My Dad vs. Claude Humphrey & Basketball

From the Hoss Martin Archives

Note: My father passed away on Thursday, August 11, 2016

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Memphis, Tennessee was a bubbling caldron of tension that was spreading throughout the Southland. The efflorescence of the Civil Rights Era along with the general discontentment with the status quo was observed by many within the culture.

Perhaps, this was the setting of an incident when my father (a point guard) attempted to steal a basketball away from Claude Humphrey in what should have been a nondescript high school game between opponents. Things suddenly changed as my dad managed to grab hold of the ball possessed by the big man.

Humphrey apparently took exception to this effort and thought he was fouled. Since no foul was forthcoming, Humphrey decided to grab my dad and lifted him up above his head. My father became a bit choleric after this action decided to take the basketball and hit Humphrey on top of the head as an act of reprisal. A donnybrook between both teams ensued without any injuries in the end; my father was able to walk away to play another week as if nothing had happened, and Mr. Humphrey managed to develop a successful college and professional football career and receive a well-earned (and long overdue) induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Aside from this high school tommyrot old, basketball was a game that conflated speed, nimbleness, and physical prowess. The sport was in constant development for decades until it reached its zenith about a decade ago.

            Today, modern basketball (both college and pro) has somehow adapted the moribund Run and Shoot offense of the gridiron into a debased form of hoops by launching projectiles anywhere on the floor, while everyone and their mother run in the other direction for an offensive possession. In essence, traditional basketball has devolved into city park/playground basketball with nuanced differences.

For example, let us take a few moments to examine the contrasts of the following:

  • Both have compensation involved: one is taxable under labor laws with a check, the other is under the table with grifts
  • They both have female admirers along the baselines.
  • Both have spectators along the perimeter of the court
  • Both require security personnel: one has individuals donning yellow jackets, the other is of a law enforcement variety accompanied with a canine
  • They both require liquid refreshments; a few individuals elect to have a compotation for stronger beverages besides Gatorade or Powerade
  • Both require a bit of forensics after every foul or questionable call
  • One used nylon for nets; the other typically chains
  • Somewhere Bill Russell could think that he may have drifted into the Twilight Zone with the lack of rebounding and defense witnessed today.


Although the aforementioned list is by no means apodictic, it is an effort to bring levity to a situation that has made basketball less compelling than it once was. It seems as if players have an aversion to low post moves and dominance in the paint.

Now, I am by no means advocating the Malice in the Palace or pernicious acts more suited for barbarous mixed martial arts. It just would be nice to see something more gratifying than jump shots and dunks resulting from fast breaks as a result of these incessant long-range missiles. The big man is almost as obsolete as the Commodore VIC-20.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016