Previous Story

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

All Features

Next Story

Warriors Fan Fiction

Back in the Day: Travel in the NBA

As the 100-game mark of the season nears, we talk to a few legends about pro basketball before private jets and chartered buses

Planes, trains, and automobiles. Hitchhiking, buses, and — depending on who you ask — even stagecoaches. That’s how NBA players traveled when chartered flights were little more than a big-market luxury. Back then, you had to get to blips on the map like Fort Wayne and Rochester. Red Auerbach used to tell his storied Boston Celtics “Every man for himself” as he leapt onto the last seat of a departing train during a snowstorm. “It was much easier to play the games than to get there,” Celtics legend Bob Cousy said in a phone interview. “There were always problems.” Just getting there was half the battle. And sometimes the battle was lost.

Born of an idea from a recent Bill Simmons column that placed the Miami Heat’s 27-game win streak in context with the legendary 1971-72 Lakers, I checked in with some NBA legends on their most memorable travel (mis)adventures. “When you’re 25 years old, you kind of go with the flow,” said Dolph Schayes, a Hall of Famer who played for the Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia 76ers. “But that’s the way it was. By today’s standards, it’s the Stone Age.”

By Air

Gail Goodrich (Los Angeles Lakers, 1965-68; Phoenix Suns, 1968-70; Lakers, 1970-76; New Orleans Jazz, 1976-79): We traveled coach. You’d go to the airport, you meet up, you get tickets, you go on the plane, you wait. There’s delays. When you went east from Los Angeles, you always had the snowstorms. The biggest things were the three nights in a row. We would play on Friday in Los Angeles, get up Saturday morning and travel to Phoenix, Portland, or Seattle, and then play Saturday night. We’d stay overnight, get up early Sunday morning, fly back to Los Angeles, and play Sunday night. That would be a West Coast [trip], three games in a row. And when we traveled east, it was not uncommon to play four games in five nights.

I remember one trip early in my career, there was a snowstorm in New York and we were coming from Los Angeles. We had to land in Toledo, spend the night there, then get up the next morning and take a train to New York. We got there an hour before game time and played that night.

Now they go commercial and probably don’t even touch their bags. We had to carry our own bags — not only that, but if you were a rookie, you had to carry the bag of balls. You had to take six balls to practice and pregame then. And then, Elgin [Baylor] had his hydrocollator for his knees. If you’re a rookie, you had to carry that as well. We had two rookies, so one of us carried the hydrocollator. One of us carried the practice balls. We’d check them. You’d get it at baggage claim, then you’d be responsible for it — take it to the hotel, take it to the trainer. You’d give it to the trainer at the hotel or you’d be responsible to take it to the game.1

Dolph Schayes (Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers, 1949-64): I remember specifically a game where we flew back in a snowstorm. It was in the late ’50s. We played mostly on Saturday nights and we had to play in Syracuse for one of the early-era television games at one o’clock or something like that. We had to get back and a big snowstorm came from the west. We had a couple of guys who hated to fly. One of them was named Connie Dierking, who had played at the University of Cincinnati. He hated to fly. Hated it. The pilot said, “Well, we’re going to fly, but we’re kind of flying in the teeth of this blizzard coming in, so for navigation, we’re going to follow the Mass Turnpike. We won’t be flying too high.” So Connie’s groaning, saying, “Oh my God.” It was very bumpy and Johnny Kerr, who was a jokester, he kept things light. He said, “Connie, what are you worried about? More people die in automobile accidents and crossing the street. Planes are very, very safe, the safest of all transportation. In fact, the other day, there was a train crash in France where 90 people died.” Connie said, “Really, what happened?” Johnny said, “Oh, a plane fell on the train.” I thought that was really funny at the time. To make a long story short, we got back.2

Bob Cousy (Boston Celtics, 1950-63, 1969-70): We didn’t have any near-death experiences. Those things [Douglas DC-3s] were the safest planes ever made at the time. Our trainer, though, he had an upset stomach and he’d be filling one of those burp bags just walking up the steps to the damn plane. You’d get turbulence just getting up to whatever altitude you were going to fly in, and then of course flying during the wintertime was the worst conditions. We used to slap him in a seat and play gin rummy. While he threw up, we used to win his money in cards.

Elgin Baylor (Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, 1958-72): [One day in 1960] we left Minneapolis in the afternoon. Before [we took off], the pilot told us that he was having problems with something. [Midflight] both of the engines cut off. Just cut off. I think he thought that he was running out of fuel and he said they have to go down. The whole time they were circling, trying to find an airport or something like that. We went down and he told everybody to brace themselves.

Rod Hundley (Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, 1957-63): Nobody was hurt on that deal. A miracle. The only guy who missed it was Rudy LaRusso. He played ball at Dartmouth. He had an ulcer back in Minneapolis, so he missed the flight. It almost went from the Lakers to a Laker. They were flying the plane around and trying to decide what to do with it. We only had a certain amount of fuel left and the pilots left it up to us. “What do you want to do? We’ve got about 25, maybe 30 minutes of gasoline left in the plane. It’s up to you guys. Otherwise, we’ve got to take the plane in right now. That’s our choice.” We said, “Let’s go now.” We got in the position. We all said, “Look, if you can get it on the ground, let’s go that way.” That’s the thing that we did. They flew the plane with the windows open. One open on the right, one open on the left, which is the way a DC-3 plane is built. What they were doing was looking out the window the whole flight and they flashed a flashlight and were pointing at downtown and trying to get some help, so we could get back to Minneapolis. Elgin went and laid down in the back of the plane.

They had to take the plane around once or twice to bring the plane in. We almost hit a car coming down. The story gets bigger and bigger. We take the plane back up. That really throws you back. I thought, This is it. We’re done. They got it back up where they could get enough leverage to make a landing and they brought it back in. What we didn’t know is they were trying to dig snow up and get us a place to land. We went into a cornfield and that knocked down a bunch of stalks. But it helped to slow down the plane. When we hit, we were just trying to stay on the ground and you could feel the plane hitting the cornstalks. That was the big cornstalk field there in that city. It worked. But it came down and hit, then it went back in the air about three or four times. It was like taking a basketball and flipping it up in the air and letting it go, boom, boom, boom, boom, until the ball stops. That’s the way it was. So when we came down, the plane bounced five or six times. It was a hard landing, but a good one. Finally we came to a stop and everybody was looking at each other. We didn’t know what had happened. Everybody was just in awe on the ground. Then all of a sudden, everybody started yelling like we had won a game that night. Everybody was slapping each other on the back. Then, they had to open the back for us to get off the plane, and we were in three feet of snow. Guys were making snowballs and hitting each other. We were so happy to be alive. There was a motel there pretty close. We had a big cup of coffee. Everybody had a room to themselves. But nobody wanted to go to bed. Everybody wanted to stay up and talk and drink coffee and have doughnuts. We had made it. The weather was perfect when we woke up the next morning.

Baylor: It was fine, but it was scary, heck. Everybody was scared at one point in time. I know people were scared because we had Jim Krebs. He’s since passed away, [but] Jim always thought the worst. Nice guy, but you heard him saying, “Oh, we’re going to crash.”

I’ll tell you what’s funny: After we landed, who was waiting for the plane to hit anything, the plane to flip or whatever, just waiting there for us? After the smoothest landing ever, we hear a knock on the door. We come to find out the person that’s knocking on the door — you could hear him saying, “Is everybody OK?” — was the town mortician. What happened, we were circling overhead and he was the one who called the highway police and told them somebody was in trouble. In fact, when we traveled to the hotel, we went in one of his funeral cars. It was so late, we couldn’t get cabs to take us. We went the rest of the way [to Minneapolis] by train.

Jerry West (Los Angeles Lakers, 1960-74): [Travel] was just a constant hassle, to be honest with you. You got used to it: the lack of sleep, catching the first available flight out, any mechanical issues. There was one incident in Chicago during the streak [of 33 consecutive wins during the '71-'72 season] and we didn’t get to Philadelphia until 5 a.m. because of travel. That was a particularly bad game. We didn’t start the game out very well, but we ended it well. There are just so many times that you have little or no control over travel.

I remember we got stuck in Buffalo one time for about three days. There was a blizzard up there and we couldn’t get out. It’s not the greatest place in the world to [be caught] in a blizzard, and being confined to the hotel, you couldn’t leave. But there were so many other numerous ones, playing a Saturday-night game in Los Angeles and then flying to New York overnight and playing the first game of a doubleheader and then playing a Sunday-afternoon game in Boston Garden. It happened frequently to us.

Trying to sleep, that was always the big issue with me. Some people can get on an airplane and sleep. I couldn’t sleep on planes. I couldn’t sleep after games. There were tons of games you’d play with four or five hours’ sleep, and that’s why it was so important to be able to get there with plenty of time to take a nap or something. That was part of the routine I had, to be able to play at a level that I wanted to play at.

Wilt Chamberlain
Nate Thurmond (San Francisco/Golden State Warriors, 1963-74; Chicago Bulls, 1974-75; Cleveland Cavaliers, 1975-77): When I first started playing, I was on the same team with Wilt. That meant that Wilt got the best seat for the tall people and I was fourth in line because we had Wayne Hightower and Tom Meschery, who had been there before me. They were both tall guys. The veterans got the bulkheads. Wilt got the aisle, whatever side he wanted. What you had to do as a rookie was try to find a seat where nobody was in front of you. They give you an assigned seat, you wait until everybody was on the plane. You look around, find a seat where nobody was sitting, and get the seat behind that and push that seat up in front of you. That was the trick to it. Being that I was the tallest rookie, I usually made out by going that route.

We went on trips that were for 19 days, 14 days. You have to remember that there were only two teams on the West Coast: Los Angeles and San Francisco. The next stop was St. Louis. And then you look up and flight canceled, flight delayed. And you’re sitting in the airport tired as heck and making sure you have your suit bag and waiting for whatever happens, waiting on a plane and getting there three hours before game time or whatever.

When they traded Wilt my second year, I went to the owner and I said, “I would like to have Wilt’s room.” Wilt was the only one that had a single room. I was one of the few guys on the team that was a bachelor. And he granted me Wilt’s room. I don’t know how I would have done it. I [roomed with] guys who couldn’t wait to turn on the soap operas. I never watched soaps in my life. When I got my single room, that was a big happening for me. No question about it.

Jerry Sloan (Baltimore Bullets, 1965-66; Chicago Bulls, 1966-76): One of the things I remember is we played five games in five nights in five cities. We started off in Baltimore, St. Louis, Los Angeles, I believe, and San Francisco, and from San Francisco back to New York.

There was another time, we essentially had to take a bus from Buffalo, New York, to Chicago and play in Chicago and then had to go back to Boston. The planes weren’t flying because of the weather. They got a bus and made a stop in Cleveland, Ohio. We got into Chicago at five or six in the morning, maybe later than that. I believe we had the day off, then had to play and go back to Boston. That was the first time we were ever on national TV, against the Celtics. We played a good first half, but they waxed us the second half. There was more to that. I can’t get it straight, but it was a pretty rough trip.

The thing that happened to me is, I took the job at Evansville. I was only there for five days and then the guy who replaced me was killed in a plane crash with all the players. I don’t talk too much about that anymore. It’s something I kind of stay away from.

Satch Sanders (Boston Celtics, 1960-73): When we played against Cincinnati, there was a charter flight involved and both teams flew on the same charter. It was an experience. There was one group in the back, another group in the front. Or vice versa, considering how we were traveling, depending on who sits where. It wasn’t a big deal. We were all on the same plane. But that was one series. That was a DC-3. You could probably drive to those locations faster than that plane would travel.

Rod Thorn (Baltimore Bullets, 1963-64; Detroit Pistons, 1964-65; St. Louis Hawks, 1965-67; Seattle SuperSonics, 1967-71): Of course you didn’t have to go through the screening that you go through now. You could just go to the airport and get up at 4:30 in the morning to make a six o’clock flight.

Earl Monroe (Baltimore Bullets, 1967-71; Knicks, 1971-80): In Baltimore, we always took what we called the secondary airlines: North Central, Allegheny, airlines like that. Piedmont, I used to say their motto was “We never lose sight of the ground.” These airlines, you get up in the air and there’s so much turbulence. We used to come from Baltimore to New York, and of course, the cab drivers were so crazy coming through New York once you got off the flight. It was a hectic time leaving Baltimore coming to New York.

I remember one time on North Central Airlines, we were going to Cincinnati and the window blew out and everything started going swish, swish, and we put a piece of board up at the window to keep everything in. It finally made it down while the guy was holding this thing, and we had to change flights. It might have been one of my teammates holding the board, because there wasn’t a lot of attendants on the flight. It was a small flight. Obviously, we didn’t like to travel on those small airlines. As a matter of fact, a guy named Leroy Ellis, we were coming from an exhibition game down south, and he didn’t want to travel with Piedmont. He rented a car and drove back to Baltimore. Those airlines with all the turbulence and whatnot kept us on edge.

Walt “Clyde” Frazier (New York Knicks, 1967-77; Cleveland Cavaliers, 1977-80): You got used to [waking up for early flights]. I didn’t realize until I got to Cleveland how spoiled I was. There, you had to get up every morning and connect through Chicago. You always had a 7:30 flight because you couldn’t fly direct anywhere. But with the Knicks, we used to charter, too. We were one of the few teams back then that used to charter. We might play Friday night in Chicago, Saturday in New York, and charter back, especially late in the season before the playoffs. A lot of teams weren’t making enough money, so they couldn’t do that.3

Stu Lantz (San Diego/Houston Rockets, 1968-72; Detroit Pistons, 1972-74; New Orleans Jazz, 1974; Lakers, 1974-76): Back then, you had to leave the morning after the game. You never left the evening after a game. We’re in New York and there’s a snowstorm. We’re on the runway for approximately four hours or more, waiting for it to clear up. We get to Atlanta and they actually had to delay the game for about a half an hour. By the time we got to Atlanta, we had to go straight from the airport to the arena for the game.

Jim Barnett (Boston Celtics, 1966-67; San Diego Rockets, 1967-70; Portland Trail Blazers, 1970-71; Golden State Warriors, 1971-74; New Orleans Jazz, 1974-75; New York Knicks, 1975-76; Philadelphia 76ers, 1977): We just accepted it. I remember even playing with the Warriors, now this was in the ’70s. We played in Houston. That game, we got up and then we had a game in Chicago that night and it was one of those rare times we flew out, and then we played in New York, so we flew from Chicago that night into New York. So the bottom line is, let’s just say it was a Tuesday. Tuesday night, we’d play in Houston. I woke up Wednesday morning in a bed in Houston, flew to Chicago, checked into a hotel. Got a couple hours’ sleep in the afternoon, took our bags with us to the game, played the game that night, and then flew to New York. So that night, we slept in New York. Woke up in Houston, slept in the afternoon in Chicago, and went to sleep in New York that night.

Bill Fitch (coach, Cavaliers, 1970-79; Boston Celtics, 1979-83; Houston Rockets, 1983-88; New Jersey Nets, 1989-92; Los Angeles Clippers, 1994-98): It’s a long-lost subject right now when you figure how easy it is to play the game, take a shower, get on the airplane, and go home or go to your next destination. That makes quite a difference. Here’s the example: Playing in New York, you got to go out to Chicago and play the next night. You’ve got to catch the first flight available out in the morning, so that’s around 6 a.m. and you’re flying, you’ve got your two centers sitting wherever they seat them with their knees up over their heads. You look back and there’s a crying baby and your point guard is sitting right next to him and you figure, we’ve got to play tonight against [Tom] Boerwinkle, [Bob] Love, [Chet] Walker and company. That was the way it was back all through the ’70s.

When they talk about back-to-backs now, it’s a lot different than when you have to play a back-to-back and you have to catch the first available flight out the next day and go commercial and you don’t have assigned seating, and even if you do get first-class seats, there weren’t enough to take care of your whole ball club. Some of the best card games played were playing for those guys that were under 6-foot-4. If there were a couple vacant seats, they could play a poker game for who was going to get them.

By Land

Schayes: When the BAA [Basketball Association of America] merged with the National League in 1949, there were a lot of small, Midwestern towns. Each team played each other once that year, the BAA teams and the old National League. So the Sheboygan Red Skins come into New York to play the Knicks. It’s not bad enough that on the marquee of Madison Square Garden, it says Knicks versus Sheboygan. But at eight o’clock for an 8:30 game, up comes two station wagons. That’s how the Sheboygan Red Skins got to New York, and right in front of the Garden as everybody’s coming in, these guys came out with their bags and played the game. And I think [Knicks owner] Ned Irish told the owners, “We’ve got to be more big-time.” The next year, they dumped all of those Midwestern teams.

Tommy Heinsohn (Boston Celtics, 1956-65): You couldn’t get to Fort Wayne from Rochester back then. If you were going to play one night in Rochester and you tried to play in Fort Wayne, you couldn’t get there. There was no train that would stop in Fort Wayne. There was no plane that would get you there through connections. The only way that you could get there was to take a train, but it stopped about 20 miles short of Fort Wayne. It stopped in the middle of a cornfield. Then you had to walk to the middle of this town and you had to stand in front of the Green Parrot Inn and thumb a ride from some high school kid and give him $10 to take you to Fort Wayne.

Wilt Chamberlain
Al Attles (Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, 1960-71): I remember we had to bus down [during a playoff series] with the other team and they had beat us and we had to come from Syracuse and go back to Philadelphia. I don’t think there was a lot of love lost on that bus. You couldn’t fly with those small planes. That’s why we had to take a bus from Syracuse. It was the playoffs and the airport was shut down. We were playing the next night in Philadelphia, so we had to get back to Philadelphia. They hired one bus, both teams got on the bus. Unfortunately for us, we lost the game. So Syracuse got on the bus before we did, and Wilt gets on the bus and there are no good seats left. What he wants to do is sit in the last aisle. Swede Halbrook had that seat. He was 7-foot something. Wilt wanted that seat and they got on the bus before we did, so there was a little confrontation on the bus. Plus, we lost the game, so we weren’t real thrilled about it anyways. Wilt said, “When I get on the bus, that’s my seat.” But it was just the way it was. You played and just got on the bus and ready for the next game.

Frazier: We were always in coach, or on buses. There was no luxury, that’s for sure. The only luxury we had were with buses. I think we were the first team to use a bus to go to the game. When I first came in they were renting cars, and then sometimes the guys didn’t show up with the car, people were late, and then we started using, like, the city bus to go to the games. We had to clean our own road uniforms. It was very offensive. Sometimes I would forget and it would be like cardboard. That [combined with] where we stayed — you’re talking about Holiday Inns back then.

West: One time, we were in Cincinnati. There was a major snowstorm and they woke us up before we even went to bed and said we had to go get on the train and get to Chicago and play a game that afternoon. A Saturday-night game in Cincinnati and a Sunday-afternoon game in Chicago. We got on the train. We dressed on the train, stepped in [puddled] water after the rainfall with our uniforms on, and played in the old place there.

Roommates and Teammates

Sanders: If there was a problem, the other roommate had to make sure the luggage got downstairs and to the airport. If you were late, they had to make sure your stuff got there. We were responsible for each other. There were some difficulties. Everyone talks about how difficult it was. There were also tremendous advantages. The biggest advantages were the fact that we were together, that we had roommates. If you begin to contrast that to what the young men are learning now, they aren’t really learning that much about human relationships. They of course each get a room of their own. The advantage, of course, was learning how to live with another person and dealing with the ups and the downs and learning about the likes and dislikes of another human being.

Barnett: We were around each other more then, and I remember outbursts in airports and things like that. I think nerves were a little more frayed. I remember one with Elvin Hayes and myself. He and I didn’t get along very well. He didn’t get along with too many people, quite frankly. In Milwaukee, he got mad with me about something and started chasing me around the airport, but couldn’t catch me. I ran and ran and ran and got to the taxi and went to the hotel. That day, we had an afternoon game. We were playing Milwaukee with, at that time, Lew Alcindor. It was going to be Elvin Hayes against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and it was a nationally televised game. He was really pissed and this was how it carried over: Jack McMahon was our coach, and he really liked me. We’re in the locker room before the game and I figured Elvin wouldn’t start something then with everybody around. We’re all dressed and now it’s about a half-hour before game time, and Elvin is still sitting over there in his street clothes and Jack tells Elvin, “We go on the floor in about 10 minutes. You better get dressed.” He said, “I no play.” That’s exactly how he said it, because he didn’t use verbs all the time. Jack asked if he was hurt, and he said no. Elvin looked at me and said, “He play?” Jack said, “Yeah. Jim is starting. He’s going to guard Oscar [Robertson].” Elvin said, “That man play. I no play.” Jack took me outside the locker room and said, “OK, tell me what happened.” I told him what happened and he said, “Listen, I’m not telling you what to do, but Bob Breitbard, our owner, if he had to get rid of somebody, we know it’s not going to be Elvin.” He led the league in scoring that year. He said, “If somebody has to go, it’s going to be you. And I know you love San Diego. Do what you want to do, though.” So I went in there and apologized and said, “OK, Elvin, I’m sorry, and I’m sorry for what I said last night.” Everything’s cool and we got dressed and I remember one of the first plays of the game, I kind of threw a behind-the-back pass on a fast break to him and he went right down the middle and dunked, and that made him happy all the time and we were fine.

On top of all that, we stayed in crappy hotels. If we stayed in a Holiday Inn, we were overjoyed. But we stayed in crummy places. I think meal money was $10 a day when I first came into the league. My entire career, we always had roommates and most of the time, twin beds. I spent three years with the Warriors and my best friend and roommate, Clyde Lee, from Vanderbilt, he’s 6-foot-10. He used to put suitcases at the end of his bed and put the blankets over that to have a little bit of extra room.

Part of an extension of the NBA then was going out and drinking beers afterward, and Jack McMahon would go out and drink right with us. He got upset if we ever didn’t hook up with him. He’d say, “You guys ditched me last night. Where did you go?” But he was our 39-year-old coach and he was a friend. He would try to fix you up with women on the road. That was part of it. I remember driving into a hotel at three in the morning. In Cincinnati, the players rented cars, and I remember bringing back some lady to the hotel. Jack came in at the same time. We came in parallel. Jack’s in one car and I’m in the other. We looked across at each other and he looked up and gave me the fist shake. He was happy for me. And we had a game the next night somewhere.

Heinsohn: Once, we went to L.A. and were going to play the Lakers and pulled in at around 2 a.m. We were supposed to have rooms reserved for us, but there weren’t enough rooms. Carl Braun, who had been an All-Star with the New York Knicks and was one of Red Auerbach’s pickups at the end of his career to help us, didn’t have a roommate. I was his roommate and they tripled me up. They put us triple in the rooms because there weren’t enough rooms, and there wasn’t a triple for him. They said, “What are you going to do with Carl Braun?” The manager says, “All I can think of is we’ll put a cot in the grand ballroom and the first available room, we’ll give him in the morning.” At 7:30 the next morning, Carl Braun wakes up in the ballroom in the middle of a Communion breakfast.

Red Auerbach

Sanders: Auerbach was Auerbach. Once, we were in Philadelphia and we had to get to Boston during a snowstorm, an incredible snowstorm. We had to get there to play against Syracuse. Syracuse was already there waiting for us. They had not played the night before and we were sort of stuck in Philadelphia. Auerbach called all of us together, and while he was talking to us the train was loading right behind us. He brought us all to one side and he started going into this long speech and he kept looking over his shoulder. He said, “You guys better make sure you’re there on time. We’ve got an afternoon game and you better get your asses in gear.” As he backed away, he yelled out, “Every man for himself!” And he leaped onto the train. The train couldn’t take any more passengers and he had already spoken to the conductor, who knew who Auerbach was. So Auerbach had a spot on the train. We asked if we could get on the train. They said, “No, there’s no room on the train.” And Auerbach was smiling as he was leaving. We had to rent cars. A couple guys had friends that would drive with them to Boston or to New York and they would get a bus or rent a car from New York. But we had to find a way to get there for the afternoon game against Syracuse.

Another time, we were coming in to land and we were in crosswinds. The pilot was trying to get into wherever we were. He said, “Look, we’ve got a real problem. There are 45 mph crosswinds and it’s going to force us to come in very hard. I’m not going to be in full control of the plane, but we think we can make it.” He tells us this over the system. And he says for everybody to get into the crash position. All of a sudden, you hear Auerbach yelling. He yells, “Help me, somebody. I can’t bend that low in a crash position.” Yelling and we’re trying to make jokes about it. But of course no one can get up and move to help him. He’s yelling. Just screaming at the top of his lungs. The plane is all over the place. You know [the pilot is] descending. We obviously made it. But we had Auerbach screaming to laugh about for a long time.

Cousy: As I’m sure you heard, [Red] could be a bit of a pain in the ass at times. It used to be funny because four of us would jump in a cab together — you had to go three or four to a cab. And if you had a rookie, you’d try to get a rookie to go in the cab with you, because when the cab got to the airport or the hotel, the minute the cab driver stopped, all of us would pile out. We’d try to get the rookie in the middle and pile out of both doors. We’d pop the hood of the truck, grab our bags, and sprint into the hotel. We’d leave the rookie to pay for the taxi because Auerbach was such a pain in the tail about giving you back expenses. He’d always give you a hard time about it. Cab drivers must have thought we were out of our minds, these four adults in a cab, he gets to the destination and we all run like banshees out of the cab with one poor guy there left to pay. We’d always pay, but normally you’d try to stick the rookie because Arnold was so difficult to get reimbursement back.

Barnett: We always flew in from Boston when we played New York or Baltimore and we always flew the day of the game. We did not fly the day before if it was an off day, because it saved on the hotel bill and we would get day rates. We’d get in at noon and we stayed in the hotel room for about three hours, then we’d go to the game. So we got a day rate like a prostitute would at a hotel. I remember coming into LaGuardia, New York, it used to cost about $6 for the cab. It used to be John Havlicek, Satch Sanders, and myself. I was a rookie. I had to pay the cab and it was like six bucks and one time I gave the cabby a dollar tip. Red Auerbach bit my head off for tipping too much. I had to get the money back. So the next time in, I remember the ride was $5.50 or something. I gave him 50 cents and the cabbie took the two quarters and threw them out on the sidewalk of New York. He said, “A 50-cent tip for four guys?” But Auerbach had intimidated me.

Heinsohn: Nobody wanted to pay expenses going from the airport to the hotel or train station to the hotel. So, if there was a rookie on the team and he was in the cab, he would pay and in the lobby, you would go see Red as soon as you got to the hotel and be reimbursed. If one person’s cab fare was $3.50 and somebody else’s was $4, everyone would get $3.50. So, nobody wanted to pay the cab. I ended up in a cab once with no rookies. When that happened, it was usually the guy whose suitcase was in the bottom of the trunk who would end up paying the cab. We’re in Philadelphia and I get in the cab and my bag is on the top. So I don’t think I’m going to pay the cab and badger Red to get paid for the expenses. They open the trunk to get the suitcases and Frank Ramsey’s bag was on the bottom. Ramsey ripped his out while I’m bending down to get mine, and the corner of his suitcase hit me right between the eyes, knocked me out, and everybody walked to the hotel. The cab driver said, “Who’s paying for the ride?” They looked at me and said, “When he wakes up, he’ll pay.”

Filed Under: Baylor, NBA, Sports, Teams

08abrams-190

Jonathan Abrams is a staff writer for Grantland. He is working on a book about the NBA's prep-to-pro generation of players.

Archive @ JPdabrams