By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
There were high fives, hand shakes, and hugs recently at the Los Angeles High school gym. The home team Romans were facing cross-town Jefferson High. There was a buzz in the air as sever alumni came back to honor an old friend and class mate in Clyde Robinson.
Robinson is a Los Angeles basketball legend from the class of 1974. Like many others his game was lost or forgotten by a few as time moved on. It was a night well deserved.
While playing for the Romans he averaged 33 points a game under Coach Sydney Gordon.
He led the Southern League in scoring league and was second in LA City. He was selected All Southern League and City All–Star.
He was named one of the top 10 players in the city. KGFJ Radio gave him the nick name “Radar” and with good reason.
He and rival Freeman Williams of Manual Arts had the best jump shots anywhere. They were both gifted players.
“That’s what we call the County Line, ” said Andre Theus pointing to a line used for volleyball just inside half court. “Freeman would let it fly from there.”
So Clyde would follow up and match him on the other end. If Freeman hit one from the 110 Freeway, Clyde would let one go from the 405.
All this done in front of standing room only crowds.
As one story goes one night L.A. High hosted Manual with a full gym and a line of hundreds waiting outside hoping to get in.
Robinson had hit his first two jumpers of the game which sent the crowd into a frenzy. The third time down the court he dribbled to the corner of the court with the heels of his shoes nearly touching the out of bounds line and let go a high arching jumper as the ball traveled up and up Clyde stepped off the court to a near by water fountain reach over, took a sip as the ball came down it zipped through the bottom of the net he was already back down the court on the defensive end. That started a chant, “Take him to the fountain Clyde” throughout the year.
“Freeman and I had some battles, we brought out the best in each other,” said Robinson. They had games that everyone in So Cal wanted to see.
“I have never seen anyone with that much confidence” said Eric Gaines a junior high school mate of Robinson’s.
Robinson is the first to have his jersey #32 retired at Los Angeles High in any sport.
It took a childhood friend to resurrect Robinson’s name and god-like status to lead it into infamy. Gaines who now is Los Angeles City basketball official was working a game at L.A. High. At halftime while standing in front of the scorers table he slowly scanned the gym walls. The thing that caught his eye there were no retired numbers in sight. He said out loud, “Clyde Robinson’s jersey should be up there.” Others heard him and that was the beginning.
Gaines and Robinson attended Mt Vernon Junior High along with several others that included Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, Boxing Hall of Famer Kevin Morgan the same time as Robinson.
It was a man name Knight that brought them all together. “He would pick us up in his station wagon and take us to games.” said Theus. They began with trips to Queen Anne Park, then other parks around the City. “I liked football, I didn’t know I had the basketball talent until Mr. Knight showed me.” Robinson had gone on to become a Junior College All-American, attended UC Riverside then played professionally in Mexico.
Williams went on to star at Portland State in 1978 where he averaged 36 points a game and beat out Larry Bird for the NCAA scoring title. Then had an 8 year NBA career with the San Diego Clippers, Utah Jazz and Washington Bullets.
Gaines, a Prep All-American himself has his #24 along with James Wilkes #32, Ron Baxter #23, Michael Loyd #11, and Flintie Ray Williams #14 have their numbers hanging in the gym at Dorsey High.
Founded is nearly 150 years old (1873). “L. A. High” is the cities oldest high school. It’s Alumni include Dustin Hoffman (Actor), Dahna Hall (Educator) , Ray Bradbury (Writer), Felicia Richard (Educator), Mel Torme (singer, songwriter) and George Takei (Activist, Actor –Star Trek fame).
Notable sports alum include footballer Jimmy “Spiderman “Allen who attended UCLA and played with the Pittsburg Steelers in Super Bowls IX and X.
There was Mel Aimada who began his career in 1933 with the Boston Red Sox. The center-fielder was the first Mexican American to play in the Major Leagues. He finished his 7 year stint with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Lillian Copland won a gold medal throwing the discuss at the 1928 Summer Olympics
Robinson now lives in Detroit and is thinking about returning to his roots in So Cal. “It gets pretty cold in Detroit. I’m gonna think about coming back home.”