By Ross Forman
Editor’s note: Ross Forman has written about the National Sports Collectors Convention for 25 years – from the hoopla around the Pinnacle card of Nolan Ryan that was a limited giveaway and, by the end of the show that year, was selling for $1,000, to the hysteria around the autograph (or lack thereof) that National officials proposed for Steve Bartman to sign at the show one year in Chicago in exchange for $25,000.
Ross will be in Atlantic City, N.J., covering the 2016 National, too – with a full post-show report on his unique findings on the floor and the wild antics in the Tristar Autograph Pavilion.
This is one of Forman’s installments of On The Road To The National, profiling several high-profile autograph signers along the way both in print and online for SCD. Enjoy Ross’ feature story on Rick Barry below.
After finishing his career at Oregon State University in 1995, Brent Barry challenged his dad, Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Barry, to a game of H-O-R-S-E.
Rick said no.
Brent asked again, and this time Rick accepted the challenge.
It was a best-of-five series, and the score was tied, 2-2.
Whoever won that next game would have some serious family bragging rights.
But the final game of H-O-R-S-E was never played.
Rick told Brent, “You’ll never know if you were good enough to beat me.”
But who likely would have won?
Probably Brent, Rick admitted.
Ugh, who knows, though – Rick Barry was a stud in his day.
Rick Barry played at the University of Miami in the 1960s, then was the second overall pick in the 1965 NBA Draft, landing with the San Francisco Warriors. Barry played in the ABA from 1968-72, including a stint with the New York Nets. He went to the Golden State Warriors in 1972, and finished his career (1978-80) with the Houston Rockets.
Barry was an ABA champion in 1969, an NBA Champion in 1975 and also that season’s NBA Finals MVP. Barry was an eight-time All-Star and a five-time member of the All-NBA First Team. He also was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1966 and the NBA scoring champion in 1967.
“I feel so grateful that God blessed me with natural talent and ability, and basically good health. I’m so grateful to have been part of such a great game,” said Barry who, in 1996, was voted one of the Top 50 NBA players in history.
“If you ever get a Magic Genie, or someone grants you three wishes, yet you cannot ask for money, I’ve got a deal for you – tell them that you want Rick Barry to be 30 years old again. I’ll split my contract with you because there will be plenty there for both of us; I can assure you of that.”
Barry’s pro career spanned 1,020 games, more than 28,000 minutes and more than 25,000 points scored.
“Every day that I get up is a great day. As you get older, you’ll appreciate that saying more,” he said.
Barry’s career will be long remembered for his free throws – done underhanded – and almost always in the hoop. He was an 89 percent free-throw shooter for his career – leading the league seven times in free-throw percentage.
Credit goes to Rick’s dad, who was a semipro player and coach, for teaching him how to shoot that way.
Initially, though, Rick was hesitant.
He told his dad, “I can’t shoot that way; that’s the way girls shoot, and everyone will make fun of me.”
His dad replied, “Son, they can’t make fun of you if you’re making those shots.”
And truer words were never spoken.
Take, for instance, Rick’s first game on the road, as an upperclassman in high school, played in New Jersey. Rick heard a fan yell, “Hey Barry, you’re a big sissy shooting like that.”
Rick also heard the guy next to that heckler reply, “What are you making fun of him for? He doesn’t miss.”
“So I was cool with the shot from that point forward,” Barry said.
And Barry said his free-throw shooting form actually got better during his career.
“I don’t know why players have an aversion for me to teach them how to shoot it now,” he said. “Even though I don’t rank No. 1 all-time, I do think that I was the best free-throw shooter at the end of my career.
“My last six years, I shot over 92 percent. My last two years, I shot over 94 percent. I changed the technique a bit; I refined it. So I actually got better. I take great pride in doing that.”
Barry added, “I laughed … Andre Drummond of the (Detroit) Pistons missed more free throws in one game (this past season) than I missed my entire last two seasons.”
Barry signed autographs this past April at the annual Tristar Collectors Show in San Francisco, in which he was wearing a bright yellow Warriors shirt – and reflecting on the venue he was signing in, the fabled Cow Palace.
Barry was named the MVP of the All-Star Game at the Cow Palace in 1967.
And his team won two games en route to sweeping the Washington Bullets in 1975.
“I loved playing here at the Cow Palace. I loved the baskets here; I used to call them sewer pipes because they were very soft rims, and I had two big games here in the playoffs,” Barry said. “I have a lot of memories here in this building.”
Barry has a lot of memories, period.
“Basketball, you either have an inherent natural ability to be able to see the game – and when you see it and can recognize things instantaneously – or you don’t,” he said. “Sure, I can teach someone how to pass, but I can’t teach someone how to see when someone is open, or where to pass. If you don’t have that actual feel for the game, to be able to see things and recognize them, you’re never going to be a great, great player. Sure, you can be really good, but you won’t be a great, great player.”
Barry said he only wears championship rings, not rings recognizing any individual honor “because basketball is a team sport, not a sport about individuals,” he said. “So, my fondest memory is being a part of a championship team with the Warriors, without question. Nothing will replace that memory; it’s something that I always will cherish.
“It’s an amazing experience to be a part of a championship team. It’s almost impossible to put into words.”
One word that stands out to Barry is “confidence.”
“There are a lot of critical points, elements to being successful, such as dedication, perseverance and more. But the one key to being successful is confidence. You have to believe in yourself, have confidence in your abilities, do what you’ve trained yourself to do,” he said. “Confidence is the key to success; you must believe in yourself.”
Barry’s trail in the cardboard collectibles world dates back to 1971, when he appeared on a short-print 1971 Topps Trios Stickers (#13A), along with Larry Jones and Julius Keye; a 1971 Topps card (#170); and a 1971 Topps ABA Free Throw Pct. Leaders (#149).
Barry also has appeared on collector’s items from TCMA, Action Packed, Upper Deck and others.
“I always get a kick out people who say, ‘Will you sign my rookie cards?’ Heck, they didn’t have basketball cards when I was a rookie,” joked Barry, whose first pro season was in the late-1960s. “There’s one card of mine with a freakin’ mustache. That was the only time I’ve had a mustache. Anyone who has that card, it really is a collector’s item.”
Barry has four sons with his first wife, Pam: Scooter, Jon, Brent and Drew, all of whom were professional basketball players. He has one daughter, Shannon. He also has a son (Canyon) with his third wife, Lynn.
Canyon played at the College of Charleston, and will play his final season at Florida.
Canyon is “probably as good, if not better, than all of my sons,” Barry said. “He’s 6-foot-6 with a 40-inch standing vertical jump. He’s very athletic, can shoot and pass. Plus, he’s smart; he was first-team Academic All-American.”
Canyon and Lynn form a unique trivia question/answer.
Name the only woman to make Academic First-Team All-American in Division I basketball and have a son do the same thing.
And that’s not it for Barry-related trivia. Consider: Who is the only college basketball player to ever play a game at the arena where his mother’s jersey is retired and also play a game where his father’s jersey is retired?
That’s a Barry fact, too.
And when Brent won the NBA Championship in 2005 with the San Antonio Spurs, Rick and Brent became the second father-son duo to win NBA Championships as players, following Matt Guokas Sr. and Matt Guokas Jr.
The fact is, Barry has five sons, and all five got Division I college basketball scholarships, and four have already played professionally, three in the NBA.
A family-filled game of H-O-R-S-E would be fun to watch.
At The National
Rick Barry will be signing autographs on Friday, Aug. 5, at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, N.J., along with fellow NBA Hall of Famer Nate Archibald, Dennis Rodman and Dominique Wilkins. Others signing autographs on Friday include Earl Campbell, Grant Fuhr, Ron Jaworski, Bernie Parent, Pete Rose and Vinny Testaverde, among others.
For more information about the Tristar Autograph Pavilion at the annual National Sports Collectors Convention, visit www.tristarproductions.com/National/index.html#info.
Ross Forman is a frequent contributor to SCD. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.