Basketball will remember Clyde Lovellette on May 3 when he's inducted into its Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. In at least one other regard, however, the game has forgotten Lovellette, who was an All-America at Kansas and then, in his 11 NBA seasons, played on three championship pro teams. Lovellette, who retired in 1964, does not receive a pension—not one blessed penny—from the organization that he helped to pioneer. And he's not the only NBA old-timer who has been slighted.
When the NBA pension plan was established in 1964, it was decided that benefits would be given only to players with three years' service who retired in 1965 or after. There are 103 pre-1964 players still alive, including such luminaries as Bob Cousy, George Mikan, Paul Arizin, George Yardley and Dolph Schayes. Over the past two years they have formed an organization called the National Basketball Old-Timers Association. It's headquartered in the Foxboro, Mass., home of Katie and Gene Conley, the latter a former center for the Celtics and Knicks, as well as an ex-pitcher for the Braves, Phillies and Red Sox. The Conleys have done an impressive job of contacting the old-timers, educating the media and buttonholing NBA officials. Says Gene, "We aren't interested in charity, only justice."
Fine. Everyone, including executives of both the NBA and the NBA Players' Association, says he recognizes the injustice to the old-timers. Unfortunately, the owners and the active players are not on speaking terms at the moment, and they would have to come to some agreement before the old-timers can be helped, since both groups would share the cost of an expanded pension program. One estimate puts the cost of vesting the old-timers at $6 million, but the NBA is enjoying a period of unprecedented popularity, and it should pay tribute to the pioneers of the game. And the league should do it as soon as possible. As Conley, who is 57, says, "The average age of our group is 62, so we don't have a lot more time to wait."
If you overhear players at the Willow-bend Golf Course in Wichita, Kans., talking about form and technique and balance, they may not be discussing their golf swings, but rather the tee markers on the course. At every tee, as well as on the putting green and near the clubhouse, is a museum-quality sculpture. Displaying the works was the idea of George Ablah, a 59-year-old entrepreneur and art collector who is the principal partner in the Willow-bend development, which surrounds a brand-new golf course designed by former pro Tom Weiskopf and architect Jay Moorish.
Ablah chose most of the works, which are valued at a total of $500,000. Among the famous artists represented are Red Grooms (Lumberjack, at the 11th tee), Fernando Botero (Hand, 12th tee) and Chaim Gross (The Juggler, putting green). The only sculpture with a golfing theme is Classic, by Kansas artist Eli Romero, at the 14th tee. This arrangement of chrome-plated steel tubes is a representation of the perfect swing. School and civic groups often tour the course in oversized golf carts to see the sculpture.
As for golfers, they seem to like swinging among the works of art, and they haven't found that they present much of a hazard. "I wouldn't say no one has ever hit one," says Rod Nuckolls, Willowbend's pro, "but it's rare."
Art, in fact, may be the coming thing on golf courses. Several other courses around the country have sculpture, although not to the extent of Willowbend. According to Ablah, the art could help solve one of the sport's great problems. "Golf is notorious for making people wait," he says. "But stopping to look at the statue when you reach the tee is kind of like watching a movie or TV." Well, kind of.