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Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On
Curry Kirkpatrick
February 16, 1981
The firm handclasp has gone the way of the set shot, now that everyone is slaphappy. First it was the low five. Then the high five. Who knows what next season's In five will be
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February 16, 1981

Whole Lot Of Shakin' Goin' On

The firm handclasp has gone the way of the set shot, now that everyone is slaphappy. First it was the low five. Then the high five. Who knows what next season's In five will be

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So What Else Is New? Matt Goukas, who played in the NBA and is now a broadcaster for the 76ers, gets a feeling of déjà vu from the pregame intros. "When I first came up, they went to slapping hands, then to fists on the shake," Goukas says. "But I remember my father telling me about Camp Brebeuf in Vermont—it was named after St. Jean de Brébeuf, some saint who had been a missionary in Canada—where he had worked in the 1930s. The secret handshake of the camp was exactly like the soul shake in the pros—except you pulled your thumb back like a hitchhiker over the shoulder. No, there were no black guys at the camp. Are you kidding?"

Baseball free agent Lenny Randle, the Henny Youngman of the handshake: "High five? Next year maybe it will be the low five. Or how about the Indians? They used to do it with locked wrists. Remember Jeff Chandler in Broken Arrow? He couldn't act, but he had a great wrist shake.

"Once, in an NBA game, Abdul-Jabbar and Elvin Hayes were going through their routine in the center circle when the ball went up in the air. By the time they were finished, the ball was at the other end of the court, and here they were saying, 'Let's see, we kick elbows next.'

"I've seen guys hurt a finger on the hand slap, then duck down into the dugout to scream."

Baltimore Colt Center Ken Mendenhall, the Rodney Dangerfield of the handshake: "It's just something that comes and goes, I guess. They keep inventing something different. My method is just to shake hands. Nobody shakes an offensive lineman's hands, anyway. I'm not even involved in the shaking after a TD. I'm usually getting ready for the extra point. They all swarm into the end zone and I'm not even there when the scorer is running off the field. When he runs by the huddle, I might say something, but I can't go chasing guys in the end zone."

What is wisdom? What gift of the gods is held in glory like this: to hold your hand victorious over the heads of those you hate? Glory is precious forever.
—EURIPEDES, The Bacchae

Ah, the high five. None other than. Who started it? Who cares? Magic Johnson claims he did. The Louisville Cardinals claim they did. The Los Angeles Dodgers claim Dusty Baker did. Dusty Baker claims Glenn Burke did. Glenn Burke couldn't be reached for comment. Hockey players claim that they did, that it began many years ago when they started raising their sticks on high after a goal. They're all wrong. Women did. Women volleyball teams.

"I started it in college, and I'll show you the films to prove it," says Johnson, who played two seasons at Michigan State [1977-79] which culminated in a national championship for the Spartans. "I've always been an emotional player. Back in high school we'd always give five. Then in college the front line was tall and we started to high-five. On the Lakers I like to do it with Coop [Michael Cooper]."

Earlier this season, Johnson produced one of the more elaborate high fives after Cooper blocked a shot by Houston's Moses Malone. The two Laker teammates couldn't contain themselves. They executed a leaping, crashing, roaring high five. Then another, harder. A third, still harder. A high-five series. Unbelievable. And after all that, Johnson gave Cooper a hard slap on the rear end.

"If you're not afraid to give it up, if you want to get into it, I mean I want to smack you," Johnson says. "That one with Cooper was one of the better ones. Beautiful."

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