To paraphrase Charles Dickens, 1965 was the worst of times and the best of times.
The Cold War was continuing, Vietnam was beginning, and segregation was lingering.
But the music was good, American cars were well-made, and over consumption of beer was the only adolescent drug problem. And 43 years ago, Pete Maravich set a record in the North Carolina East-West All Star High School Basketball games that still stands.
Player are usually invited to all-star games for their scoring ability and not for their skillful, frequent passing. For this reason these games should be played with three or four basketballs on the court at all times.
With only one ball, though, Pete scored a record 42 points for the East in that game, As a member of the West team, I was an unfortunate eyewitness to all 42.
The next dayâ€™s headline in a local newspaper read:â€Maravich Stole the Show.â€ A more accurate headline would have been: â€œMaravich Was the Showâ€.
His hair was floppy, like many of us who copied the popular Beatle Style. His â€œluckyâ€ socks, the pair he wore exclusive, were also floppy.
He didnâ€™t really run. It was more of stiff-legged shuffle, with his elbow always pointed outward. The effect was oddly graceful, like a crane in flight. And it was completely deceptive. Floppy, floppy. Shuffle, shuffle. Suddenly, heâ€™d be backpedaling and youâ€™d turn to see the ball going through the net.
He had a lackluster first half that evening, by his standard, scoring only 12 points, At halftime we retired to our respective locker rooms while the fan were treated to a martial arts exhibition.
When we came out, the exhibition was still going. Down on the playing floor of the coliseum, it was freezing. We didnâ€™t have warm-ups, so we jogged in place to combat the cold.
I recall seeing Pete, 100 feet away at he other end of the court, bouncing and agitated like a caged racehorse waiting for the starterâ€™s bell.
When play finally resumed, he turned the agitation into points and exploded for 30 in the second half. He made shots from everywhere, and threw several of those patented Mavarich misdirection passes to surprised teammates.
The coliseumâ€™s public address announcer sounded, at times like a broken record: â€œBasket by Maravich,â€ and few seconds later, â€œBasket by Maravich, â€ and on and on.
Those of use who took turns guarding him shared an experience in humility. As all-stars, weâ€™d had too much publicity too early in life and were a little too confident from it. We werenâ€™t chosen for the game for our defensive talent. It wouldnâ€™t have mattered, though, because he was simply unstoppable.
It was an incredible performance from an athlete with court presence and intensity.
The presence came from spending so much practice time in the gymnasium. At some point in his youth, the basketball became an extension of his arm.
The intensity, though, came from an inner fire that all the great ones have. I donâ€™t think it was acquired. I think it was just there. The basketball also became an extension of his psyche.
It is almost an understatement to say that Pete Maravich was unique; there are few sufficient adjectives for his style or superlative for his abilities.
He was temperamental, but stars and thoroughbreds almost always are. To reach his level of accomplishment, natural ability is not enough. You must also possess a strong desire for excellence and a wide range of emotions. Needless to say, he had all of the above.
You know, of course, that he went on to more records, further greatness and the hall of Fame. You also know that his gentle spirit is now with the light.
For better or for worse, time brings change. We of the West roomed at the O. Henry. They of the East stayed at the King Cotton.
You need not look for those two gracious old hotels in downtown Greensboro. Iâ€™m told they were long ago imploded, a term that must mean â€œdestroyed and replaced with something lacking character.â€
The Beatles, Motown, GTOâ€™s and LBJ. Sometimes, it seems like all of
40 years. Or more.
Floppy, floppy. Shuffle, shuffle. â€œBasket by Maravich.â€ So it was at the Greensboro Coliseum on an August evening in 1965.
*****This article special to GREENSBOROSPorts.com from Eddie Dyer, who was member of that West team that took the Greensboro Coliseum court and tried to stop Pete Maravich in the 1965 East-West All Star basketball game, but as Ed has said, “there was no stopping Pistol Pete on that night or any other night for that matter…..*****