Billy Ray Bates
Billy Ray Bates (born May 31, 1956 in Kosciusko, Mississippi) is a retired American professional basketball player. Bates was a 6'4" 210 lb shooting guard and played high school ball at McAdams High in Mississippi and attended Kentucky State University.
Bates played four seasons in the National Basketball Association for the Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Bullets and the Los Angeles Lakers. He also played overseas, in Switzerland, Mexico, Uruguay, and most notably in the Philippines for the Crispa Redmanizers and Ginebra San Miguel of the Philippine Basketball Association.
He has since been released and is living in the Camden and Trenton areas of New Jersey. He and former 76ers forward Earl Harrison are trying to start a basketball skills coaching clinic
A product of the Mississippi cotton fields, Billy Ray Bates, the eighth of nine children of Frank and Ellen Bates, got his start shooting hoops at Kentucky State University.
The Houston Rockets picked him in the 3rd round of the 1978 draft. But before the season started, he was cut by the Rockets and he ended up playing for the Maine Lumberjacks in the Continental Basketball Association, where he won the league's Rookie of the Year and the slam dunk competition in its All-Star game.
After signing a 10-day contract with the Portland Trail Blazers in February 1980, the high-flying guard quickly became a crowd favorite for his slam dunks and energetic playing style. The league also took notice, naming him NBA Player of the Week towards the end of his rookie season. He especially excelled in the playoffs, averaging 25.0 ppg in the 1980 playoffs and 28.3 ppg in the 1981 playoffs.
However, there were signs that the 6’4" guard, nicknamed "Dunk," would have to make major changes in his game and attitude for him to stick in the NBA. Although he thrilled fans with his aerial exploits, the league’s yearbook said he was a great rebounder and dunker, but noted that those skills were not needed for his position. He once slept through the first half of a home game, arriving at halftime.
In September 1982, after 3 seasons in Portland, he was cut from the team. Bates later checked into a Portland hospital, allegedly for drug treatment.
Bates played briefly with the Washington Bullets in the 1982-83 season, appearing in 15 games before being let go. He then had a 10-day trial with the Lakers (where he supposedly dunked on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and appeared in four games. He was 25 pounds overweight, however, and was cut. He would never play in the NBA again.
He would take the PBA by storm in the mid-80s. In his first game with the Crispa Redmanizers, Bates immediately grabbed the limelight and thrilled the crowd with a spectacular display of inside and outside moves against the league powerhouse, Great Taste Coffee. In that game, Bates would go up against PBA legend Norman Black. In that game, Bates exploded for 64 points from 20 out 25 two point shots (80%), 5 out of 6 three points (83%) and 9 out of 10 free throws (90%), along with 12 rebounds and 5 assists. Norman Black was pretty offensive-minded himself, popping in 59 points in a losing cause, 120-119 against Crispa. Bates would display an accurate jumper even from 3-point range, a muscular upper body to physically match up and intimidate the skinnier/taller opponents, and a mean game from the paint punctuated by his favorite arsenal, the slam-dunk.
Three things stood out in that game. First, Bates scoring 64 points was marvelous because he had Crispa and their superstars for his team. At that time, Crispa didn't need a super scorer for an import since the locals were more than capable of carrying the slack. The second remarkable thing was how Bates electrified the crowd with his derring-do style. A lot of Bates' two pointers came from super dunks, around 6 in that game, ushering in a new era of prototype PBA imports that was benchmarked on Billy Ray Bates. And third, Bates was now under Tommy Manotoc, acknowledged back then as the greatest defensive coach of the league. For someone like Bates to be collared with his offensive ways was practically impossible to do, as Manotoc himself later admitted. Manotoc instead, decided to change his style to suit the strengths of Bates.
Bobby Factura would write:
What Doc (Julius Erving) did to revolutionize the slam-dunk in the NBA/ABA during the 70s, Bates did the same for the PBA in the early 80s. His natural ability to hang in the air longer than any defender and at the last instance powerfully slam the ball into the rim brought the shot to the next level.
He became the Philippine version of Julius Erving, revolutionizing the fastbreak game with his thunderous dunks and long-range bombs, averaging an astonishing 64.5 percent from the field and a high of 64 points in one game. Television game shows had dunking contests on miniature goals.
Bates’ scoring ability and flamboyant showmanship plus a charismatic, outgoing personality endeared him to the basketball watching Filipino public and the media. He was called the Black Superman. A local shoe manufacturer gave him an endorsement coming out with a line of shoe with “Black Superman” emblazoned on it. Bates was so flattered bigtime with this endorsement that he was spreading the word back home in Mississipi about his success in the Philippines, even having a pair of rubber shoes named after him.
"Those people, they loved me," Bates would tell The Oregonian. "There, I was like Michael Jordan. I could have anything I wanted. All I had to do was snap my fingers. I had my own condo, my own car and my own bodyguard with an Uzi. I had to fight off the women."
Bates won the 1983 Best Import award and helped the Crispa Redmanizers win two championships. Three years later, Bates and Michael Hackett joined forces to give Ginebra its first PBA title in 1986. He returned to Ginebra in 1987 leading all imports with a 54.9 ppg average. His last stint with Ginebra was in 1988, but being out of shape, he played in only four games and was eventually replaced by Kevin Gamble. Billy Ray Bates would be widely regarded by many as the greatest import ever to have played in the PBA.
In Billy Ray's four seasons in the PBA for the above two teams, he had all time league high of 46.2 points per game average.
Bates's career is an example of what can happen to players unprepared for NBA life in urban environs. Jerome Kersey relates,
After picking Bates up at the Portland airport, then-Blazer trainer Ron Culp advised Billy Ray not to carry large amounts of cash around, but rather to open up a checking account so that he could pay bills with checks. Bates had a quizzical expression on his face, Culp recalled, and finally worked up the nerve to ask, "What are checks?"
Bates hit bottom on Jan.\uary 17, 1998, when he robbed a New Jersey Texaco station at knifepoint, assaulting the attendant in the process. The crime netted Bates a grand total of five bucks--and seven years in prison.
Bates became an inmate at Hope Hall, a 164-bed halfway house for adult male offenders in Camden, N.J. During his stay, he has taken part in classes designed to mend damaged cognitive skills, ready himself for the workplace and learn how to manage his emotions. Bates juggled church attendance, AA meetings and shifts at Aluminum Shapes, an aluminum extruder, where he readies products for shipping. In the evenings, he studies reading and writing at Camden Community College. In fact, he says, he's written a book, Born to Play Basketball, which he hopes to publish when he's released.
In the past, Bates has been vague about the root of his difficulties. In a 1992 interview with The Oregonian, for example, he denied having drug problems. But he now blames the gas-station robbery on cocaine and alcohol.
"I went to play the lottery," he says. "And that's when the devil got inside me."
According to Bates, he'd been hanging out with some younger friends that day, "trying to help them with their lives." Instead, he wound up drinking vodka, snorting cocaine, and holding up a Texaco. "That's not my character," he explains. "I was doing cocaine and drinking."