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Dr. J and Arnie


Dr. J is the black Arnold Palmer. Wait, wait, let me explain.

Before Arnie, and TV for sure, the game of golf was for the really rich – for the most part. Arnie did not grow up poor, but he lived outside of town, on the 9 hole course for which his dad was both greenskeeper and “pro”. (Mr. Roger’s, yes that one, family was the patriarch family in the mill town of Latrobe. They lived in the big house on Weldon St., pretty much at the apex of the hill in town.) Arnie was just another kid, who was reportedly admonished by a teacher to concentrate more on school and less on golf or he would never amount to much. He loved the game though, and he was intuitive in his pursuit of it.

Before Dr. J, the game of basketball was played the “white” way, at least by those who were seen by the folks that only tuned in to the TV when the NBA finals came around. Look at the difference between style of play of, say, UNC in the 60s and the historical black colleges in the middle east of the country. The black game was different. There was no stalling and four corners in that league. The coaches, and the players, were having fun all the time, seeing who could out run the other. Dunking was routine and, perhaps, defense was secondary until the end of the game. It was considered street ball, not gym ball, and lacked the control that the coaches liked to exercise.

When the ABA came around, created by some adventurous folks, they chose to embrace a different game, they went a little more “black”, with a weird colored ball, a three point line (opening up the game), and some crazy hair and dunking. The coaches there “allowed” more creativity. Some players that were rejected by the NBA, for gambling or other reasons, were accepted. Soon TV showed the rest of the country, but the establishment, those who controlled the marketing money, and hence TV, shied away. It was beneath them to sanction that behavior. Just think what it would do to their country club white kids to see all the “rules” the parents liked, including as applied to the game of life as they liked to control it, were bent, or even broken. They couldn’t promote hoodlum behavior on TV or the advertisers would see a backlash. Or so they thought. Heck, the advertisers on TV for golf never had to consider that issue, as TV was as new as was Palmer. His swing was not pretty and could not be carried out by anyone who did not have the physical strength in his arms and shoulders that Arnie had. (Arnie played pick up softball, Frisbee football and chased a greased watermelon in the country club pool, all when he was at the height of his career – and none of the local thought anything of it.)

Back to Dr. J. He walked thru the door that Spencer Haywood opened – leaving college early. There was no “hardship rule” in the ABA. If you could play, then come on over. Spencer was, perhaps, the first to break a back board, led the US to the 68 Olympics, then left University of Detroit to turn pro. Not to the NBA, but to the arms open ABA. The first manchild. Dr. J left U Mass early and went to the ABA for the money, where he became the second coming of Connie Hawkins, a player who was banned by the NBA for gambling, brought a title to, of all places – Pittsburgh, and finally tasted the NBA with the Lakers, late, late in his career. Anyway, the Hawk did all that Dr. J did, before Dr. J, at least with the ball on offense, flying and floating through the air for amazing dunks. A one footed take off like Dr. J, not the two foot that many employed.

So, here is Dr. J, winning a title for the NY team in the NBA, then the merger came. That is a whole nother subject on a business level, so let’s leave that aside.

Dr. J did what he did for basketball when he came to the TV as part of the Sixers. He was a natural gentleman who knew how to behave in white society. He was a true bad ass on the court, and he had a glare when it was necessary, but he was the first black star that could be related to by white folks because of the way he carried himself. White folks were not afraid of him like they might be of even Bill Russell. (Russell had to be the man he was because of the time. Dr. J may have learned from Russell’s example given the U Mass proximity to Boston, a town in which Russell took a mental beating while standing tall. Side note: Russell, Jim Brown and Ali were the role models that gave me my impression of black people and I thank them for standing tall and straight in such regard.) Magic was the next guy, but Dr. J did for black people what Arnie did for working class people: got them accepted in a world controlled by advertising money. Then the dominoes started falling. I guess one could say that they both exhibited class on behalf of their class.

Well, this blog started years ago stating that it was weird thoughts, so what did you expect.

As with everything, I did not build a bridge over the creek, but I hopped from rock to rock without getting a soaker or hurting myself.  Ha, ha, ha, – which now is merely LOL

If anyone gets this, let me know.

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