The tall man with the gray streaked hair knelt alongside the small blond boy. He hefted the child-sized basketball in his large hands and, with a casual underhand flip, tossed it into the wastebasket across the room.
"No fair using two hands," said the boy. "You're supposed to shoot one-handed, the way you always did."
The man retrieved the ball, reassumed a kneeling position and, with his left hand under the ball and his right poised at eye level, flipped it into the basket again.
"Grandpa," the boy asked, "were you the greatest basketball player ever?"
"Some people say I was, Michael," Hank Luisetti answered.
"Well, you're not as good as Rick Barry."
"Maybe not," said Luisetti, flashing his U-shaped grin. "But what you don't know, Michael, what you can't know, is that the times are different. Very, very different."
Dr. Bill Northway, the Stanford basketball team's physician, was taping Hank Luisetti's ankles in the locker room at Madison Square Garden. Outside, it was windy and damp but warm for December. Inside the arena a crowd of 17,623, the largest of the year, was noisily lamenting Georgetown's 46-40 defeat of New York University in the first game of a big holiday doubleheader. But Georgetown- NYU was a mere preliminary to the event the crowd had really come to see, the match between Clair Bee's Long Island University Blackbirds, winners of 43 consecutive games, and the Stanford Indians, defending Pacific Coast Conference champions and 45-38 upset winners two days before over Temple, the second-best team in the East.
What the fans most wanted to see on Dec. 30, 1936 was Stanford's right forward, Luisetti, who had been setting scoring records by shooting the ball, in defiance of prevailing basketball dogma, with one hand.
After only a year of varsity play, Luisetti was a legend on the Pacific Coast. He had scored 32 points in 32 minutes in the opening game of the conference championship series the previous March against Washington. In another game Stanford had trailed Southern Cal by 15 points with 11 minutes left in a contest to determine the conference's Southern Division leader. Then Luisetti broke loose, scoring 24 of his 30 points, and Stanford won 51-47.