I've heard that there are other groups just as obsessed with basketball in the United States, but I've never found them. Occasionally when I am in New York I try to get in a game at the New York Athletic Club, but they play three-on-three, the basketballs are like old bowling-ball luggage and they go at it only three afternoons a week. I have worked out a couple of times at the West 63rd Street YMCA. Frank Gifford got me started there. Three-on-three, a heavy ball, a dark gym and only 10 fellows in the gym. Outside there are millions.
About Gifford. He's what you call a ball hawk when he's on your side and a hatchet man when he's against you. He has to win—he'll do anything to keep from losing. I have the feeling that if he couldn't swim, and he found himself in a swimming meet, he'd clobber the water so hard he'd be able to scuttle along the bottom. He plays basketball as if he's in a swimming meet.
I hit my overhead.
"What kind of shot was that?" Frank asked.
"Been practicing it a while," I said.
Little did he know.
"Lucky," said Frank. "But watch it. You're liable to throw this game away."
When he doesn't know what else to do, he throws the ball against the backboard. Then he knows what he's going to do. He knocks down the defensive halfback.
When Gifford was playing football for the New York Giants, he'd always manage one basketball game a year with a group of friends, including Bob Cousy, Jerry West, Paul Hornung, Bobby Hull, Terry Baker and Timmy Brown. He told me he'd rather get in a game with Cousy than golf with Ken Venturi or Dave Marr. So would I, I told Frank.
One time he invited me to play with Cousy. It was in Acapulco on an outdoor basketball court on the waterfront. Cousy, Hull, Hornung, Baker and Gifford versus a swarm of 5'4" Mexicans, who obviously had been watching the Harlem Globetrotters all their lives. Every pass they made was behind the back, every try at the hoop was a hook from the corner.