The Tweets went out within a short time of each other Thursday, good-natured missives wishing “Happy Birthday!” to former NBA post-up nightmare Adrian Dantley. They got the date right — Feb. 28 — but there was something amiss in someone’s counting of years:
Happy 58th B-Day to Adrian Dantley. If you have never seen this Hall of Famer play, then you must check this out: on.nba.com/YD76YY
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) February 28, 2013
Uh, so which was it? If Dantley truly had been born on Feb. 28, 1956, he would be 57 as of Thursday. But if he turned 58, that would back up his birthdate to Feb. 29, 1955.
What’s 12 tiny months among friends? Well, Basketball-Reference.com is an indispensable tool for NBA media and fans alike, priding itself on its accuracy. The NBA History Twitter account represents the league, which wants to get things right too. But there seemed to be no easy cyber-search way to pin down the truth, with conflicting reports showing up here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
Enough. This was a matter of fact, not opinion. Time to go straight to the source.
“I was born in 1955,” Dantley said Friday, after about 18 hours of playing telephone tag with the Hang Time sleuths. “I’ve seen in as ’1956′ some places. Or I might be talking to somebody and tell them how I old I am, and they say, ‘I thought you were born in ’56.’ “
Dantley attributed the mistake to some clerical error along the way. “You’re the first one to ever ask,” he said.
This was not, the Naismith Hall of Famer insisted, residue of any plot to keep him in the NBA longer by fibbing on his resume. After a 15-year career with seven teams in which he scored 23,177 points, averaged 24.3 ppg (topping 30.0 in four seasons), shot 54.0 percent, won two scoring titles and earned six All-Star berths, Dantley wrapped up with Milwaukee in 1990-91. He just happened to be 36 when he played his last game, not 35.
“If I was born in ’56, I would have had to wait an another year for my NBA pension,” he said.
It also would have meant that he played almost his entire freshman season at Notre Dame in 1973-74 as a 17-year-old. Not that he wasn’t a handful coming out of DeMatha Catholic in the Washington, D.C., area, where he played for fellow Hall of Famer Morgan Wooten. But he didn’t breeze through high school in three years.
Dantley was the NBA Rookie of the Year when he did reach the NBA in 1976-77, averaging 20.3 points and 7.6 rebounds for Buffalo. But he was 20 most of that season, not 19. Had he ever entertained the idea of exiting Notre Dame after one or two years rather than three? “My mother wasn’t going to let me go after just two years,” Dantley said.
Able to get his shot off in the low post almost at will over taller defenders, the 6-foot-5 Dantley ranks seventh all-time in free throws (6,832) and fifth in true shooting percentage (61.7). He put his experience to use as an assistant coach and spent eight seasons on the Denver bench, taking over during head coach George Karl‘s absences in 2009-10 for cancer treatement. Dantley posted an 11-8 record and was in charge during the Nuggets’ first-round loss to Utah.
His stay in Denver ended badly in June 2011 — Dantley was not brought back after a dispute over the Denver assistants’ seating rotation on the bench (he called it “backstabbing”). The lockout began the next month, and Dantley has been out of the NBA since, “taking it easy” near Washington.
He took the nitpicky interest in his birthdate in stride as well. Didn’t seem to bother him a bit that, for a lot of folks, Dantley aged two years in one Thursday.