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George McGinnis of the Indiana Pacers agrees. "It's the way we are," he says. "Like dressing up or being very flaunty. Blacks have been oppressed for so long that when they do get something, they want to show it off. It's the same way with the slapping.
"I think a lot of people think of it as a bunch of crap, but I think it carries a lot of weight. You go to a black church and you see the same kind of enthusiasm. I don't mean flaunty-flaunty when I talk about black guys dressing up. I mean they want to show people they've got something. Take a white guy who might get $30. He'll go out and buy something conservative. When a black guy gets his hands on some money, he buys something that somebody will notice. It's all part of our history as black people. Italians are somewhat like this, but to a lesser degree. When I got my first car it made me feel good. The handshake is the same way. It's part of us and makes us feel good."
McGinnis feels the exotic handshakes are extensions of affection. "You'll get a white guy around blacks, and naturally he'll want to be like 'em," McGinnis says. "He doesn't want to be an outcast and he wants to be part of the crowd, so he'll say, 'What's happenin', bro?' Then he'll go through the whole series of moves in the handshake. I've seen times when he's done it all wrong, but it didn't matter because he was trying to be sincere."
Here's how McGinnis rates the shakes of his former teammates on the Philadelphia 76ers, who as a group were partial to pounding their fists.
Doug Collins: "He always had a thing. Whenever somebody made a good play, Doug would come over and put his hand on the guy's head and shake it."
Julius Erving: "Pretty basic. He'd shake with the thumb and the slap."
Darryl Dawkins: "Your hands could die of suffocation. If you had your hand out for a slap, you always had in the back of your mind, 'Not hard, Darryl, not hard. Don't hurt me.' I once went to shake his hand in practice and he put me up over his head like a little kid."
McGinnis himself: "Basic. Slapping, but no heavy stuff."
During McGinnis' first tour with the Pacers, then in the ABA, an interracial shake between Mel Daniels and Bob Netolicky enlightened the proceedings. "They would grasp the thumb, then do the normal shake, then grab each other's fingers and pull," says McGinnis. "To finish it, they put the tops of their fingers against the other guy's and wiggled them."
According to Dawkins, by the time certain handshakes filter down from veteran blacks to younger whites, the moves are passé. "To be honest about it, I must have started most of this stuff myself, in my first life," says Chocolate Thunder. "Me and Doug Collins began a one-finger tap into the other player's palm. One time Coldcut [Dave Colescott, a rookie guard prospect from North Carolina] came over to me sayin', 'Let's shake. Hey, brother. How's it goin', brother?' I said, 'What the hell's the matter with him?' "