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Teacher of 32 years reflects on Pistons’ Final in Main Gym

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Teacher of 32 years reflects on Pistons’ Final in Main Gym

Picture of South's main gym today

Picture of South's main gym today

Photo by Victoria Gardey '20

Picture of South's main gym today

Photo by Victoria Gardey '20

Photo by Victoria Gardey '20

Picture of South's main gym today

Victoria Gardey '20, Staff Writer

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The year was 1960, there were eight NBA teams, only four TV channels and two basketball teams facing off in the Grosse Pointe High Gymnasium–the Detroit Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers.

After their usual host, The Olympia, was booked for the Ice Capades, the Pistons looked to the University of Detroit arena, but after that was also booked, the playoff game on March 12, 1960, wound up in the Grosse Pointe High gymnasium, according to Jon Rice ’60.

An article from Bill Dow published in the Detroit Free Press reported the attendance as 1,938. A last-second free throw by Minneapolis’ Elgin Baylor won the Lakers the game, 113-112.

Rice, who was a basketball, football and baseball player, served as an usher, as did the other varsity basketball players, at the game. Rice went on to teach at South for 32 years, while also coaching football for 25 years and golf for seven years.

“In the 1950s and 1960s, high school sports were very popular,” Rice said. “With the exception of baseball, pro sports were in their infancy compared to current times. The Blue Devil basketball team played to a packed house every game. For the Pistons’ playoff game, the gym was about three-quarters full.”

An article published in The Tower volume 32, number 20, by Bill Hunter ’60 reported that “spider-legged athletes, press reporters, photographers and assorted TV cameras were in and out of the high school parking lot.” Hunter also reported that “the miracle of national television took our basketball court into the homes of millions of basketball fans.”

According to Dow’s article, the Pistons and Lakers also played an exhibition game in the gym five months earlier to benefit the Dad’s Club.

Besides the season ticket holders, general admission tickets were three dollars for adults, and one dollar for students.

“My favorite memory was getting an autograph from my favorite player, Elgin Baylor of the Lakers,” Rice said. “He got distracted as he signed it and my autograph reads: To Jon, Elgin Elgin.”

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Teacher of 32 years reflects on Pistons’ Final in Main Gym