I was shooting a 16mm film of the game, but halfway through the first period Frank ran over and said, "Homer, here's your chance. Go in for me. I'll run the machine." I went in and took the ball off the board, broke for the foul line and started an overhead. Halfway up, I chickened out. So I did what the Mexicans were doing. I made the old grandstand behind-the-back pass. Only it wasn't to anyone I saw—I passed it blind behind my back, just the way the Mexicans were doing. Where it went I knew not. My move had all the dramatic ingredients of a second baseman throwing to first.
The ball bounced about eight feet behind me. It wasn't even a straight behind-the-back pass. It went through a Mexican or two, and then right into the hands of Bob Cousy. Mr. Basketball was under the basket. He spun it off the backboard, and it went in. Cousy two, give Groening the assist. Now, I wouldn't dare bring it up except that what happened is now on film. Frank got it all. It's in the film called
, which he narrated. I have probably the only print that still exists.
An assist to Cousy, it seems to me, is like finding out that your caddie is Jack Nicklaus. Or like putting a bandage on Florence Nightingale.
Now I can tell you about the Big Day, April 11, 1967. Twelve o'clock noon, Portland YMCA, the west basket. Four-on-four, of course; five regulars (Dick Marlowe, Dale Garrett, Bob Morrison, Chief Red Thunder and me) and three strangers who wanted in.
All I remember is that the first time the ball was passed to me, I dribbled to The Spot at the top of the key and threw it up. Of course, it went in. The three strangers were my teammates, and there was scorn in their manner. I usually end up with the oddballs.
I feel the way a man plays basketball—particularly whether he passes more than he shoots—is a key to his personality. An unhappy basketball player seeks happiness by passing the ball to what he hopes are his friends. He assumes that he will get approval by giving them the ball and allowing them to shoot, and he will pretend that this approval will result in happiness. The shooter, on the other hand, does not know that there are such things as friends or happiness. All he knows is that he is unhappy when he isn't shooting. But those who shoot just hoping the ball will go in get nothing but scorn. I've been told that making the overhead isn't so great. It's having the guts to fire it in the first place that is hard to believe.
The three strangers were not seeking happiness; they did not pass the ball to me. When the ball happened to bounce to me, however, I did look earnestly for approval. I passed back to the strangers, but their scorn did not disappear. I decided not to seek approval. I said to myself, maybe this is The Day. It was.
I put myself on The Spot. I turned away from the basket and put up an overhead from the top of the key, 20 feet out. That was two in a row.
"Goodness gracious, crikey!" exclaimed the strangers, as they do in YMCAs. "What the hell kind of shot is that?" I smiled enigmatically. No need to drag this out. I made a third, then a fourth. Then I missed one. Then I made another. And another. I think that you should picture the next one. After all, that will be seven out of eight.
I placed myself under the backboard and waited with my hands cupped, like an empty ice-cream cone held under a Dairy Queen spout. When the basketball dropped into my hands after one of the strangers missed his shot and everyone else missed the rebound, I dribbled fast to the foul line.