Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Staying busy with Nike

BETWEEN CLEVELAND AND BROOKLYN – Fly is making the 10-hour drive back from Cleveland to New York City after an appearance with NBA players Shawn Marion, Chris Paul, and Lebron James in conjunction with NIKE promoters.
“It was basically a back-to-school thing,” Fly said while on the road back to New York. “It was basically for the kids, a back-to-school thing where they got meet Lebron, Chris Paul, and Shawn Marion.”
Fly is tired. He spent 10 days in Cleveland, and before he left New York, made an appearance at the new Yankee Stadium Sept. 8 with some of his kids from Brownsville Rec Center, where they toured the Yankees’ Hall of Fame and got to meet several of the current Yankees. The children from Brownsville Rec also got to go onto the field and take a few swings with their bats at pitches.
“They had a great time,” Fly said. “It was unbelievable.”
There is no rest for Fly. On Sunday, Sept. 20, Fly is scheduled to be at Pier 36 in Manhattan for another appearance sponsored by NIKE and others. After that, there is another appearance scheduled for Philadelphia.
“I’m tired,” Fly said while driving from Cleveland to New York City. “I’m really tired.”
Fly hoped to get back to Brooklyn by about 11 p.m. Eastern Time.
“I told my wife, ‘All I want is to hug you and get good plate of food,’ ” Fly said. “I’ve been in a hotel for 10 days. I just can’t wait to get home.”
Fly is scheduled to be back at work for the Parks and Recreation Dept. this morning, Sept. 17. It’s a tough task for a guy who’s been on the road almost two weeks.
“I hope to get in at 11 tonight, and I have to be at work at 10 in the morning,” Fly said. “I’ve got to get 49 kids together (for the Pier 36 event). There’s going to be some disappointed kids because we’ve only got a bus that seats 49, and we’ve got a lot more kids that want to go.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Remembering Mickey Fisher

Fly was stunned to hear news of the death of Mickey Fisher, one of Fly’s teammates at Austin Peay from 1972-74.
“Mickey was a really nice, stand-up kid,” Fly said. “He was square as a door, just a good guy. I don’t know of Mickey doing ANYTHING wrong when I was there. He was nothing but a great kid. He was the team angel. Oh, man, this is too much.”
Fisher, born and raised in Clarksville, was the son of former Austin Peay basketball coach and athletic director George Fisher. Mickey died of an apparent heart attack while in his sleep.
“Just give my condolences to his dad, his wife, and his family,” Fly said. “Tell everyone in Clarksville that Mickey was the greatest.”
Fly was reunited with Mickey Fisher in early February 2009 when Fly’s No. 35 jersey was retired by Austin Peay. They shared a few laughs about Fly teasing Mickey about how slow he was on the court back in their playing days.
“Mickey was just a super guy,” Fly said. “I can’t believe it.”
Fisher’s death comes a few months after the passing of former Austin Peay coach Lake Kelly, for whom Fly and Mickey played. At least two other players from Fly’s storied two seasons at Austin Peay have also died: Eddie “Chili Dog” Childress and Danny Odums.
“Our little dynasty we had is going away,” Fly said. “All the guys, I couldn’t’ have done it without them. Things wouldn’t have happened. … You’re afraid. When you’re a kid, you take life for granted when you’re running around. Now, every minute, I’m thankful to be alive. I’m not ready to go.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Crazy Life Of Fly

It's been a crazy couple of weeks for Fly.
And it's gonna get even crazier next week during the Brownsville Old Timers Week, which concludes the weekend of July 24.
Fly was in a Brooklyn hospital for a week and got out Sunday, July 12.
"My doctor gave me some bad medicine," Fly said. "I cussed him out, man, I know that. I couldn't breathe."
Once he got to breathing well, Fly had to stick around for tests. That meant eating some good ole' hospital food.
"I'm trying to eat all I can now that I'm out," Fly said. "I can't eat that hospital stuff. It'll kill you."
Fly said the food ran him out of there. "That made me get out of the hospital. It made me be where I am right now. I just went back to work Tuesday (July 14)."
So how's he feeling now?
"I'm good."
And he's getting geared up for the annual Brownsville Old Timers Week, one of the biggest annual summer events in Brooklyn.
Some of the Old Timers who plan to attend: Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, World B. Free, Pearl Washington, Gus Williams, Mike Bynum, and of course, the great one himself, Fly. Among the teams competing in the tournaments is a group of all-stars from a hotbed of basketball, Memphis.
Fly will be selling his book, FLY35, complete with his autograph, along with T-shirts and other apparel.
It's an event nobody should miss.
"It's tremendous!" Fly said. "There will be a half a million people or more there! Man, it's tremendous!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kobe's father

Fly was talking with one of his longtime friends, Joe Bryant, the night the Lakers won the NBA Championship. Joe Bryant had just watched his son, Kobe, lead the Lakers to the title.
"We talked for 30 minutes," Fly said.
Could Joe play ball anything like his son?
"You kiddin' me? Joe could play, too," Fly said.
Fly used to play against Joe Bryant in the Baker League and in some pro-am games in Philadelphia.
"Jelly Bean, that's what we call him (Joe Bryant)," Fly said. "He's like 6-9, a two-guard, and he could play the three. Yeah, he could play."
Kobe has a brother -- friends call him 'X' -- who did a documentary about Brooklyn hoops. Who knows, X might do a doc on Fly someday.
"He just did a documentary from Rucker," Fly said. "It's AWESOME!"
Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back in the gym

Fly is back in his comfort zone.
After working at a bike and skateboard park in Brooklyn, Fly has moved to a gym at St. John's Center in Bedford Stuyvesant.
No more bikes. No more skateboards.
"I'm in the gym, where I belong," Fly says.
Fly, a seasonal employee for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, works at St. John's in the morning till the mid-afternoon when he clocks out.
"These are older guys here (at St. John's)," Fly says. "By the time the (younger) kids get here, I've gone back to my center."
That's the Brownsville Rec Center, the gym where Fly honed his skills as a youngster and now works with kids. He stays at Brownsville Rec Center till dark and goes home not far away. Then he starts a new day.
Fly says he just received a copy of The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle that details the tragic death of his former coach at Austin Peay, Lake Kelly, who died from complications of gallstone or kidney stone surgery.
"You realized it was 30 days after they retired my jersey?" Fly says. "It's unbelievable. Me and coach spent a lot of time together while I was in the hospital when I was sick (the week after his Feb. 5 jersey retirement). God brought us back together after all those years. Everything that happened like it did, it's unbelievable."

Below is some info about St. John's Center, courtesy of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation:

Troy Ave, Bergen St, Prospect Pl, Schenectady Ave


Acres: 8.98

This park and recreation center, located on Prospect Place between Troy Avenue and Schenectady Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant, is named for Saint John, also known as John the Evangelist and Saint John the Divine. He was one of the first disciples called to follow Jesus and is traditionally known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” St. John is the presumed author of the fourth gospel of the New Testament and, by tradition, the Book of Revelation.

There are many legends surrounding the power and holiness of John. It is said that he was sentenced to death by immersion in a cauldron of boiling oil. He was lowered into the pot and, some time later, emerged miraculously unharmed, even rejuvenated, with his hands joined in prayer. After Peter, he is the apostle most responsible for the formation of the early church in Palestine and is the patron saint of Asia Minor.

The land that became St. John’s Park was acquired by the City in 1950. Plans were made shortly thereafter to eliminate the stretch of St. Mark’s Place that ran between Schenectady and Troy Avenues in order to create more parkland with the intention of eventually building a recreation center at the site. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

13-and-under Tournament

Future stars were out this past weekend for Fly's 13-and-under boys tournament at Brownsville Recreation Center.
Don't be surprised if some of 'em end up on Division I major rosters in five years or so.
"We've got a lot of great players, man," Fly says. "Most of these kids are in junior high, and they're getting ready for high school."
Among the high schools these players are headed: Jefferson High, Lincoln, Canarsie, Sheepshead Bay and Southshore.
"These kids are going to most of the major high schools in the district," Fly says. "They're pretty tough players. This is when they really start to play."
Fly, meanwhile, went back at work Monday morning for the Parks and Recreation Department. His new job? Working at a skate park, Owl Head Park, in Bay Ridge.
"I don't know nothin' about bikes or skateboards," Fly says, "but they got me workin' in here. Not sure why, but it's a job."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Peter Vescey

One of Fly’s coaches from way back  gave him a call the other day.
The former coach was Peter Vescey, longtime sports writer and columnist in New York City. Vescey, now a columnist for the New York Post, called Fly about possibly writing a story about him.
“We ended up talkin’ for about 45 minutes,” Fly said. “We talked about everything, like when I played for him.”
That was back in the early 1970s at Rucker Park. Vescey, working for the New York Daily News at the time, was coaching a team sponsored by his newspaper. The team was called “The Daily News All-Stars.”
“We were good, really good,” Fly said. “We won one year, and lost the second year, and then I went to play with Julius Erving the next year.”
Fly said he played for the Daily News All-Stars the summer of 1971 shortly after he graduated from Glen Springs Academy in Watkins Glen, N.Y., and rejoined the team in the summer of 1972 after his freshman year at Austin Peay State University. After his second season at Austin Peay, Fly said he joined a team that included Dr. J. playing at Rucker Park.
Vescey reminded Fly about his talents in their recent conversation.
“He said, ‘You was the best,’ ” Fly said. “I told him, ‘I’d love to have played against Michael Jordan.’ ”
Others would have liked to see it. Some would have picked Fly going one-on-one against Jordan.
As former Detroit Pistons star Vinnie Johnson once said: “There was Fly before Air.”

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Remembering Lake Kelly

Special to

Thursday, March 5, 2009


When his phone rang Thursday morning, Fly had no idea the stunning news that he would soon hear.

On the phone was Howard Jackson, his longtime friend and basketball teammate at Austin-Peay in the early 1970s.

Jackson had terrible news: their former coach, Lake Kelly, died during the night.

“I don’t know what to do, cry or what,” Fly said about an hour after getting Jackson’s call. “I’m just sitting at home in a daze.”

By the afternoon, Fly was still trying to come to grips with the news of Kelly’s death.

They had been reunited a month earlier when Austin Peay retired Fly’s No. 35 jersey in Clarksville, Tenn. Lake and his wife, Marti, spent several days visiting with Fly and former teammates. It was a wonderful, joyous time.

When Fly got ready to leave for New York City, he collapsed at the Nashville airport and was taken to The Summit Hospital in Hermitage. Lake and Marti Kelly, who were staying with their daughter, son and grandchildren in Franklin, spent much of the next four days with Fly in his hospital room as he recovered from fatigue and what was diagnosed as a virus.

“When I was laying in the hospital bed, it gave us time to talk,” Fly said. “It was like a father-son thing. This is unbelievable. He meant the world to me.”

It was about a month ago, Feb. 12, 2009, when Lake and Marti Kelly last saw Fly at the hospital. Fly left that night and flew back to New York City.

“I guess God put us together again because He knew Coach Kelly wouldn’t be with us much longer,” Fly said. “God put us together again after 35 years.”

Their time together in Clarksville in the early 1970s will live forever, as will their time together in early February of 2009.

“Coach Kelly was a big part of my life,” Fly said. “I came to Clarksville to play for Austin Peay, and he took me in like a parent. Look what happened to me (after) the retirement. He and Mrs. Kelly were there like they were my parents.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Getting Better

It’s been two weeks since Fly left The Summit Hospital in Hermitage, near Nashville, and he’s feeling pretty good these days in Brooklyn. Except for a couple of things.

“I’m getting all kinds of tests now,” Fly said Thursday, Feb. 26. “My fiancée has got me like a Guinea pig.”

Fly says he’s getting stronger every day and looks forward to getting back to work at The Brownsville Rec Centerin Brooklyn.

His four-day stay at The Summit, where he was vaguely diagnosed as having a virus, was made more comfortable by the nurses and staff.

“They were so sweet, so nice and caring,” Fly said. “It was unbelievable. I didn’t mind staying in a place like that. The nurses were so nice. They’re rude up here. I told my fiancée, that’s the sweetest place I’ve been in my life. They really took care of me around the clock. If I get sick, I wish they could fly me down there. That’s what you need when you’re sick, and they did it so well.”

Whatever bug he picked up was just a bump in the road for Fly.

“I told my fiancée: I’m a Dinosaur, I ain’t goin’ anywhere,” Fly said.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Back home

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Fly is back at home, feeling good, and ready to start working again with the many kids in his basketball program at Brownsville Recreation Center.

It is two weeks after Fly’s No. 35 jersey was retired Feb. 5 by Austin Peay State University during a game against Tennessee-Martin. Fly was in Clarksville for all the ceremonies and, former teammates, friends, fans, and media gave him an overwhelming response.

“It was unimaginable, unbelievable,” Fly says. “There was still so much love in that town. I will never forget it, never in my life.”

For Fly, it was a hectic five days, starting Feb. 4 when he arrived at Nashville International until Feb. 8 when he was scheduled to depart to LaGuardia International in New York.

As was reported, Fly was hospitalized at The Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, a suburb of Nashville, about the time his Feb. 8 flight was taking off toward New York.

Fly spent the next four days at The Summit, resting and recovering, and during that time became a hidden celebrity in the hospital. Word quickly spread that the Fly was in the house. After a few days, Fly was ready to go home, so away he went, catching a flight Thursday night, Feb. 12.

Fly says he is feeling better every day and making all his scheduled visits to see his personal doctor. There is much on his schedule in the future – including a return trip to Clarksville.

“I can’t wait to get back,” Fly said. “It was unbelievable.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Update From Fly

By Dave Link

NASHVILLE -- Fly is sleeping comfortably and peacefully, and even has a slight smile on his face. He may be having dreams of this past wonderful weekend, starting Thursday night when his jersey was retired by Austin Peay and continuing with festivities through Sunday.
It is Monday night, 9 p.m. CT, Feb. 9, 2009, and Fly is in a Nashville hospital. He will be here until he is completely recovered and ready to go back to Brooklyn, whether it's in two days or whatever. He is in the best of care.
Fly had a weekend he will always remember.
"Incredible," Fly said Sunday on our way to the Nashville airport. "Absolutely incredible. I've never seen anything like it. Unreal."
Fly felt the love this past weekend that first drew him to Austin Peay and Clarksville in 1972. He says he will always love Clarksville and hopes to return every year.
He will be back.
Count on it.
Keep Fly in your thoughts and prayers, as he does for so many others.