Ralph Boston, the former Olympic long-jump champion, says the so-called slap five began among American black athletes on the international track circuit even before 1968. "I first remember doing it with guys like Bob Hayes and Willie Davenport," says Boston. "A guy would do something good and the others would want to congratulate him. He'd hold up his hand and the others would slap it. It was a way of saying 'Good job, well done.'
"One particular incident I recall was in the Tokyo Games in '64. Our 4x100-meter relay team had fallen behind pretty badly, and Hayes, our anchor man, ran a great finishing leg to win the race. Richard Stebbins, who had run the third leg, ran out to greet him and they exchanged the slap handshake. Lynn Davies, the British long-jumper, turned to me and asked what they were doing."
Boston goes on, "It's ethnic all the way. It's not so much for black athletes as for black people, period. I regard it as part of the black vernacular. It's sort of like jive talk. Black people can communicate with each other that way no matter what part of the country they come from. Back when I was younger I could go anywhere in the country and meet a black and talk to him in jive talk, or hip talk, and there would be instant understanding. The slap five wasn't planned. It just happened."
Boston says the high five is an extension of the slap five, but he doesn't think it will replace it as a traditional exchange. "It [the high five] is sort of entertaining," Boston says, "but the slap five is like Bach or Mozart. It will be here when the others are gone."
Jack Marin, former Duke and NBA player: "The soul shakes were a measure of a new sense of liberation, a throwing off of the yoke. But a thumb-lock just to say you're anti-America? I resented it somewhat. I was still mainstream America. I didn't feel it was genuine. It made hand-slapping as difficult as dancing with a stranger."
Jeff Lamp, University of Virginia basketball player, formerly a Louisville high school star: "The University of Louisville players think they started the high five? If they think so, O.K. I don't really care where the high five began. I have never given the high five and I never will."
Hubie Brown, head coach, Atlanta Hawks: "After every game we win, I shake all our guys' hands—all straight. A man has to stay within his personality. Give a man a man's handshake and a man will have trust."
Carl Barisich, Miami Dolphin defensive tackle, formerly an undergraduate at Princeton: "We were down-to-earth, conservative. We shook hands like real men. Not like a bunch of fags."
"It seems to me that the handshake points up a sharp difference in the white and black cultures in this country," says Ben Byrd, a reporter with The Knoxville Journal of Knoxville, Tenn. "The old, traditional handclasp is the whites' way of expressing courtesy, sportsmanship, tradition, whatever—probably a way of saying that if one can't be anything else he can at least be a gentleman. Of course, I'm white.
"I doubt if that form of expression, the handclasp, fulfilled the black athlete's needs. Generally speaking, white athletes perform with a certain restraint or reserve; blacks with more verve and outward enthusiasm. A restrained, courteous handshake scarcely fitted the blacks' mood or personality. They needed something different, something that was theirs."