectator sport. Up to then it had been baseball and football only. 1968 was also the year of the Elvin Hayes-Lew Alcindor dual in the Astrodome, which I believe got many folks interested in college basketball for the first time. So I guess one could say that it was as great a year for basketball as it was a horrible year for politics and social justice.”
Here’s the truth about college basketball in the ’60s. It was a better game, except for the lack of a shot clock. Check out some of these scores from the ’68 All-College: 94-86, 93-71, 101-85, 104-87, 94-91, 91-81, 83-81. College basketball today has the shot clock and the 3-pointer but is choked by physicality and control-freak coaches.Jim Burgar, a former OU football player, wrote and said, “I enjoyed your article on Pistol Pete. I had the opportunity to see the Hawks vs. the Knicks play in 1972. What a show! I can still see in my mind, Pete with his behind-the-back, between-the-legs passes and Walt (Frazier) with his back-you-up-turn-around jump shot. I wish I could I have seen Pete play in the” 68 All-College, but I think we were preparing for SMU in the Bluebonnet Bowl.”
That Bluebonnet Bowl was a heck of a game, too; 28-27 SMU.Jon wrote, “Most amazing athletic show in my life! My uncle took me and my cousins all from Chickasha. I witnessed Pistol Pete pass between his legs on a fast break which then went between the legs of an OCU player to an LSU teammate down the left side of the lane for a layup. The crowd never cheered for the Chiefs again after that. I was 14 and will never forget!”
What we really don’t know is whether Maravich really did pull off these miracles, or if his flair was even more magical, that it knocked the crust off our imagination. I think the latter makes him even more special, if so.Greg wrote, “It brought back many fond memories of a time long ago. I was one of the fortunate ones to attend the All-College Tournament in December 1968. I was a sophomore at OSU, home on Christmas break, and attended two of the three games at the State Fair Arena. I knew I was watching history be made by having an opportunity to watch the greatest college basketball player ever to don a uniform. Incredible basketball games! Again, great memories of growing up in Oklahoma City and watching historic basketball.”
You know what? I still get a charge out of going to State Fair Arena, if for no other reason than all the history that’s been made there.Another Greg wrote, “I attended these three games also. The Duquesne game is the greatest basketball game I ever saw. My father was one of the originally enrolled foot soldiers for the All Sports Association. When I turned five in 1957, I began going to the All College when it was conducted at the Civic Center (we had seats on the stage, I felt like this was ‘big time’). We always sat by my dad’s best friend. They were opponents in Kansas high school basketball before the war. What made them connoisseurs of Pete’ s basketball talents, they played for two coaches who played fast break basketball in the ’30s before even Abe (Lemons) and Paul (Hansen) had ever been heard. What was interesting was they could almost comment as fast as Pete did something because it was almost as if they were on the floor with him. They were kids again.”
The most important thing about sports are memories. Do not let anyone ever tell you differently.Slim wrote, “Pete, the last man off the court from pre-game warmups, casually puts the ball off the floor between his legs and into the basket from 15 feet. Swish. I would not have believed it had I not seen it.”
You know what? I don’t care if they are fish stories. I love to hear them.Steve wrote, “Thanks for the article on Pete Maravich. It brought back memories of those three great games 40 years ago. I was home for Christmas break from college and saw each of the games at the fairgrounds. My college was Vanderbilt of the SEC so I was able to watch him in person four times from ’67 to ’70, including his freshman year when he dazzled the young Commodores with skills that Memorial Gym had never before seen. In my view he was indeed legendary in OKC in ’68. As amazing as he was then, those performances were matched many times in his collegiate career throughout the South. What left us stunned was everything about the Pistol; the dribbling, passing and scoring all done in his own superb and unique style. It was soulful and it was funky.”
I’ve often wondered if Maravich wasn’t discounted somewhat because he was white. I know there’s plenty of discrimination going the other way, but if Maravich had been black, don’t you think his reputation would have gone out of this world? I don’t know. Maybe I’m off. But I’m not sure the world was ready for a white guy to play with the flair that Maravich. Maybe the world still isn’t ready for it.Steve wrote, “Cool article on the Pistol! I was a ballboy at that ’87 All-College as a high school kid and got to meet Pete one afternoon at the Myriad. I’ll never forget it. He gave me a few great pointers about my jump shot and then spun the ball on his finger and headed it in off the glass. Me and my buddies were in awe. Was a great day.”
What was that I was saying about memories?Ed wrote, “My brother and I went to those games and we talk about the Duquesne game frequently. Right behind one of the goals, we could see his magic unfolding every time he touched the ball. Duquesne was good and had an All-American, Bob Quick. The first LSU possession was coming right at us. I think Duquesne was in a box and one. Maravich flew across half court dribbling furiously and heading for the corner. What was he going to do? I swear to you, two steps before he dribbled out of bounds, he shot a pass between his legs, through the two defenders on that side of the box and right into the hands of an unsurprised Danny Hester for a layup. To this day, 40 years later, I don’t believe what I saw.”
You know, we really ought to have a contest on who can recall the wildest Maravich play from that All-College.OK, now it’s back to my day job as mental therapist for worried OU fans. Chris wrote, “What are your thoughts on Bradford going pro? You think he will? How will the Sooners do without Murray & Granger?”
I think I’d go pro if I was Sammy B. I think OU will Murray in the passing game, not in the running game, and I think OU will Granger in the Florida running game, not the passing game.Derek wrote, “Will OU have 22 guys left to play on Jan. 8? Jeesh. I cling to the thought of Arkansas in 1978. I have this vision in my head of Bradford being sacked six or eight times and a halftime score of Florida 28, OU 7, en route to another less than stellar performance in the national spotlight. Of course, I thought T-Tech was going to beat OU, too.”
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