Wilt, February 1967

By February 1967, Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers were on their way to notching a historic 68-13 regular-season record. With Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics struggling to find their rhythm, NBA arenas began asking the inevitable: Were the 76ers destined to become the league’s next great dynasty? “I really can’t say,” answered Wilt, also hoping to avoid comment on the recent whispers and winks making their way down Philadelphia’s Broad Street. Some considered “in the know” claimed that Philadelphia’s seven-foot wonder was preparing to jump to the brand-new American Basketball Association. 

Damn Elevator

The hydraulic whirr stuttered, and then Jim Henneman, the Bullets’ publicity man, felt the elevator groan to a jarring. abrupt halt. Henneman jabbed the button for the lobby. Nothing. He punched again and took a deep, God-help-me breath. If only he had taken the stairs. The freight elevator was notorious for breaking down between floors of the Baltimore Civic Center. 

‘Don’t Screw Up the Team’

Since first demanding that the Bullets trade Earl Monroe, Larry Fleisher had now whittled down the list of acceptable franchises to one. the New York Knicks. For Fleisher, it was simply the best fit. The Knicks were a veteran team that remained in the NBA championship hunt. New York fans would be sophisticated enough to appreciate Monroe’s magic act whenever he flashed his Earl the Pearl mystique.

Going AWOL

Archie Clark stood dribbling the basketball at the top of the key.  Staring back at him in a stiff, crouched defensive stance was Gene Shue. Archie unleashed a quick series of head and shoulder fakes. Shue scuttled crab-like backwards. Archie gave a hard feint right and crossed over his dribble to the left. Shue scuttled forward, but it was too late.  

Phil, the Pearl, and Archie

[In October 1971, Earl Monroe entered his fifth NBA season with the Baltimore Bullets. He wanted out of Baltimore in the worst way. Over the next few days, I’ll post cut material from my recently published book, Shake and Bake, that chronicles one of the testiest trades in NBA history. Here’s part 1.] Baltimore, OctoberContinue reading “Phil, the Pearl, and Archie”

The Magnificent Monroe

[Below is text drafted for the book Shake and Bake. It didn’t make the final cut over concerns about the length of the book. Too bad. This vignette shares a truly fun-and-intimate moment between superstar and fans that would be unimaginable in today’s NBA. Enjoy!] . . . The next day brought the 76ers aContinue reading “The Magnificent Monroe”