Oklahoma's greatest basketball player, Mark Price, returns to OKC as Bobcats' assistant coach

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.
by Berry Tramel Published: March 1, 2014
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“I say this without exaggeration, I think all four Price boys (counting Denny), they’re some of the greatest men Oklahoma has ever produced,” said Wade Burleson, pastor of Enid’s Immanuel Baptist Church, who presided over Denny’s funeral in 2000, after he died of a heart attack during a lunch-time basketball game.

The Prices moved into Gilbow’s neighborhood back in ’79, and soon he became like a part of the family. “I feel like I grew up in their household,” Gilbow said. “Their daddy, to this day, I’d say best man I ever met.”

Gilbow said that even as a teenager, Mark Price was serious.

“Mark was about God, Mark was about family, Mark was about basketball and Mark was about singing,” Gilbow said. “If it wasn’t about God, family, basketball or singing, Mark didn’t have any time for it.”

Yes, singing. The Price family often sang together. Around the piano at home. Denny and the boys in a quartet at church, including after they were grown and were home for Christmas. Even in death, the Prices turned to song. Denny Price’s memorial service 14 years ago ended with his sons and family friends on stage at Emmanuel Baptist, singing hymns, new and old.

“Denny raised those boys right,” Gilbow said. “They didn’t have the TV on. If it wasn’t dominos or singing or basketball, they always had their door open to a group of us.”

Of the Price brothers, only Brent has returned to Enid, where his mother, Ann, still lives. Middle brother Matt lives in the Tulsa area. Mark Price’s home base remains Atlanta.

When the Prices moved to Enid, “we had no idea this would be what we’d call home,” Brent said. “This place became very special to us.”

Mark was a 5-foot-111/2 sophomore who didn’t raise much of a stir when he first showed up for the high school basketball team. Little did they know.

“He didn’t want to do nothing but shoot the basketball all day long,” Gilbow said. “He’d be outside (shooting) behind the church. Or get a key. Anyone who had a gym he could get into, he was there.

Very very committed. Very very dedicated. Very serious about all of it, at an early age.”

Gilbow wants people to know that Price’s lack of athletic ability is vastly overstated. First off, he’s right simply because you don’t last 13 NBA seasons, much less be a star, without some God-given talent.

They went golfing one day when Price was home from Georgia Tech. A ground squirrel popped its head out of the game, and Mark threw a golf ball and plucked the squirrel on the head from 30 feet away.

“He was special with his hand-eye coordination,” Gilbow said. “Phenomenal at ping-pong. Phenomenal throwing a football.”

Gilbow lives in Edmond and works for the Price family, as sales manager of their Jenkins & Price Sanitary Supply company. And this weekend, he’ll get to hang out with his old pal, who showed up in his neighborhood 35 years ago, became the best man in his wedding and whose family impact is still going strong.

Giants, you might say.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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