This is the fourth of a five-part series chronicling the Dallas Mavericks’ 1980-81 season, their first in the NBA. Today: Brad Davis. Tuesday: Surviving in the Dallas Cowboys’ backyard.
Brad Davis was on the verge of giving up on basketball when the Dallas Mavericks came calling.
Davis had bounced around for a few years playing for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz, and also for the Great Falls Sky of the Western Basketball Association. When the Mavs initially contacted the 6-3 point Wholesale Dallas Mavericks Jerseys guard in hopes of luring him to play for their 1980-81 expansion team, Davis was playing in Alaska for the Anchorage Northern Knights of the Continental Basketball Association.
At the time, Davis said he was only playing for the Knights to earn money to go back and get his college degree at the University of Maryland, where he had already been accepted. Davis was such a prolific player at Maryland that the Lakers made him the No. 15 overall pick of the 1977 NBA Draft.
Despite those thoughts of earning his college degree, Davis – with some prodding from Mavs co-founder Norm Sonju, director of player personnel Rick Sund and assistant coach Bob Weiss — opted to give his basketball career one last chance.
“He didn’t get the opportunity (in the NBA) and was clearly disillusioned,” Sonju said of Davis. “I sent Rick Sund up to Alaska to see him, and Rick comes back and loves him, so we signed him.”
Davis first popped up on the Mavs’ radar indirectly via George Karl, who was coaching the CBA’s Montana Golden Nuggets. Karl contacted Sund and wanted him to come scout one of his players.
As it turned out, the game Sund attended was a Golden Nuggets home contest against Davis and the Knights. And Davis played so well that Sund couldn’t wait to get back to Dallas and tell Sonju about this kid from Monaca, Pa.
Sund said: “So I called Brad and introduced myself and said, ‘Brad, would you like to come down to Dallas?’ He said no. He said, ‘I’ve gotten accepted to go to school to finish my degree, and I’m only playing (in Anchorage) to get more money to help pay for my schooling.’ “
The Mavs, however, were persistent, unwilling to take “no” from Davis as his final answer.
“So, Bob Weiss said, ‘You mind if I call him?,’ “Sund said. “I said no, so Bobby called him and said, ‘Hey, I was in a similar situation when I got drafted by somebody and it didn’t work, and I played in the CBA. But I honed all my skills in the CBA and I came back and I was a better player than I was when I came out of college, and I made it in the NBA.’
“Then Bobby says to him, ‘What do you have to lose? You want to come down here, and you’ll make more money with us than you will in the CBA. And then when the second semester begins, if you want to leave (and go back in college in Maryland) you can leave.’ “
Davis agreed to join the Mavs in 1980 during the first week of December when they were approximately two months into the season. By the time January rolled around and it was time for Davis to decide if he was going to return to college or stay with the Mavs, he had become such an immediate hit and fan favorite with the Mavs that he decided to continue his basketball career.
“I just got to thinking,” Davis said. “Then I said, ‘Give it another shot and see what happens.’ “
As decision day for Davis drew closer, the Mavs were on pins and needles because Sonju and Sund weren’t certain what would happen with their young playmaker.
“All along we were thinking, ‘Well, we’re probably going to lose this guy, but at least he’ll get a chance,’ “ Sund said. “But the rest is history. Not only did he come in, he ended up getting the starting job.”
Davis’ story had a fairytale ending with him becoming the first member of the Mavs to have his jersey retired. That memorable occasion occurred on Nov. 14, 1992, nearly 12 years after Davis gave up the cold of Alaska for another shot at NBA stardom.
Upon arrival in Dallas, Davis was met at DFW Airport by Keith Grant, who, at the time, was the Mavs’ equipment manager and one of the team’s 15 front office staff members.
“My job was to pick everybody up at the airport — that was one of my jobs,” Grant said. “They told me we’re bringing in a guard from Anchorage, he’s coming in on Braniff Airline from Anchorage and his name is Brad Davis. I said, ‘OK, thanks for that info.’
“I get to the airport and I pick him up, and Brad and I have been friends ever since. Brad even moved into the apartment complex that I lived in the first year. We both lived in Arlington the first year.”
To this day, Davis and Grant – he’s now the Mavs’ assistant general manager – sit by each other on the team plane and often dine together when the team plays road games as they’ve continued to maintain their close friendship.
But the Mavs’ coaches, adoring fans and front office Cheap Brad Davis Jersey staff weren’t the only ones who fell in love with Davis. Even before he signed his first contract with the Mavs, Davis had already collected at least one unabashed admirer.
“He came to my house and my mother was there,” Sonju said. “My mother is from Norway and was born in 1898 – she died at age 100. So she died 22 years ago, and she saw Brad.
“Remember, she doesn’t know basketball has two halves or four quarters. She sees Brad, and she had a thick Norwegian accent, and she said: “Norman, I think that he is a nice young man. Are you going to sign him?’ We’re laughing, so we signed him.”
Davis recalls his time in Alaska as being “cold and dark.” He said: “In the wintertime it’s almost 24 hours of night, and then in the summertime it’s about 23 hours of daylight. It was weird.
“You walk out of a bar at 1 or 2 in the morning and it looks like it’s 2 in the afternoon.”
By the time his Mavs’ career ended, everything was looking rosy for Davis, who is now the color commentator on the team’s radio broadcast on ESPN. He’s obviously glad he gave his basketball career one last chance.
“He was the epitome of the Mavericks with just the way he played,” Grant said. “He dove on the floor and took charges.”
Along the way, Davis earned the immense respect of many.
“Brad became this solid guy, a fan favorite and a blue-collar type of player as we worked our way up the ladder,” Sund said. “And then Brad ends up getting his jersey retired.”
A fairytale ending, indeed.