McKinney perks up
perceptibly. "That was a great game," he says. "If you remember, it
was the televised game of the week. It was at Fairfield. You guys had a good
fast-breaking team, although not much height. And, if you remember, we were
down at halftime, but we came back in the second half, mixing up our defenses,
zones to switching man-to-man, and we stopped you cold. And on offense, if you
recall, Jimmy O'Brian kept coming up to the top of the key and hitting those
jump shots down the stretch. God, was he happy when we won! He was hugging me
like mad when the game ended."
feat of memory—with every detail correct—is in marked contrast to an incident
that took place earlier in the evening at a Sea Isle restaurant. McKinney was
sitting at a table, engrossed in a conversation about basketball, when suddenly
his eyebrows knotted together. He looked puzzled, confused. He began moving his
hands quickly up and down his chest and thighs, tapping his body as if he were
frisking himself. Then, he stood and said, "I must have left my glasses at
The fact that
McKinney had not brought his glasses to the restaurant raises some questions:
Is he not fully recovered from his head injuries? Is he just absentminded? Or
was this just a meaningless, isolated incident of forgetfulness?
to the table—without his glasses—McKinney explained, "It happens that I
sometimes forget things, or I have a little trouble with names, but otherwise
I'm fine. And my doctor can certify that."
That evening, on
his way home, McKinney is riding in a car when someone makes a kidding
reference to his problems with bicycles. The grin on his face fades slowly,
almost sadly. He exhales and says, "It's hard to believe, isn't it, how a
silly thing like a bike could wreak such havoc on a man's life."
The car passes
through the quiet streets of Sea Isle City. McKinney gazes out the window, his
reflection captured in the glass. "It has been good for the family to be
here," he says. "I just wanted out of L.A. I told my wife that
everything there had bad memories. I said, 'Let's get away, let's go to Jersey
and see the family.' And it has been good for us, all of us."
upstairs to the second-floor quarters where he is staying with Claire and three
of his kids, McKinney stops and says, "You know, life always goes on. I'm
glad I have my life. And my family. Often when I was down, that was the only
thought that cheered me up. It made basketball seem so irrelevant."
At 11:30 that
night McKinney and Ann prepare for a late run by sitting Indian-style on the
floor of their summer rental, bending, twisting, stretching their bodies. On a
nearby table is a small blue card that reads: SUCCESS IS TO BE MEASURED NOT SO
MUCH BY THE POSITION THAT ONE HAS REACHED IN LIFE AS BY THE OBSTACLES WHICH HE
HAS TO OVERCOME WHILE TRYING TO SUCCEED. "Ann puts these around as
inspiration to the whole family," says McKinney.
Soon, they bound
down the stairs of the apartment and out into the balmy night air. "I've
only recently started to work out again," says McKinney, panting lightly.
"Before the accident I jumped rope 300 times a day, swam a lot, ran and ate
only fish on the road. I felt I was in great shape. Then, of course, after the
accident I stopped doing anything for a while. Because of the accident my whole
right side was anemic, weak. I said to the doctors, 'You guys have got to give
me something to do, something to build myself up.' They didn't prescribe a
thing. So I started jumping rope. First 25, then 30, then finally 300. And now
I'm running again. But not hard. Usually a mile or so every day. And recently I
got a huge pin taken out of my elbow, and so I hope I can maybe try a little