Reggie Harding

22 Jan 1965, Boston, Massachusetts, USA --- Original caption: Boston: Piston's Reggie Harding (19) leaps to block shot by 76'ers Wilt Chamberlain during action here at Boston Garden. The 76'ers beat the Pistons 109-103. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
22 Jan 1965, Boston, Massachusetts, USA — Original caption: Boston: Piston’s Reggie Harding (19) leaps to block shot by 76’ers Wilt Chamberlain during action here at Boston Garden. The 76’ers beat the Pistons 109-103. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

ReggieHarding2

As a life long Detroit Piston fan, the amazing statistics that center #Andre Drummond is putting up night after night, reminds me of another big man who played for them in the early sixties named #Reggie Harding. Harding has the distinction of being the first high-school basketball player drafted by the NBA not so much for his skill, which was apparent, but for the fact he had no other place to go. His career, for the most part, is a case of a player with a million dollar talent, but a two dollar brain. As a youth, he was constantly in trouble committing petty crimes. Harding, a 7-foot product of Eastern High School in Detroit, had short careers in the NBA and ABA. Harding made his NBA debut with the Pistons in the 1963-64 season midway through the season because of a suspension on a gun charge. In 39 games, he averaged 11.0 points and 10.5 rebounds playing almost 30 minutes per game. The following season, he played in 78 games averaging 12.0 points and 11.6 rebounds in playing over 34 minutes per game. That was, for the most part, the highlights of his career with the Pistons as his career was pretty much downhill after that. The 1964-65 season he did not play for being suspended for reasons unknown. The next season he averaged only 18.5 minutes a game which produced 5.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. His next stop was with the Chicago Bulls where he lasted only 14 games after which he signed with the Indiana Pacers of the ABA.

 

Despite playing in only 25 games with the Pacers, Harding wanted $15,000 to finish the season, but the Pacers only offered $10,000, however he was convinced by management that the team could play 50 games if it went all the way to the ABA championship, The team only played in three postseason games, which didn’t matter because between fines and suspensions for missed practices and being late for flights, Harding ended up owing the Pacers $4,000. In a New Orleans hotel, he reportedly woke up his teammate and roommate, Jimmy Rayl one night with a gun pointed at Rayl threatening to shoot him. After that season, he was out of basketball at the age of 25. Afterward, he returned to his native neighborhood in Detroit  committing petty larcenies. One such attempt was made in his old neighborhood at either a liquor store or gas station where Harding walking in wearing a nylon mask over his head brandishing a gun and demanding money. The clerk took one look at the 7-footer and reportedly said “Reggie, I know it’s you to Harding replied, “It ain’t me, man.” Now think about it, everybody knows everybody in the neighborhood and 7-footers don’t exactly walk around every day not noticed. It didn’t matter what disguise he wore, everybody knew Reggie!!!  Some may remember this scene was re-created in the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” where former NBA player Marques Johnson played the neighborhood thug in a nylon mask trying to rob a liquor store and the owner of the store, played by Reynaldo Rey, knew who he was and ran him out of the store. Harding was shot on a Detroit street corner after an argument in September of 1972 and was dead at the age of 30. One could only say “what could have been!”