By Reinis Lacis (@LamarMatic)
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“The jumpingest white boy I’ve ever seen” is how Wilt Chamberlain described two-time NBA All-Star Don Kojis. Kojis, after all, might have been the first basketball player to regularly throw down alley-oops when he did so with the Phillips 66ers. He also managed to have great success with Team USA before turning pro and enjoying a lengthy career in the NBA. All of that and some more discussed in this episode.
Topics discussed in the podcast:
01:20 – The art of rebounding, him and Walt Mangham snatching all of the rebounds at Marquette while the centers boxed the opponents out;
03:25 – What being drafted to the NBA meant back then, offers from the Harlem Globetrotters and a young businessman named George Steinbrenner;
12:20 – Wild experience of playing in the Pan Am Games and the FIBA World Championship in Brazil, a local player wanting to fight Luke Jackson, receiving the gold medal as the team’s captain;
17:00 – The Baltimore Bullets dunking trio of Don, backboard breaker Gus Johnson and Walt Bellamy who called him “All-World”, his alley-oop partnership at Phillips with Charlie Bowerman — possibly the first ever in basketball — being called The Kangaroo Kram, Guy Rodgers, Art Williams and Lenny Wilkens feeding him in the pros;
22:50 – The story of dunking over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, how the no alcohol rule of Detroit Pistons head coach Charles Wolf had him traded to Detroit, an intoxicated owner leaving him off the protected list before the expansion draft;
29:15 – His first All-Star season at San Diego, the team having good camaraderie and frequently going out together, Elvin Hayes joining the team and taking it to the next level;
34:50 – A career-high of 42 points coming against the Lakers, as well as a 38-point game, a memorable night of scoring 40 against his former Bulls team, taking a shot for an ankle sprain which ultimately soured his relationship with the San Diego Rockets when promises were not held;
41:55 – Becoming a broker while playing in the NBA, the role of a player representative, a memorable meeting with Pistons owner Fred Zollner;
45:50 – Averaging 13.1 points per game at the age of 35 on the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, being one of the few to do so at that height during that era, playing with Tiny Archibald during his legendary 34+11 season, adopting a jump shot on his free throws;
53:25 – Sharing the same nickname with Billy Cunningham, the story behind this poster dunk over Luke Jackson, relationship with Wilt Chamberlain, 40 years of Don’s Whispering Winds.
The media related to the podcast:
The story of restoring Whispering Winds after a devastating fire.
Although this highlight film consists of so many awesome clips, from rebounding and hustle to smooth jump shots, I’ll point out that you can see Don slamming it down at 1:57 and 2:40, while his signature jumping free throw can be seen at 2:27:
Baskets by Don (wearing a dark #45 uniform) are at 1:37, 4:13, 4:20 and 4:32. You can see the roster for this 1961-62 Phillips 66ers squad here.
Notable snippets of the interview:
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Thanks to Don for coming on the show and sharing so many behind-the-scenes stories!