University of Nebraska Press

 

Date of this Version

Fall 2014

Abstract

Growing up on the hardscrabble streets of LA in the late 1950s, Billy McGill stood out. At eleven he was dunking. At fifteen he was playing in pickup games against Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain—and holding his own, in part because he invented the jump hook shot, which no one could defend. How he went from college phenom, well on his way to becoming the greatest player Los Angeles ever produced, to sleeping in abandoned houses and washing up in a Laundromat sink is the story Billy “the Hill” McGill recounts here.

The first African American to play basketball for the University of Utah and the highest scoring big man in NCAA history, McGill was the first pick of the 1962 NBA draft. But the injury that would undo him—a knee injury in his junior year of high school—had already occurred, and it would worsen year after year until his career faded away. From college star (whose scoring record is still unbroken) to troubled player, bouncing around the NBA and the ABA, McGill takes us from the heights to his precipitous fall—and the slow recovery of a life he had never prepared for. A cautionary tale, written with a candor and authenticity rarely seen in pro athletes, his book is also the incredible story of one of the greatest unknown basketball players of all time.