Rest in peace, Prince.
The legendary musician passed away today at the age of 57, in case your social media feed hasn't made it obvious yet.
What's not so obvious was that Prince was a respectable baller. During the heyday of Dave Chappelle's comedy show, "Chapelle's Show," one of the most memorable episodes was the one featuring Charlie Murphy (Eddie Murphy's bro) telling a story about how he battled Prince and his fab crew in the court.
At first glance, no one would take Prince seriously as a baller, but he was in fact a member of his varsity team back in high school. He was pretty excellent, as his former coach attests to—and also underappreciated. He was skilled but he had a literal shortcoming: He was only 5'2".
That's why Charlie Murphy was not intimidated. That Prince dressed up like a purple Zorro didn't help. Then the ball started bouncing, signaling the start of one of the most embarrassing hoop moments of Charlie Murphy. It also makes for a very funny story:
But Charlie Murphy wasn't the only guy who had, erm, flirtations with the eccentric artist on the hardcourt. One American journalist, Touré, recalls the time that he got to engage Prince on the court for a cover story he was writing for the now-defunct magazine Icon. The excerpt is from his book, I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became An Icon.
Setting up the story, Touré says that Prince had been an enigmatic interviewee. Prince would oftentimes come up with answers that are indecipherable to most. That led him to emailing Prince some more extra questions. His last question was the most interesting: "Will you play basketball with me?" with the writer having known that Prince was once a player. Surprisingly, Prince said yes, and off the writer went to play him in his homecourt in Paisley Park, just outside of Minneapolis.
There Prince showed off the goods:
"He picked up my ball and made a face that was understood in international shit-talking parlance to mean I’ma kick yo’ ass, and started knifing around the court, moving quick, dribbling fast, sliding under my arm to snatch rebounds I thought for sure I had.
He was showing off, being competitive, and, yes, engaging me in the same way I’d interacted with so many men I had played basketball with before. He moved like a player and played like one of those darting little guys you have to keep your eye on every second. Blink and he’s somewhere you wouldn’t expect. Lose control of your dribble for a heartbeat and he’s relieved you of the ball. He jitterbugged around the court like a sleek little lightning bug, so fast he’d leave a defender stranded and looking stupid if he weren’t careful."
Pretty good, right?
So what lesson do we take away from these? Never underestimate that strange new guy who's just shown up in your weekly basketball game. Just because someone doesn't look the part doesn't mean he's no good. For evidence, just look at Prince. Rest in peace, man.