Barry, Rick

views updated

Rick Barry


American basketball player

Rick Barry, at six-foot-seven-inches, was one of the most entertaining and talented forwards to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) during the 1970s. Averaging 24.8 points per game over the course of his fourteen seasons of play, Barry was famous for his deadly accurate underhanded free throws (.900). He was

equally famous among other players for his difficult personality and harsh demeanor.

Super Scorer

Rick Barry was born on March 28, 1944 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He enrolled at the University of Miami in 1961, but did not play basketball for the Hurricanes during his freshman year. Averaging an impressive 19.0 points per game during his sophomore year, Barry exploded during his junior season, averaging 32.2 points per game, and went on to earn the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) scoring title in 1965, scoring an average of 37.4 points per game. Barry's superstar performance at the University of Miami earned him a top spot in the 1965 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft, and he was selected in the first round by the San Francisco Warriors. Barry married Pam Hale, the daughter of the University of Miami coach, in 1965.

During his rookie season, Barry took the NBA by storm, averaging 25.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per game and becoming only the fourth player in NBA history to score more than 2,000 points in his first year of league. Barry, who also became famous for his accurate, underhanded free throws, shot better than 86 percent from the foul line. Barry played in the NBA All-Star game and was named the game's most valuable player. He was also selected as the NBA Rookie of the Year.

If his rookie season was spectacular, his sophomore season was sensational. During the 1966-67 season Barry led the league in scoring, averaging 35.6 points per game. He also averaged 9.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. With no other superstars on the Warriors' team, Barry was still able to carry his team into the NBA championship series in 1966, but the Warriors lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, led by center Wilt Chamberlain .

Joins American Basketball Association (ABA)

Following his sophomore season in the NBA, Barry became the first superstar to abandon the NBA and join the fledgling ABA, a smaller league that was struggling to attract larger audiences. Barry's decision to make the jump was based on several key factors. First, his father-in-law, Bruce Hale, was the one offering Barry a spot on his ABA team, the Oakland Oaks. Second, and perhaps more important, the Oaks were offering him a contract that, at the time, was unheard of. On June 20, 1967, Barry signed a three-year contract worth $500,000. Plus, Barry was awarded fifteen percent stock in ownership of the team and promised five percent of ticket sales that exceeded $600,000. The deal made Barry, who had been making $30,000 a year as a Warrior, one of the highest paid players in the game.

There was only one flaw Barry's plan: he was bound to the Warriors for one more year under the option clause of his contract. According to the agreement, common to the times, although Barry's two-year contract with San Francisco had expired, Warriors' management reserved a one-year option that obligated Barry to remain with the team even though a new contract had not been formulated. As a result, when Barry announced his departure from San Francisco, Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli, filed a $4.5-million lawsuit against Oakland Oaks owner, singer Pat Boone. When a federal judge ruled that the option clause was valid, Barry decided to sit down for the 1968-69 season rather than return to the Warriors.

Following his one-year, self-imposed exile from the game, Barry finally joined the Oakland Oaks. During the 1968-69 season, Barry, as expected, immediately became the ABA's hottest drawing card. He averaged 34.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. He became the only player in history to win scoring titles in the NCAA, NBA, and ABA. After the season's end the Warriors filed suit to force Barry to return to the team, but failed to convince a lower court or the California State Court of Appeals that their claim to Barry was valid. The Warriors also lost their bid to collect $350,000 in damages from the Oaks.

With one legal battle over, it wasn't long before Barry found himself embroiled in another. Just days after the final judgment in the previous lawsuit, Boone sold the Oaks to Earl Foreman, who immediately announced that the team would be moved to Washington, D.C. and become the Washington Capitals. Barry, who insisted that he had an oral agreement with the Oaks that he would not have to leave the area, believed that such a move voided his contract. Wanting to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he was settled with his wife and sons, on August 28, 1969, Barry negotiated with his old team, the Warriors, for a five-year contract.

Barry was thrown back into the courts when the now-Washington Capitals sued the Warriors for $10 million and the Warriors, in turn, counter sued the Capitals for $8 million. Ultimately the judge in the case ruled that Barry was still committed to the Capitals. Barry was required to join the team in Washington, and the Warriors revised the pending contract so that Barry would rejoin the Warriors after he had fulfilled his obligation to the ABA. Despite being required to move with his team, Barry managed to continue his performance on the floor, averaging 27.7 points per game during the 1970-71 season with the Capitals.

When the Capitals became the Virginia Squires following the 1969-70 season, Barry grew more unhappy and more vocal about his dissatisfaction with playing in Virginia. Finally the Squires sold the remainder of Barry's contract to the New York Nets. Barry played for the Nets for two seasons. During the 1970-71 season he averaged 29.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. The following year he averaged 31.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game.


1944Born March 28 in Elizabeth, New Jersey
1962-65Plays for the University of Miami
1965Marries Pam Hale
1965-67Plays for the National Basketball Association's (NBA) San Francisco Warriors
1967-68Sits out option year on his contract with the Warriors
1968-69Plays for the American Basketball Association (ABA) Oakland Oaks
1969-70Plays for the ABA's Washington Capitals
1970-72Plays for the ABA's New York Nets
1972-78Rejoins the Warriors
1975Wins NBA title and named the championship series most valuable player
1978-80Plays for the Houston Rockets
1980Retires from basketball

Returns to the Warriors

Finding the New York area and the Nets organization to his liking, Barry re-signed with the Nets following the 1971-72 season, but this move prompted yet another series of lawsuits. The Warriors sued for Barry based on the contract he had signed in 1969, which stipulated Barry's return to the Warriors after he had fulfilled his commitment with his present ABA team. Barry claimed that the contract should be void because the NBA had broken antitrust laws by pooling money among teams to pay his contract. Although several years later he was proven right regarding the league's misuse of pooled money, in 1972 a federal judge ruled that Barry owed the Warriors three years.

Faced with sitting out for three years or joining his old team, now renamed the Golden State Warriors, Barry decided to return to the Bay Area. During his first two years back with the Warriors, Barry averaged 22.3 and 25.1 points per game, respectively. In 1974-75 he carried the team to the NBA championship, averaging 30.6 points per game on the season. With a NBA title in hand, Barry re-signed with the Warriors for another three years in 1975. Then in 1979 he exercised his rights as a free agent and accepted a bid from the Houston Rockets. After playing two years off the bench, Barry, one of the games most prolific scorers, retired.

In 1979 Barry walked out on his wife and five children. He remarried but then divorced, and later married Lynn Norenberg. After retiring in 1980, Barry moved about the country, hoping to eventually land a coaching job in the NBA. Barry became the coach of the United States Basketball League's team in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Other coaching stops included teams in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Asbury Park, New Jersey, and Fort Myers, Florida. His reputation as an intolerant arrogant bully on the court continues to shadow his life two decades later. A very public plea to fill the coaching vacancy at Golden State in 1997 ended without even an interview. In 2001 KNBR, a local radio station in San Francisco, hired Barry as a sports talk show host. Barry, who fills the noon-to-three slot, does interviews and sports analysis.

Much has been made of Barry's four sons, Scooter, Jon, Brent, and Drew (he and his first wife also have an adopted daughter). All four have had different levels of success as college and professional basketball players. It is the father, though, that has his name written in the history books as one of the most spectacular players of his day.


Address: KNBR, 55 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, California 94105. Fax: (415)995-6867. Phone: (415) 808-KNBR. Email: [email protected]


(With Jordan Cohn) Rick Barry's Pro Basketball Scouting Report, Bonus Books, 1989.

Career Statistics

GS: Golden State Warriors; HOU: Houston Rockets; NY: New York Nets; OAK: Oakland Oaks; SF: San Francisco Warriors; WASH: Washington Capitals.

(With Jordan Cohn) Rick Barry's Pro Basketball Bible, 1996-1997. 8th ed., Basketball Books Ltd., 1996.



"Captain Barry." Newsweek (January 6, 1975): 34.

Cote, Greg. "Barry, Whose Goal is to Coach in the NBA, May Wait in Vain." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (May 25, 2000).

Lawrence, Mitch. "Waiting for His Chance: Rick Barry Paying His Dues in Fort Wayne, Hoping for Opportunity to Coach in NBA." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (January 20, 1994).

"One-man Bandwagon." Sports Illustrated (May 12, 1997): 18.

Newman, Bruce. "Daddy Dearest." Sports Illustrated (December 2, 1991): 74-77.

Roessing, Walter. "The Barry Bunch." Boys'Life (March 1997): 14-16.


"NBA Legends: Rick Barry." National Basketball Association. (December 11, 2002)

"Richard Francis Barry, III." Biography Resource Center Online. Gale Group, 1999. (December 11, 2002)

"Rick Barry." Sports (December 7, 2002).

Sketch by Kari Bethel

Awards and Accomplishments

1965First Team All American; led the nation in scoring with 37.4 points per game; selected in the first round of the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft by the San Francisco Warriors
1966Selected Rookie of the Year and All Rookie Team; named Most Valuable Player of the NBA All Star Game
1966-67Named First Team All NBA and NBA All Star
1967Led league in scoring with 35.6 points per game
1969-72Named First Team All American Basketball Association (ABA) and ABA All Star
1973-78Named NBA All Star
1974-76Named First Team All NBA
1975Selected as Most Valuable Player of the NBA Championship Series
1986Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame
1996Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History

About this article

Barry, Rick

Updated About content Print Article