Postgame: Marques Haynes
Oklahoma’s basketball ambassador to the world
NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell presents 2011 Oklahoma Hall of Fame inductee Marques Haynes with his medallion. Haynes chose Russell to formally present him with the state’s highest honor.
Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Heritage Association/Steve Sisney
Marques Haynes, born in Sand Springs in 1926, has combined his skill in dribbling a basketball with his love of playing the game to climb to unbelievable heights.
Playing for the Harlem Globetrotters and other teams specializing in comedic basketball, Haynes has entertained three generations of fans.
With ball handling his special talent, he estimates that he has played in more than 12,000 games, visiting 97 countries around the world and traveling more than 4 million miles in the process.
Like most great athletes, Haynes got his start at a tender age. He starred at Booker T. Washington High School in Sand Springs and then went on to lead Langston University to a 112-3 record and two conference titles.
After graduating from Langston, he signed with a basketball barnstorming team, the Kansas City Stars.
In 1947, he joined the Harlem Globetrotters and stayed until 1953, when he formed his own team, the Fabulous Magicians. He not only played for the Magicians, but he also served as owner, president, coach and booking agent.
Haynes enjoyed a second stint with the Globetrotters from 1972-1979, then joined fellow former Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon’s Buckateers from 1979-1981. He then finished out his career as owner-player with his team, renamed the Harlem Magicians, from 1983-1988.
His last game as a player was in Chetopa, Kan., in 1988.
He was recently inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
How did you first get interested in basketball?
My older sister, Cecil, would often take me to her basketball practices, where I would watch everything she did. Then, after practice, she would take me on the court and show me how to dribble and shoot the ball.
While at Booker T. Washington High School in Sand Springs, your team won a national high school championship. What do you remember about that?
It was the Negro National High School Basketball Tournament, played in Tuskegee, Ala. There were teams from all over the country. We ended up beating a team from Seminole, Okla., for the championship.
You later played at Langston University and have said that one of your best memories was the time Langston beat the Globetrotters, the only collegiate team to do so. How did that come about?
The Globetrotters had a game scheduled in Oklahoma City, but it was going to be canceled when the other team couldn’t make it for some reason. The Globetrotters contacted our coach and asked if we would be interested in playing them as the replacement team. The Globetrotters told us they would take it easy on us. Our coach then said, “Don’t worry about that. Our boys know how to play.” We beat them 74-70.
The Globetrotters offered to sign you after that game. Why didn’t you sign?
I wanted to finish my education first. Besides, if I had signed and left school, my mother would have killed me.
Talk about some of your Globetrotter memories.
We would play about 300 games a year. Sometimes, on the weekend, we would play a tripleheader. We would often travel by a converted school bus. One time, the bus broke down while we were about 50 miles away from our next game. We still had our uniforms on, so we decided to hitchhike. People saw us and picked us up and we made it to the game.
What was the biggest crowd you played in front of?
In 1951, we played before a crowd of 75,000 people in Berlin, Germany. Jesse Owens (former Olympic champion) was touring with us. The Germans loved Jesse. This was in the Olympic Stadium (where Owens won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics). He landed in a helicopter and the crowd went crazy. He removed his outer clothing to reveal he was wearing his Olympic uniform. As he jogged around the stadium saluting the fans, the ovation was so loud you had to put your fingers in your ears. I have never heard such loud cheering. The German chancellor invited Jesse to sit in his viewing stand. The leader told Jesse, “Hitler refused your hand; I now give you both of mine.” It was a sight to see.
Tell us about your Oklahoma Hall of Fame induction.
It was a great honor, probably the greatest honor a citizen from Oklahoma can get. I’ve been fortunate to be named to about 12 to 13 different halls of fame — the Langston University Hall of Fame, the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Hall of Fame, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, the Texas Hall of Fame and several others. Langston University even named their basketball court after me. I’ve been very blessed.