ESPN analyst Jalen Rose criticized fellow commentator Skip Bayless on Tuesday for overstating his high school basketball skills at Northwest Classen High School, referring to him as “Water Pistol Pete Junior.”
In a March 31 Tweet, Bayless claimed he had started for a state championship runner-up team. Norman defeated Northwest 47-42 in the 1970 state finals.
“Did you average 1.4 points as a senior in high school? Rose asked Bayless on ESPN2's “First Take.”
“Yep, I did,” Bayless replied.
“All that Pistol Pete stuff,” Rose said, referring to Bayless' claims that he was a good shooter. “Water Pistol Pete Junior.”
Responding Wednesday on “First Take,” Bayless said his “nightmarish” basketball career at Northwest drove him into the media to discuss basketball. “I only talk about this because now my integrity and credibility has been questioned by many of my Twitter followers,” he said.
Bayless said his starting career was short lived because coach Don Van Pool transferred in his son, Donnie Van Pool, from Southeast High School. “I did start for that team, but not for long,” he said.
Bayless' basketball knowledge has been criticized by some of his critics, including Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, who said Bayless “doesn't know anything about basketball” in defending teammate Russell Westbrook, who is regularly criticized by Bayless for shooting too much as a point guard.
Sports Animal broadcaster Craig Humphreys, who graduated with Bayless from Northwest Classen in 1970, said he remembered Bayless as a seventh man as a senior.
“He probably did start some games,” he said. “His senior year he was like the No. 7 man. Coach (Don) Van Pool and Skip were never really on the same page. I love Coach Van Pool. He was a Henry Iba disciple, but he was more of a slowdown guy and Skip was more get up and down the floor. Skip could really shoot. He really could.”
Bruce Scott, a 6-2 guard on that team who went on to play at OU, said he remembered Bayless starting a “handful of games.” “He got lost in the shuffle there. He would have scored 18 points a game at John Marshall.”
In a Monday post, TheLostOgle.com disputed Bayless' claim that he was a starter after searching through Northwest yearbooks from that period. The website posted a document the showed he only scored 21 points in 15 games for a 1.4 average.
The website Sportsbybrooks.com also posted The Oklahoman's box scores from the 1970 state championship and a 1969 first-round state tournament game in which Tulsa Hale defeated Northwest Classen 64-60. Bayless was listed with all zeroes, indicating he had gotten in the game but had not taken a shot.
Bayless' Tweet posted March 31 to his hundreds of thousands of followers, stated, “I started for high school team that lost in the state finals. Coach didn't like me b/c I shot too much and he wanted me to be more of a PG (point guard).”
In a later Tweet, he said he was an MVP of a summer basketball camp after ninth grade. “Tall for 9th grade, chosen MVP of state-wide basketball camp over several future D1 players. Decided I was Maravich. Coach disagreed.”
On “First Take” Wednesday, Bayless called the Tweets “100 percent accurate, but thanks to the 140 point character limit was only 5 percent of the story.” In retrospect, he said he should have expounded on his comments with additional Tweets.
Bayless admitted he played on the junior varsity “B Team” as a junior to learn how to play point guard. “He (Van Pool) wanted me to be a point guard. I felt I didn't have the aptitude or the desire to distribute the basketball.”
As a senior, Bayless said he was scared to shoot. “I lived in fear of ever taking a shot. By two-thirds of the season, I got into his doghouse again. I clashed. I rebelled. … It killed me. It was the worst experience of my sports life.”
Van Pool, who died in December at age 83, led the Knights to state championships in 1964, 1965 and 1968 and an overall record of 250-95.
Bayless, 60, who attended Vanderbilt University, has had a successful career as a sports columnist with several newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times and Miami Herald. He joined ESPN in 2007.