Basketball Prince wows a new generation

You had to know there was a great story behind these tweets yesterday from Star Tribune reporter Libor Jany about a basketball-playing Prince.

The tweets and the picture went… well, you know… but it didn’t really tell us what we found we desperately needed to know: What’s the deal with Prince playing basketball?

This afternoon, music critic Jon Bream at the Star Tribune provided an answer that’s way better than the picture.

It was part of a 1984 series he wrote about Prince around the time Purple Rain had been released.

Two quick memories about the series:

The publisher of the Star Tribune told me that the series accounted for the biggest newsstand sales of the paper ever – figures that were later eclipsed when the Minnesota Twins won their first World Series in 1987.

At the post-premiere party for “Purple Rain” in Hollywood, a member of Prince & the Revolution told me that the series “blew our minds.” The musician said the band talked more about the series than about the movie.

One thing the series disclosed: Prince’s true age. I tracked down his birth certificate and learned that he was actually two years older than he had purported to be. He was born on June 7, 1958, as Prince Roger Nelson, according to the birth records.

Prince’s half brother, Duane, is #21 in the photograph.

It gets better. Someone claiming to have been a Prince teammate posted in the comments on Bream’s article:

That was a great article. I played basketball with Prince at Bryant Junior High. He was quick and a good point guard. That he was junior varsity at Central High should not be discounted. They were ranked #1 in the State for most of 1976. About 5 of those players received b-ball scholarships, notably his brother Duane and Andre Big Money Griffin.

That team, Jim Walsh wrote in City Pages once, was one of the greatest teams in the history of Minneapolis.

MTV once interviewed Prince about his basketball days, when he acknowledged he’s got “a little bit” of game.

By the way, last summer, copies of the newspaper with the series were selling on EBay for $110 apiece.

Oh, the tweet did one other thing. It reminded us of Dave Chapelle’s skit about playing basketball with Prince.

And, no, it’s not suitable for the workplace.