The Legend of Black Superman
June 21, 2010 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Billy Ray Bates, in his words, was "an average player who can do fantastic things. After flaming out in the NBA, he became a legend in Phillippine Basketball Association.

After battling his demons for many years, Billy Ray hit rock bottom in 1998, when he robbed a New Jersey Texaco at knifepoint.
posted by reenum (11 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Deadspin comes through with some really good long form articles from time to time. This was one of them.
posted by ejoey at 3:43 PM on June 21, 2010

Some extra background on Filipino basketball culture.
posted by Copronymus at 3:47 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Deadspin comes through with some really good long form articles from time to time. This was one of them.

Agreed. The one about Pete Rose's corked bat was excellent, as well.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:08 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Although not of the Jailblazers era, he does easily fit in the cannon of Jailblazer history.
posted by wcfields at 4:43 PM on June 21, 2010

I love this story; it reads like something straight out of Tom Robbins or Christopher Moore, the washed-up American who becomes a larger-than-life carousing legend, living a booze- and pussy- soaked existence in some remote (to the American reader) place in the Pacific Rim. I'm half surprised Billy Ray Bates doesn't have some John Frum cult as well.

So one thing missing: where is he now? He's presumably still alive and now out of prison; maybe he's sharing a porch and bottle of moonshine somewhere with Steve Dalkowski?
posted by hincandenza at 6:41 PM on June 21, 2010

Wikipedia says he lives in Trenton and runs basketball camps.
posted by jackflaps at 7:07 PM on June 21, 2010

thanks! I can't wait to read this. I had a TESOL instructor who said he learned to speak Tagalog/Pilipinas by listening to Filipino basketball broadcasts and drinking beer.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:58 PM on June 21, 2010

Wow. I lived and died with the Blazers in the 70's & 80's, and when I was 10 years old and dunking my nerf basketball, Billy Ray Bates is who I wanted to be. Thanks for the post, reenum. This brought back a lot of great old memories of players like Jim Paxson, Mychal Thompson, Bobby Gross, Dave Twardzik, Geoff Petrie, Maurice Lucas, Lionel Hollins, and of course, Clyde, Buck, Terry & Jerome. It was such a disappointment to see the era of the Jail Blazers come after so many good players who all seemed to be great guys. BRB obviously had his demons and stands out as the bad boy of that era, but damn, he could light the place up. 12/30/80, against Philadelphia (starts abut 0:45): down by 1, less than a second on the clock. Mychal Thompson inbounds from halfcourt, and finds Billy Ray for the reverse alley oop, and since there's so little time left, does what must have been something like a volleyball set to lay it gently against the glass and in for the win. Still amazes me to this day.

For any others interested in wallowing in Blazers nostalgia, OregonLive has a feature on the 40 greatest Blazers.
posted by sapere aude at 11:10 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks! A really interesting read; just a little before my time, so this was the first I'd heard of him. Crazy to think he was dropping 50 a night hung over and/or drunk. Impressive even if it is just the Phillippine League.
posted by p3t3 at 5:46 AM on June 22, 2010

I went to DePaul University in the early 90's and would play pick up games regularly in a small gym that was adjacent to the brown line. A matchox of a gym. Anyway, I walked in one day at noon and there was a tall, African American guy shooting hoops so I asked if I could shoot with him. He agreed. He was tall and lean, maybe 6'4, 190 pounds and had some hops. I said "You want to play some one's?" and he said "You want to play me one on one?" "Yeah...shoot for the ball." He stepped beyond the arc and drained it. I tossed him the ball back and we started. The first game, I had never been beaten so soundly on every part of my game. 11-0. "You want some more?" "Yeah, let's go," I responded and began the second worst beating of my gym rat life. 11-2. "More?" "Why not," I said and we started what I will assume was his cool-down. 11-4.

I asked him if he played college ball. He paused and said, "Yeah, a while back." "Where did you play?" I asked. He said, "Oh, out east..." and walked back to the locker room.

I was finishing school and didn't get back to that gym much after that. After I graduated, I was watching the news one night and saw a story about how DePaul's former coach, Ray Meyer, had been working with a former player. Skip Dillard was a guard on DePaul from 1979-1982. A team that was destined to win the NCAA championship at least once.

Skip got caught robbing convenience stores and was sentenced to jail time. He served quite a bit of time. Coach Ray had stayed in contact with him and worked to get him a "work-release" status. Skip came back to DePaul to help build the new library. He was the guy I had played in the gym.

He had amazing talent but had a gambling problem. One that he could not shake.

A great post reenum! Thanks for shaking free that Dillard moment...
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:42 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I just heard the song Muhammed Ali - Black Superman on a podcast today. Not related, except for the Black Superman reference.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:58 PM on June 22, 2010

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