In the dressing
room the Lakers were too stunned even to talk for a while. Hundley, sitting in
a corner smoking and drying out, angrily asked the air, "Did you ever see
such lousy officiating?" He spread his hands. " Kerr was that far out of
bounds. And I was fouled on that shot of Jerry's. What the hell do you think
[Referee] Duffy was looking at out there? This town," he concluded, "is
out to lunch."
Dec. 29. The flight from Syracuse was a hedgehop through barely allowable
ceiling limits. "Can you see the ground?" Krebs demanded nervously from
time to time. The flight passed over a scheduled stop at Wilkes-Barre, which
could not be cleared for landing.
rain poured down on ice-slicked streets. The shoeshine boys lining the terminal
ramp were delighted. "There's ol' Tom Hawkins," grinned one. "Hawk,
give 'em your autograph," urged Jim Krebs. "They don't want his
autograph, they want Ivy Baker Priest's," cracked Baylor. "They're not
basketball fans, they're money fans."
The lobby of the
Bellevue-Stratford was a warm, glowing oasis in a drenched city. The rich aroma
of winter cigar smoke and heady winter whisky hung in the air. A man bustled up
to the Lakers' 6-foot-ll center, Ray Felix. "Are you Wilt the Stilt?"
he demanded. "I'd like to tell my kids." Ray shook his head. "No,
I'm not. But if you're looking to give Wilt some money, I'll take it for
him." A lady huffed annoyedly by. "You'd think this was a
gymnasium," she sniffed.
The driving rain
pelted against the cab on the way to Convention Hall. Jim Krebs explained his
basic philosophy vis-�-vis tipping. "I hate tipping," he said. "I
give 'em a quarter. If they don't want it, they can just give it back."
The game was a
happy one, for a change. The Lakers coasted to their first win 111-95.
Hot Rod felt good
under the circumstances, and announced he would treat himself to a beer after
the game. Hot Rod is a brown-eyed, blondheaded ball-handling expert who hates
basketball and road trips with equal passion. In Philadelphia's Latimer Club, a
favorite hangout, he unenthusiastically poured a split of beer in a frosted
glass and made a short speech. "You know something?" he began. "I
hate basketball so much that I go up to the officials before every game and
say, 'How many games we got left?' Know what I said tonight? I said, 'Smitty,
just think, only 42 games left.' "
He took another
swallow. A blonde came alongside. Her voice was soft. "Hello, Rod," she
said. "Why, hello, honey, how've you been?" answered Rod. He turned to
a friend. "Honey, I want to introduce you to my buddy here. Uh, what did
you say your name was, honey?" The blonde batted her big eyes.
"Desiree," she breathed huskily. Rod swallowed hard. "Oh,
sure," he said, "Desiree. This is Desiree. Well, nice to see you,
back down to the other end of the bar. Hundley was struggling with laughter.
"Used to see her a year ago. She's here every time I been here.
Desiree—that's a hot one. Who in hell was Desiree?" "She was Napoleon's
mistress," he was told. Hundley laughed. "If her real name's Desiree,
mine's Tab Hunter." He jumped up. "C'mon, let's get outta here. Gotta
go call home. It's only 9 o'clock out in Los Angeles."
St. Louis, Dec.
30. The casual cruelty of the nickname is as prevalent in pro basketball as
elsewhere in the world of sport. Frank Selvy, the Lakers' able, veteran
playmaker, is Fab to his fellow players for the sardonic reason that he was
usually referred to as Fabulous Frank in his collegiate days, when he set an
alltime scoring record. The fact that he has never quite lived up to his
advance promise—thanks in large part to a two-year Army stint—only heightens
the zest with which the players roll his nickname off their tongues. When
things are too quiet, Hot Rod Hundley frequently lapses into the stilted
stentorian of the public-address announcer to introduce "Fabulous Frank
Selvy, the pride of Furman, the player of the decade. Once scored a hundred
points in one game." "Hey, Fab," he shouts, "didn't the horn
blow before you got that last bucket in? You didn't really hit for a C note,