For more on this series, read The Fighter.
Who: An octogenarian with a million dollar smile
The question that led to the story: “What was your favorite sport to play?”
The Slam Dunk
“I invented the slam dunk,” he says.
He is in his eighties now, still wiry and long-limbed. After playing almost every sport available in high school, he joined a semipro basketball team after graduating.
In 1949, they played the Harlem Globetrotters.
“They were making monkeys out of us, as they always do,” he laughs.
Frustrated with the uneven competition, he engineered a trick play to throw off the Globetrotters.
He told his center to pivot under the basket and bounce the ball as high as possible. Then, he charged forward, planted one foot on the center’s back, vaulted himself up to catch the ball, and plunged it through the hoop.
The referees shrieked their whistles to halt play, at a loss for what call to make or which penalty to assign.
They finally settled on “travel.”
“I even got a broken finger out of it,” he laughs.
“It never did heal!”
Note: For any concerned journalists out there, this is not a journalistic piece. I’ve chosen to leave out names. Quotes and paraphrases are based on notes I took shortly after the conversation. The story itself is based solely on the memory of the storyteller.