"I saw him in a phys ed class, and forced him to come out for the team," says Jim Adams, his high school coach. "We had Marvin and a bunch of football players. They beat on him unmercifully. But he never complained. If he had, they would have got him outside. So he learned to fight back. He's been rough ever since."
An All-America at Providence College, Barnes came into the ABA at a strong 225 pounds and with quick hands, feet and mouth. "I guess I'm the Muhammad Ali of pro basketball," he says. One of his first moves was to buy a $35,000 silver Rolls-Royce. The press gave him a hard time about that.
"I'm the best and I should have the best," he popped off. Recently, however, he said, "A Rolls is the only car I know of that goes up in value. You pay $35,000 and you can sell it for $40,000. Is that dumb? Also, now my mother has a nice home, gets an allowance and doesn't owe anyone a dime. And if she needed money tomorrow, I'd sell the Rolls yesterday."
Barnes has the curious faculty of knowing where he stands—and simultaneously being able to enjoy it and rebel against it. He doesn't mind playing in the band, it's just that he wants to do an occasional solo to merrier music.
"What I am is 22 years old," he says, "and a 22-year-old kid ain't no genius. People forget how young I am. I still like to do wild things. They want to take my youth away. I'm a basketball player, not a monk. When I'm out having a good time they interpret that as not acting my age. What age? I want to be young. I enjoy it. I like to go out, mess around, be happy. I tell the owners, 'Look, I'm just an ordinary guy. With all that bread, who wants to live on bread and water?' They say, 'No, Marvin, you've got to grow up and be responsible for the whole franchise.' They know I'm immature. If I knew better I wouldn't do some of the things I do.
"Like jumping the club. That was bad. I listened to some bad advice. What do I know? It'-s tough being a star. I had to buy two alarm clocks and I've got to get better sleeping habits. O.K. But I don't want to act like an old man of 30 when I'm only 22. I figure the time to know how to act right is when you're old because you don't want to mess around anymore anyway. But they keep telling me, 'You can't make any mistakes, Marvin. Don't miss any more planes, Marvin. Drink your milk, Marvin. Eat your vegetables, Marvin.' Bunch of frustrated mothers. I suppose having all the responsibility thrust on me is a compliment. But it's a pain, too."
Golden State's Keith Wilkes is 21 and also a rookie. He is the son of a Baptist minister. The vehicle Wilkes owns is a Volkswagen van. He arrives early for practices and planes. He carries 190 pounds on a 6'6�" frame and when he came out of UCLA, where he played in the shadow of Bill Walton, they said he was too thin to make it in the pros. When Golden State made Wilkes its first-round pick some people thought management had gone mad. Now operating in a shadow once more—Rick Barry's this time—Wilkes is averaging 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds.
"You hear so much about today's younger generation and then you see Keith," says Attles. "He seems so in tune with life, so much more than most players. No one heads him into anything. He's the kind of youngster who can be part of a crowd but not be influenced by it. He's not going to do something just because everyone else is doing it."
Wilkes' progress in the pros was not easy. His first problem was that fans still appeared to resent his being the Warriors' first-round draft pick and his second was that backing up Barry, his break-in assignment, was a less-than-meaty chore. But before the season started two Golden State forwards ( Cazzie Russell and Clyde Lee) went for various reasons to other teams and later a third, Derrek Dickey, was sidelined for a time with an injury. At that point Wilkes became a starter.
"Because of Walton a lot of people overlooked Keith's talent," says Attles. "He was a very fine but very unspectacular player. He's played under a lot of pressure and I think he's proved he has a great talent. And he has done it playing out of position at power forward. He really should be playing where Rick Barry is. He proved that when Rick was injured."