poker-faced, unmindful, lets a bare trace of a grin circle the corners of his
mouth. The quiet man of the Lakers, he also answers to the nicknames of Ish,
Niffles, and Pops. Jerry West, the baby-faced rookie rapidly acquiring
big-league stature in the NBA, is Zeke. "Ever hear him talk?" demands
fellow West Virginian Hundley. "Man, he sounds like he's got two sweet
potatoes in his mouth and a chaw of tobacco. That ain't even Dixie. That's
hillbilly. If you can understand him, you get two free throws. It is English,
isn't it, Zeke?"
Selvy and West
were roommates on the Christmas week trip. Lakers Coach Fred Schaus is
insistent that no cliques form on his team, and rotates roommates without
regard to race, personal preference or player friendships.
The game in St.
Louis was another disheartener for the Lakers. The Hawks' front line of Clyde
Lovellette, Cliff Hagan and Bob Pettit, basketball's best, was hard put to
contain the Lakers until Coach Paul Seymour reached into his reserves for Woody
Sauldsberry, an erratic shooter but a physical powerhouse. Elgin Baylor's
34-point average, which usually takes a tumble at the hands of the skilled
Hawks anyway, thudded to 23 points. He whipped in five quick field goals
against Hagan in the first quarter, but when Sauldsberry was substituted Baylor
flicked off only one for 12 in the second half. The final score was 107-99.
In the dressing
room the officials, as usual, bore the brunt of the blame. The officials in the
NBA, for some reason, are mostly pint-sized men, holdovers from the days when
players' pituitaries were less active, and frequently they stretch only a
little above the players' navels. There is hardly a basketball player in the
league who does not believe this disqualifies most referees from even seeing
what goes on at the heights.
Outside in the
St. Louis night it was balmy by Syracuse standards. But by the time the
late-showering Hundley had emerged, cabs had gone. Hot Rod calibrated the
three-block walk to the hotel with no enthusiasm. "There'll be one
along," he said hopefully. "Let's walk," said the restless Selvy.
At the hotel
Hundley suggested, "Let's go out to Charlie Share's place. Every-body'll be
there. He says he'll pay the cab fare if we come." Selvy was reluctant.
"I'm hungry. Besides, nobody will be there. It's off limits for the
Hawks." "We'll eat," promised Hundley. "Let's go."
was not off limits for the Syracuse Nats or Cincinnati Royals, who had played
in the first game of the night's double-header. The small road-house was abulge
with basketball players.
The talk ran to
shoptalk and the beverage was beer. No one criticized anyone's play—only the
officiating. Night's end found Selvy contentedly eating antipasto and spaghetti
and meat balls, in the company of Hundley, a sportswriter and Alex Hannum,
Detroit, Dec. 31.
Ray Felix, the Lakers' 6-foot-11, 220-pound Negro center, is the oldest and
tallest man on the team. His life between games seems a lonely, endless vigil
at bridge games. He never plays, just watches. He sleeps often. On plane trips
he frequently seeks out the single seat in the rear of a Constellation, where
he can sprawl his incredibly long legs without pre-empting the space of several
passengers ahead. He never reads.
Nearly every time
the Lakers play, fans laugh at Felix. Which is sad because Ray does not try to
be funny. He is in deadly earnest on the basketball floor. In pursuit of the
ball, he gallops down-court like a startled egret, arms flapping, eyes
blinking, feet pounding. He plays with such furious dedication that he is apt
to burst into tears of frustration when he can't get the ball, which is most of
the time. He averages more fouls a game than any player on the team and almost
all of them are unintentional.