Ernie McCray Columns

Ernie McCray: End of an era for Bill and me

Ernie McCray: "
Ernie McCray

EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Tucson High School and University of Arizona basketball standout Ernie McCray is a legendary figure to Tucsonans and Wildcat fans. McCray, who holds the Wildcats’ scoring record with 46 points on Feb. 6, 1960, against Cal State-Los Angeles, is the first African-American basketball player to graduate from Arizona. He is honored by the university on its Ring of Honor at McKale Center. McCray, who now resides in San Diego, earned degrees in physical education and elementary education at Arizona. He is a longtime educator, actor and activist in community affairs in the San Diego-area. He wrote a column for now-defunct and has offered his opinion and insight with McCray also writes columns for

Bill Russell (NBA photo)

I finished reading
the U-T
and thought I would
watch a little TV
to see what was going on
in the world that might interest me
and before I knew it
soft tears were rolling
from my eyes
after hearing that
Bill Russell
had died,
news that immediately
formed a memory
of him
blocking a shot
and gathering the ball he blocked
and whipping and outlet pass,
igniting a fastbreak
which he trails
and ends up receiving
a classic Bob Cousy snappy
no-look pass
for an easy bucket
and then hauling ass
back on defense,
ready and able
to do the whole thing over again,
poetry in motion
by a true champion,
and another image comes on
of him at the March on Washington,
as he, too, had a “Dream”
of liberty and justice for all human beings
as I see him seated with other sports superstars
in support of Muhammad Ali’s refusal
to have anything to do with the Vietnam War
and refusing to play in a game
because of a city’s racial practices…
My man!
Bill’s death ends an era
for him and me
because for years I’ve enjoyed the sheer fun
of being mistaken for him,
of having people look at me
in that way people look
when they think they’re looking at a celebrity,
hunching whomever they’re with
with an aura of certainty
and, oh, I don’t know how many times
over the years
that somebody has asked me
“Do people tell you that you look
like Bill Russell?”
“Yes, all the time.”
Especially a brotha in New York City,
one time,
who argued with me
when I said I really wasn’t the man
with 11 NBA Championship Rings.
ending the colorful friendly discourse with:
“Naw, motherf—-r, you Bill Russell!”
I still laugh at that moment,
on occasion.

It’s been fun
but now it’s all done.
Our country has lost
an outstanding citizen,
one who, nevertheless,
in spirit
in hearts like mine,
lives on.

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