Marvin Barnes Wasted His Hall of Fame Talent, but Had a Legendary Night in the ABA Despite Showing up With a Bag of Burgers 10 Minutes Before Tipoff
Marvin Barnes, who ended his NBA career with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1990 after scoring 34.1 points per game over a 10-year span, was released by the team on March 24th due to poor play and deteriorating health. He also famously showed up for one playoff game shirtless because he couldn’t find any clean clothes – but that’s not all! The ABA Hall of Famer had an incredible night when he scored 51 points against Kentucky in 1978 despite being so hungry before tipoff that he ate ten burgers at halftime
Marvin Barnes was a legendary player in the ABA. He is most famous for his time with the Indiana Pacers, when he scored 37 points in a single game and won the MVP award. His career came to an end in 1974, when he died in a car crash. The night before his death, he had one of the best games in league history, scoring 50 points against the Denver Nuggets.
Marvin Barnes never had much of an effect in the NBA. Barnes was the second overall choice of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1974, but he chose to play in the American Basketball Association instead. His off-the-court issues had already sent him on a one-way train to oblivion after the 1976 merger. Barnes, on the other hand, was a legend on the court for two seasons with the Spirits of St. Louis.
Barnes, who was named the ABA Rookie of the Year in 1974–75, was a superstar on and off the court (at times). After all, his Spirits were the only club in the playoffs to defeat Julius Erving’s New York Nets. However, he never appeared to be able to stay out of trouble, and this proved to be his downfall. At the age of 27, he was out of the NBA for good by January 1980.
In Rhode Island, Marvin Barnes’ fame began to rise.
Marvin Barnes, a native of Providence, Rhode Island, was a standout athlete at Central High School before going on to Providence College. As a senior in 1973–74, he led the country in rebounding, a season after being the first player in NCAA Tournament history to hit at least 10 shots without missing.
The Friars went 76–16 in Barnes’ three varsity seasons and reached the Final Four in 1973, led by future NBA players Barnes, Ernie DiGregorio, and Kevin Stacom.
However, as excellent as he was on the court, he was a handful off it. Barnes was unable to participate in most of the Spirits’ 1975 training camp due to a legal complaint brought by a former Providence teammate. According to Terry Pluto’s classic narrative history of the ABA, Loose Balls, Barnes never disputed attacking the player, but he claimed he didn’t use a tire iron, as was stated in the complaint.
He went missing for over two weeks as a rookie because he wasn’t thrilled with his deal. In his second season, he missed 15 games due to a lack of attendance rather than any medical concerns.
He was a flop in the established league after being selected by the Detroit Pistons in the ABA dispersal draft in August 1976. He played for three clubs in four years, first with the Buffalo Braves, then the Boston Celtics, and finally the San Diego Clippers, before returning to Buffalo.
Barnes, on the other hand, was a legend in St. Louis for a brief period.
Before a game in Virginia, Barnes made a grand appearance.
Marvin Barnes (R) was a standout in the ABA, competing against Julius Erving, but his NBA career was cut short due to off-the-court troubles. | Getty Images/George Gojkovich
Marvin Barnes did something that became routine during his stint with the Spirits late in his first season. After a 19-point defeat to the Nets, the squad had an early morning flight out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport. It was the first game in a back-to-back, with a game against the woeful Virginia Squires in Norfolk the next night.
Barnes wasn’t waking up early to catch a flight, according to members of the group.
Coach Bob MacKinnon was stressing about pregame strategy in the locker room, according to veteran Jones, Steve. Barnes came with a flourish around 10 minutes before tipoff, according to Jones, after chartering a jet from New York:
“Marvin was dressed to the nines in his $10,000 mink coat and a huge, wide-brimmed hat. He was carrying a bag of McDonald’s hamburgers and fries. ‘Have no fear; BB is here,’ he said. He took off his coat and revealed his Spirits outfit beneath.”
Barnes was given the moniker “BB” because, according to teammates, his head “was the size of a BB.”
In Norfolk, Marvin Barnes had an outstanding performance.
Marvin Barnes was dismissed by the San Diego Clippers in January 1980 after just four seasons in the NBA. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Marvin Barnes wasn’t in the starting lineup against the Squires, according to Spirits play-by-play announcer Bob Costas is a well-known television personality.. But it was legendary when he first joined the game:
“Marvin finished with a total of 43 points and 19 rebounds. The pilot of the charter airplane arrived by the Spirits’ huddle late in the first half, which was amusing. He demanded payment right now, and he wasn’t going to give him a check. ‘Hey, guy, who do I write this check out to?’ Marvin was standing up with perspiration dripping down his face during the next break, while everyone else was clustered around MacKinnon.
Barnes averaged 24.1 points and 13.4 rebounds per game in two seasons with St. Louis. According to The New York Times, Barnes died in 2014 at the age of 62. While with the Celtics, he confessed to using cocaine on the bench. It was a tumultuous conclusion to a tumultuous existence.
Marvin Barnes started his career with flashes of brilliance before fading into obscurity. He demonstrated what he could accomplish with sheer skill on a night in Norfolk. Consider what would have happened if there had been any kind of commitment to go along with it.
Basketball Reference and SRCBB provided the statistics.
Marvin ‘Bad News’ Barnes, a future NBA player, was caught in the most inept robbery attempt ever.
Marvin Barnes was a legend in the ABA. He had one of the best careers in basketball history, but he never won an NBA championship. On this night, however, Marvin showed up with a bag of burgers 10 minutes before tipoff and scored 46 points to lead his team to victory. Reference: marvin barnes time machine quote.
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