Jim's won-loss percentage (.760) was the best in the National League last season, and his two-year percentage of .756 (31 wins and 10 losses) is the best in the majors over that stretch. He pitched a scoreless inning in the 1980 All-Star Game, and his record since 1976 is 64-37, compared to 36-49 for his first four big league seasons. Last year, until he suffered a case of the wilds in late August and early September, losing three games and getting no decision in another, he was a leading candidate for the league's Cy Young Award.
Henry, on the other hand, started his athletic career fast and has been hanging on ever since. At UCLA he was a two-time All-America and played on NCAA championship teams in each of his three varsity seasons, 1969-72. While big Jim was laboring in Tidewater of the International League and recovering from back surgery, little Henry, by far the smallest of the Bibby brothers—Fred goes 6'4", 230—was in dreamland 3,000 miles from home, passing to Wicks and Wilkes and Walton, quarterbacking the Bruins to 87 wins in 90 games.
The pros, however, weren't impressed. Henry was drafted in the fourth round, by the Knicks, an embarrassment for a first-team All-America. In the NBA he looked old-fashioned, slow, out of place. He still does. Indeed, Henry is one of the few players in the league with an authentic set shot. Earl Monroe, who played with Henry on the Knicks, recalls that it was fundamentals and "game knowledge" that got Henry into the pros. "You used to see that from guys who went to UCLA and learned to play the game under John Wooden," says Monroe. "Someday they'll have to bring players like him back in and teach the game again. Players like Henry are dying out."
Henry scraped through 2½ seasons with New York, riding the bench for the 1973 NBA champions, before being dealt to New Orleans. After a year and a half there, he was sold by the Jazz, and it appeared his career was coming to an end. But the 76ers salvaged him and, in an unexpected show of confidence, made him a starting guard.
For four seasons Henry was a small pillar of sanity on the NBA's most flamboyant team, a paragon of discipline among Dunkin' Doctors, All-World dignitaries and Chocolate Archdukes of Funkdom. But during the 1979-80 season Henry was dropped to third guard behind Lionel Hollins and Maurice Cheeks. When the 76ers picked two big backcourtmen, Andrew Toney and Clyde Austin, in the first two rounds of the 1980 draft, Henry knew his days were numbered, even though his 9.0 scoring average in 1979-80 was the same as his career mark and his three-point field-goal shooting—21.2% regular season, 38.5% during playoffs—had led the team.
"It has never been easy for Henry in pro ball," said Cunningham at the start of this season. "And it's never going to be. I'll tell you what he is, though. He's a survivor." As if to test that notion, Cunningham cut Bibby a few days later.
This time it seemed Henry was really through. But he soon signed with the San Diego Clippers. He had literally sold himself, over the phone, to Coach Paul Silas, a man Henry had once called "the dirtiest player in the NBA." "He got me with his confidence and attitude," says Silas. "You'd think those things would be commonplace in this league, but they're not."
Henry moved to San Diego's Nightlight Inn while his wife, Virginia, and two sons, Henry, 6, and Mike, 2, plus Virginia's son Dane, 12, by her first marriage, remained in the Bibbys' permanent residence in Phoenix. That's what it has come down to now for Henry: living out of suitcases, hustling, scrounging, taking pay cuts, hanging in there. "I play for financial reasons," says Henry. "For five or six years it's been that way. It's a job. It's not fun."
Henry was a smart baseball player and a top student at Person Albion High in Franklinton. His former baseball coach, James Foster, feels Henry could've been a major-leaguer—he had all the tools: arm, glove, stick—but Henry didn't like the game. It was too static, too easygoing, too boring. "I finally gave him the key to the gym so he could play basketball all the time," says Foster, now the athletic director at Franklinton High.
Jim disliked basketball but was forced to play because, says Foster, he was the "biggest thing in town." Jim eventually followed Fred to Fayetteville (N.C.) State on a basketball scholarship. "Fred was a star on the team and he got Jim the scholarship," explains Henry. "Jim was a hot dog, the 11th man. He'd get in a game, look up in the stands, score two points and think it was a big deal."