Barry, Richard Francis, III ("Rick")
BARRY, Richard Francis, III ("Rick")
(b. 28 March 1944 in Elizabeth, New Jersey), basketball Hall of Famer who led the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the American Basketball Association (ABA) in scoring; often remembered more for his difficult temperament than his basketball skills.
The younger of two sons of a perfectionist father, Barry learned to push hard for what he wanted at an early age. His mother, Alpha Stephanovich, was a homemaker. Barry grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and by fifth grade was playing on a basketball team with seventh-and eighth-graders. His father was the coach and his brother was his teammate. "My father was very demanding of me," Barry told George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel, "teaching me the fundamentals, taking me out of a game if I made a mistake. So I became very demanding of myself, and I was very demanding of my teammates."
After graduating from Roselle Park High School, Barry accepted a scholarship to play for the University of Miami. In his senior year at Miami, 1964–1965, Barry was an All-American and led the NCAA Division I in scoring with 37.4 points per game. In June 1965 he married Pam Hale, the daughter of his Miami coach, when he was twenty-one. They had four sons, all of whom went on to play professional basketball, and an adopted daughter.
The San Francisco Warriors (later the Golden State Warriors) signed Barry out of college, and he made a name for himself immediately. In his first professional season, 1965–1966, Barry averaged 25.7 points per game, made the NBA All-Star team, was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in that year's All-Star game, and was named NBA Rookie of the Year. Only Wilt Chamberlain, Walt Bellamy, and Oscar Robertson had scored more in their rookie seasons.
In his second season, Barry led the league in scoring, averaging 35.6 points per game, and hit a career-high of 2,775 points for the year. (The only player to beat his record in the following twenty-five years was Michael Jordan.) Barry returned to the NBA All-Star game (in the second of eight appearances) and won the game's MVP award in 1967. The Warriors won the Western Division and took the great Chamberlain-led Philadelphia 76ers to six games in the finals before losing. His record 40.8 scoring average for the series held until Jordan's 41 per game in 1993.
Taking an opportunity that was unheard of at the time, Barry jumped leagues and signed with the Oakland Oaks of the ABA, a fledgling rival to the NBA. His contract was unprecedented for 1967—$500,000 for three years, including ownership of 15 percent of the team's stock, plus a percentage of ticket sales. With the NBA's Warriors, he had received only $30,000 per year. Barry also wanted to change teams because his father-in-law, Bruce Hale, was the Oakland Oaks' coach. The move to change leagues landed Barry in a court dispute that sidelined him for the entire 1967–1968 season. With the 1968–1969 season, Barry established himself as the undisputed star of the ABA. He averaged 34 points per game and accomplished what no other player had done in the history of the game: he led the NCAA, the NBA, and the ABA in scoring.
Over his next four years with the ABA, Barry's team moved from Washington, D.C., to Virginia to New York City. When the Oaks were initially sold in 1969, Barry signed a new five-year contract with the NBA's Warriors, hoping to stay in San Francisco. Instead, he was back in court, with the two leagues battling over him again. In the end, Barry was required to honor his contract with the ABA. Despite having been on three teams in four cities in the ABA, Barry produced four All-Star selections, a championship, and an ABA scoring title. Still, it was not over.
Barry grew to like playing in New York City and decided to stay. But once again his contractual obligations took precedence. In 1972 the Warriors won a court case forcing him to fulfill his earlier contract with them. Although initially hesitant to return to his old team, once there, Barry experienced his longest period of stability while in their camp over the next six years. His non-scoring skills had improved while in the ABA and the twenty extra pounds he had gained gave him muscle to use against other NBA players.
In his six seasons with the Warriors, Barry always delivered. He was an All-Star every season, led the team to its first NBA championship in 1975, and was voted MVP in the championship game. Between 1972 and 1978 Barry earned six NBA free throw percentage titles, using his signature style, bending his knees and shooting the ball underhand with two hands. He scored his career high of sixty-four points on 26 March 1974. He ranked among the NBA's top ten in assists with 6.1 per game. In 1975 the Warriors swept the Washington Bullets in four games, winning the championship. Barry made 90 percent of his free throws. At the time, he was the most accurate free throw shooter in NBA history.
Although he was a superior athlete, Barry was his own worst enemy throughout his career, and was widely disliked for his abrasive personality. Bruce Schoenfeld of the New York Times described him as possessing "a competitiveness that verged on fury." He was outspoken (some said arrogant) and driven by his need for perfection. Because he was critical of referees, teammates, and opponents alike, he eventually lost their support. Despite his incredible year, he was left out of the running for 1974–1975 postseason honors, and his reputation cost him all future chances at getting a head coaching job in the NBA.
Signing a contract with the Houston Rockets in 1978 put Barry at odds with Warriors fans once again. He was accused of having no loyalty to any team. He played two years as a Houston reserve forward before retiring on 12 September 1980 at age thirty-six.
Barry's private life mirrored some of the rockiness of his professional life. As his career waned, Barry left his wife, Pam Hale, and became embroiled in a contentious divorce, which became final in 1979. During his second marriage to Pam Stenesen, whom he married the following year, Barry had little contact with his children. He pursued a career in broadcasting and married his third wife, Lynn Norenberg, on 31 August 1991. They had one son.
In 1987 Barry was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He worked as a minor league basketball coach in the 1990s, turning to radio broadcasting at San Francisco's KNBR in August 2001.
Barry's basketball legacy was tarnished by his demanding personality; nevertheless he was named by the NBA as one of the fifty greatest players in NBA history in 1996. Barry's talent was indisputable, his contentious disposition undeniable, and his place in basketball history secure.
The NBA website, <http://global.nba.com>, has an excellent history of Barry's career, including career statistics. Two revealing articles about Barry's personal life and his relationship with his basketball-playing sons are Bruce Newman, "Daddy Dearest," Sports Illustrated (2 Dec. 1991), and Bruce Schoenfeld, "Hoop Is Thicker Than Water," New York Times magazine (3 Mar. 1996). Barry's post-basketball-playing struggles are discussed in George Diaz, "Barry Shoots from the Lip," Orlando Sentinel (18 June 2000).