Thursday, November 03, 2011

They Wore Short Shorts

Once upon a time, basketball players wore really short shorts. 

...That's the message you'll probably take away from this photo, which I dug out my archives on the eve of college basketball season.

But there's more to the story.

Fresh off a season of photographing Oklahoma State football from the sidelines, I decided to try my hand at basketball photography.

Dec. 10, 1987 was not just another home game for Oklahoma State. It was the home opener, and the debut of the newly-renovated Gallagher-Iba Arena. (Note to OSU fans: this was the refurbishment that spiffed up the old Gallagher Hall, but retained close to the original seating capacity. The massive overhaul came much later.)

The Cowboys were in the second season of Leonard Hamilton's tenure as head coach. It was Hamilton's first head coaching job after serving as a Kentucky assistant, and at that point in his career he could recruit...but that was about it.

Notable players on the 1987-1988 squad included talented drug flame-out Richard Dumas and future New York Knicks stalwart John Starks. Naturally, I didn't get a single good photo of either one of them.

The arena looked great, with shiny brass railings and new seats that were more comfortable than the old ones, but still afforded leg-room only to children and amputees.

With my trusty Minolta in hand, I grabbed a piece of floor along the baseline. I quickly learned that basketball photography would be more uncomfortable than football had been. That hardwood floor is brutal on the knees, and you really can't stand up during the game and move around. You're surrounded by other photographers, and you have to watch out for stray basketballs and players flinging themselves out of bounds.

I focused on the space in front of the basket, and hoped for the best. This photograph was the best I had at the end of the game -- which OSU won over Tulsa University, 66-65. It would also be my last basketball photograph until I became an actual sportswriter in 1990. I'll leave those stories for another day.

Even though it was a close contest, plenty of Cowboys got into the game. This photo features backup guard/forward Mike Peterson scoring one of two baskets he recorded in 9 minutes of action. Also in the photo are starting center Sylvester (Sly) Kincheon (#42) and backup center/oddity Alan Bannister (#43). Bannister was from England, and because he was taller than 7 feet OSU gave him a basketball scholarship. He was the most un-coordinated human being I've ever seen. I remember watching him walk across campus, thinking he looked like a marionette - his limbs seeming to be under someone else's control. He played basketball like that, too. Finally, that's Derrick Davis (#11) in the background, who I don't remember at all.

And yes, they all wore short shorts -- because we didn't know any better yet.

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