October 28, 1963
On a windy, rainy night last week, Art Heyman sat in his parked minivan outside Tracy J's Watering Hole, the Manhattan tavern he has owned and run for 2� years. Heyman had spent most of the evening bantering with customers, as is his habit, but now he sought solitude. His downtime, however, was repeatedly interrupted by a stream of young people—former employees, a rain-soaked bar rat or two—who saw him in the van and couldn't help stopping to say hi. "Everybody knows me," said Heyman, "but I'm really a loner."
Heyman once stood alone among college basketball players. As a 6'5", 205-pound swingman he was named the 1963 national player of the year while at Duke, and in the spring of '63 the New York Knicks made him the first pick in the draft. Despite averaging 15.4 points per game as a rookie, he lasted only three years in the NBA, and after a season in the Eastern League and three in the ABA, he faded from basketball. He blames his rebelliousness. "Coaches would tell me to do something, and I'd say, 'Go f—-yourself,' " Heyman recalls. "I didn't respect authority or structure."
That had become clear during a game in Heyman's sophomore season at Duke, when he ratcheted up a burgeoning rivalry by punching North Carolina's Larry Brown. Before the ensuing melee was contained by police, Heyman had coldcocked a male cheerleader and slugged Tar Heels coach Frank McGuire in the groin.
Heyman went from nuts to soup after he quit basketball, returning to his home state of New York and running a series of restaurants. In the late 1980s he married and moved to a spacious house in Hillsborough, N.C., where, he says, he "spent eight years helping my wife, Sandra, in her hair salon." When the marriage ended amicably, Heyman went home again.
Tracy J's, named for Sandra's daughter, is an unpretentious juke joint where Heyman, now 58, mingles affably and insists that the burgers be the size of his mammoth fist. Heyman advertises his status as a former Blue Devil and Knick outside the bar and gives signed reprints of his SI cover shot to anyone who asks. "If I was two feet shorter and 30 years younger, you'd have a new boyfriend," he writes to young women.
"I come here because it's comfortable and Art makes you feel like you belong," says the Hat, one of Tracy J's devoted barflies. Heyman nods happily when he hears that, says good night and heads uptown in his van to the apartment where he lives alone.