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basketball coach, was born in Paducah, Kentucky, the only child of Lester Gaines, a cook, and Olivia Bolen, a domestic worker. By the time he entered Lincoln High School in rural Paducah, he was already six feet, five inches tall and weighed 265 pounds. He became a powerhouse on the football team and made All-Conference. In 1941 Gaines graduated third in his class of thirty-five.

Education was very important to his parents, so it was understood that he would go to college. While visiting Morgan State College in Baltimore, where he ultimately enrolled in 1941, the business manager, James “Stump” Carter, spotted Gaines walking across campus and exclaimed, “Man! The only thing I've ever seen bigger than you is a house!” (Gaines, 2004). From that day forward Gaines became known as “Big House.”

Gaines excelled in college athletics He made All American for two years and ...


Adam Bradley

basketball player, was born in Detroit, Michigan, one of six children. When Gervin was two his father abandoned the family, leaving his mother to support the children alone. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s Gervin experienced first-hand the desperation caused by urban poverty and racial discrimination, tensions that culminated in the 1967 Detroit riots.

As a 5'8” sophomore Gervin failed to make the Martin Luther King High School basketball team in 1967. However, assistant coach Willie Meriweather saw his potential and offered him a place on the junior varsity squad. Gervin made the most of the opportunity. After befriending the high school janitor, he gained after-hours access to the gymnasium for late-night shooting practice in exchange for sweeping up afterward.

By his senior year Gervin had grown to just below his full height of 6 7 and had developed a silky shooting touch Averaging thirty one points ...


Dolph H. Grundman

basketball player, executive, and coach, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Charles D. Unseld, a blue-collar worker, and Cornelia D. Unseld, a school cafeteria worker. The Unselds had seven children of their own and two adopted boys. In 1963 the National Conference of Christians and Jews honored the family with its brotherhood award for rebuilding a local recreation center damaged by a fire. The seed of community service was planted early in Wes Unseld's life and remained important to him. Athletic ability in the Unseld family was not limited to Wes. His brother George played basketball at the University of Kansas from 1962 to 1964. Wes credited Carl Wright, his freshman high school coach, with fueling his interest in basketball. Wright developed Wes's basketball skills in daily one-on-one contests.

At Seneca High in Louisville Unseld played football and won the state championship in ...