If you're called Lee Davis you should make quite a name for yourself in the South, even if you're as black as the bore of one of General Grant's Napoleons. But, as Lee Davis admits, "I'm not even a household word in Memphis." And it is there that L. Davis, as he is referred to in Memphis Tarn box scores to differentiate him from teammates M. Davis and W. Davis, obscurely plies his trade. (Incidentally, having three players with the same name on one team does not constitute an ABA record; early this season Dallas boasted C. Jones, R. Jones, S. Jones and N. Jones. What's more, when S. was traded and N. cut, the Chaps acquired L. Jones.)
But Lee Davis is not just another nonentity. He is the least-known most-talented player in pro ball and one who has, more by hook than crook, the fifth-best field-goal percentage in the ABA.
For four seasons Lee Davis sat on the bench, averaging 10 minutes and 4.4 points a game. In New Orleans, where the Tams franchise originated, his most newsworthy accomplishment was his marriage to local beauty Rebecca Strickland. In Memphis he got into tropical fish to give himself something to do.
Then last Nov. 10, Tam Center Randy Denton broke his hand late in the second quarter in a game against Dallas and the 6'8", 230-pound Davis replaced him. The Chaps are coached by Babe (Magnolia Mouth) McCarthy, who had been the Memphis coach until this season and had predicted that Davis would not be in the ABA when play began.
In the Dallas game Davis, who is known to his teammates as the Geezer, exceeded his lifetime pro average by 22.6 points. He hit on 12 of 17 field-goal attempts and all three of his foul shots for a total of 27 points. Magnolia Mouth said nary a word. Undoubtedly, he figured if he kept quiet Davis would go away or, better yet, revert to what McCarthy believed to be his form.
Instead, Davis poured it on. For the 18 games Denton was out the Geezer averaged 21.4 points. "I always knew I could put the ball in the hole," he said after he got 38 points against Virginia and 36 against Indiana in successive games, "but this is ridiculous."
In a solemn ceremony Forwards Wil Jones and Les (Big Game) Hunter dubbed their teammate Kahead Abdul-Geezer. "You proved that you are a genuinely bad dude, Abdul-Geezer," intoned Jones, "and now you have a genuine bad dude's name."
McCarthy maintained his closed-mouth policy in regard to Davis, but Billy Cunningham, who came to the ABA from the NBA this season, couldn't keep quiet. "This cat can really play," Billy C told the world and promptly named Davis to his All-Obscure ABA team. The other four members—Guards Jimmy Jones of Utah and Mack Calvin of Carolina and Forwards Rich Jones of Dallas and George McGinnis of Indiana—are established stars, unknown only to insular NBA refugees. "Davis has an unstoppable shot!" raved Cunningham. "A hook that can't be blocked!"
Earlier this season Julius Erving was winding down from another cyclonic performance. Memphis had just gone through its predictable fourth-quarter vapors and, after tying the score at 115 all, had been blown off the court by Dr. J. and his colleagues. That is, all except. L. Davis, who went 10 for 14 from the floor, 4 for 4 from the foul line, had a game-leading 13 rebounds and blocked three shots—two of them Erving's. "This cat just doesn't miss from anywhere around the key," pronounced Dr. J., who may be the world's leading authority on shooting basketballs.
The night before, the Tams had done another fourth-quarter number, dribbling away a 10-point lead, but they staggered home a winner over the division-leading Utah Stars. Playing out of position at power forward, Davis was barely noticeable on offense. But off the boards and on defense, the Geezer was overwhelming. In the two quarters that Davis guarded the renowned Zelmo Beaty, the Star star had but one basket and few opportunities to rebound. When Davis took a breather, the job fell upon Ruther Lackley (one of Davis' drolleries that causes ex-Knick Luther Rackley to plead, "Please, please don't do that!"). Beaty had a field day, belting Rackley out of position with his elbows.