- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Robinson was nodding now.
"... might be the best who ever was."
Working at the edge of art and science, father and son produced a kind of vaudeville. "Showtime," they called it. They had come as a package deal to LSU, another football school, in 1966, and they toured the state of Louisiana, hitting towns like Shreveport and Alexandria, enticing the people, provoking their gossip, selling them on Tigers basketball. Each LSU player had his own Homework Basketball drill to perform as a specialty. But the main attraction--nay, the only attraction--was Pete. "Pete was an advertising campaign," says Bud Johnson, the LSU publicity man.
No one was more susceptible to the charms of his game than kids. Suddenly, in the heart of football country, sporting goods stores couldn't stock enough basketballs, hoops and nets. And back in North Carolina, teenagers like Charlotte's M.L. Carr--one of the first blacks to attend the basketball camp at Campbell--were rehearsing Pete's Homework Basketball routines until they could do them in their sleep. "I knew I couldn't be like Pete," says Carr. "But I did every drill religiously."
At 16, Carr had a sense of the game and its stylistic antecedents. He knew about Earl (the Pearl) Monroe from Winston-Salem State Teachers College, author of the spin dribble. He knew of Providence's Jimmy Walker and his famous crossover, a change-of-hands dribble that made the quickest defenders look slow. Then there was Archie Clark of Minnesota, who had perfected the stutter step, a hesitation move. "But Pete," says Carr, "was the best I'd ever seen. He did things the Globetrotters couldn't do yet."
In fact, Pete was already being called "a bleached Globetrotter." But unlike the Globetrotters, he made his moves in authentic game conditions. The competition was high level, high stakes, the expectations increasing at an exponential rate.
With his droopy socks and floppy hair, there was a growing sense that Pistol Pete would morph into something more iconic than just a basketball player. In anticipation of his varsity debut, in 1967, Press saw to it that LSU had a new pep band and a squadron of pom-pom girls. He arranged to videotape Pete's games and the Homework Basketball drills. There would be a full record of exactly how he and his son had conspired to change the game.
By Press's calculation Pete would have to shoot 40 times a game for LSU to have a chance of winning. Not only did this theory violate every strategic principle of the game, but it also had never been put into practice. Shooting at such an absurdly rapid rate--better than a shot a minute--would be physically and psychologically grueling. "He's got more pressure on him than any kid in America," Press said.
Pete's game became the subject of discussion among league officials. Coming down full stride on the break, he would wave his hand over the ball, then tip it with the other hand in the opposite direction. It looked like a magic trick. At one point a ref blew his whistle and signaled a traveling violation. "How can you make that call?" said an outraged Pete. "You've never even seen that move."
In fact, the call forced SEC officials to hold a meeting. The refs examined the tape until, at long last, they shook their heads in grudging agreement with the kid.