An Oklahoma basketball giant will walk into Chesapeake Arena for the Thunder-Bobcats game Sunday night. And I don’t mean Hasheem Thabeet.
Mark Price is a literal Oklahoman and a figurative giant. The greatest basketball player our state has produced. Price is the only Oklahoma high school-bred player ever named first-team All-NBA.
Bobcats coach Steve Clifford says Jeff Van Gundy likes to say that people forget Price was Steve Nash before Steve Nash. Clifford hired Price last summer as a Charlotte assistant coach, with an emphasis on shooting.
Who knows shooting better than Mark Price? He ranks 29th in NBA history in 3-point shooting percentage, .402, and of those above him, only Nash, Kyle Korver, Wesley Person, Dana Barros, Mike Miller, Brent Barry, Dale Ellis and Ben Gordon took more 3-pointers than did Price.
Price also ranks second all-time in NBA foul shooting percentage, .9039. Nash, who hasn’t retired and conceivably could miss another couple, is the leader at .9041.
Price became a world-class shooter the old-fashioned way. And the new-fashioned way. And the only way.
He worked himself to that status.
Nine p.m. was late for Mark Price. He’d always be home by then. No staying out late. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and an uncanny shooter of a basketball, if he’s in the gym by the crack of dawn.
Which Price was.
“He had a different commitment level than the rest of us,” said Jason Gilbow, who met the Price brothers when they moved to Enid in 1979 and ended up being in the wedding party of all three. “Mark would be at home at 9 o’clock Friday night, so he could be up early the next morning shooting. He was focused as a young man.”
It paid off. Price led Enid to the 1982 state championship game, with a memorable first-round upset of Wayman Tisdale-led Tulsa Washington. Price signed with Georgia Tech, became an ACC star in that golden age of college basketball and then made four NBA all-star games with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now Price is working for Michael Jordan, who owns the Bobcats and who was his longtime nemesis. North Carolina won the ACC both years that their college careers overlapped, then Jordan’s Bulls eliminated Price’s Cavs five times in the NBA playoffs from 1989 through 1994.
Quite the basketball career for Price.
“Mark loves being around the game, loves teaching the game to young players, really enjoys being back in it,” said Brent Price, the youngest of the Price brothers and who also played in the NBA.
After retiring from the NBA, Mark Price coached on the high school level and at Georgia Tech, then took consulting or coaching jobs with a variety of NBA teams.
“He’s with a coaching staff he respects,” Brent Price said. “It’s something he’s had a desire to do for quite some time. If you pressed him hard enough, there’s a deep desire to be a head coach.”
The Prices came by their basketball addiction honest. Their father, Denny, was one of the greatest high school players in state history, leading Norman to the 1955 state championship, with 42 points in the title game, a record that stood until Mark tied it 27 years later.
“Just having our dad, it was our lifestyle,” Brent Price said. “We were in the gym so much growing up, always had a ball in our hand. We were immersed in the sport of basketball. It was our dad’s love for the game that first got our attention.”
Denny coached on the high school level, on John MacLeod’s staffs at OU and with the Phoenix Suns, then became head coach at Sam Houston State. In 1979, the Prices moved to Enid and established deep roots.