The Vignette Project

raised (flickr)
raised (flickr)


Life is full of twists and turns and this blog is no different.

A few weeks ago I announced my complete dedication to create some database for the National Basketball League. Well, here I am telling you that dedication has dissipated but it’s time frame has been modified. That’s a project that will deserve my utmost attention at a later date. It’s something that needs to be done well right from the beginning. At the moment, I don’t suspect I could pull off that mammoth undertaking with the proper care it deserves.

So, instead I’m going to deliver four vignettes on four basketball players who help tell the story of professional basketball between 1945 and 1980. The four men could be MVPs, perennial all-stars, Hall of Famers, and household names. Talking about George Mikan, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Wilt Chamberlain certainly would be entertaining and instructive, but I want important players who have flown under the radar.

I want players whose stories don’t merely show the state of basketball, but also the state of America. How do their stories and lives reveal the cracks, fissures, beauties and subtleties of this country? Again, Wilt, Mikan and Oscar could do the trick, but there’s a stately amount of words put to their travails.

So instead I’ve decided to explore Buddy Jeannette, Jack Molinas, Warren Jabbali and Marvin Barnes.

Of these four, Marvin Barnes is certainly the most well-known thanks to his hilarious “time machine” quote. However, this man was a bona fide sure-fire Hall of Famer when he debuted in the ABA in 1974. Yet, just a few years later he was washed up. How could such a promising career go so wrong? A frightening addiction to cocaine. The ABA, NBA, and American society was beginning to feel the damaging effects of the drug when Barnes succumbed to its temptation.

Speaking of temptation, Jack Molinas was seduced by the allure of gambling and fixing games. Molinas was banned from the NBA in the early 1950s in his rookie season. Later his gambling exploits would entangle players like Connie Hawkins and Roger Brown. Finally in the 1970s Molinas would wind up dead from a suspected mob hit.

Violence was the name of Warren Jabbali’s basketball game. The undersized forward was vicious on the court and even teammates were frightened to cross his path. However, the visceral primal force of his playing style didn’t translate off the court. He worked for decades after his ABA career to help impoverished children.

Finally, the stately Buddy Jeannette rounds out the vignettes. He was a star guard during the 1940s amidst the turmoil of World War II. At a time when most professional clubs were gutted by Uncle Sam’s draft, Jeannette found his way into a draft exemption thanks to his basketball squad, the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. After the war ended, Jeannette would jump to the Baltimore Bullets. The guard’s lengthy career occurred across 4 professional leagues and illustrated just how far basketball had yet to go in becoming a billion-dollar industry.

As stated above this project merely uses basketball as a window into our society. There will be discussion of monumental games and mammoth feats. Right alongside those will be tales of drug addiction, war time factory labor, organized crime, charity work, incarceration, and all the things that make the world go ’round. And in this internet age, there will be a healthy dose of video and visuals to go along with the written… well, typed…. word.

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