Chris Harris (basketball)
11 August 1933 |
|Listed height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Listed weight||190 lb (86 kg)|
|High school||Sewanhaka (Floral Park, New York)|
|NBA draft||1955 / Undrafted|
|1955–1956||St. Louis Hawks|
Christopher R. Harris (born 11 August 1933) is a British retired sports broadcaster and professional basketball player. A 6'3" guard, he was the first player from England to compete in the American National Basketball Association (NBA), as well as the first foreign born player to be undrafted in the league's history.
Harris moved from Southampton to New York City when he was young. For generations, cross-Atlantic shipping was the family trade, on both his mother's and father's side. Two of his uncles were White Star Line crew members who went down on the Titanic. The game of basketball was a mystery to his relatives. In a 2004 interview, Harris said, "My folks didn't even know what basketball was. I remember as a kid, I had a little basket in my back yard on dirt, but they kept telling me to play soccer. I replied, 'Nope, I'm going to play basketball in the pros.' They were laughing at me but after a while they knew it was going to be basketball for me."
When Harris was 18, he received a basketball scholarship to the University of Dayton, where he became a teammate of Jim Paxson, Sr., father of future NBA players Jim and John. On March 1, 1953, Harris played every minute in Dayton's 71-65 victory over number-one ranked Seton Hall University, scoring the game's final point on a free throw. The loss was the first for Seton Hall in 28 games. The 1953–54 Flyers advanced to the National Invitation Tournament Quarterfinals, at that time the national championship of college basketball. During his senior year, Dayton reached the NIT Finals, but lost to Duquesne University 70-58.
After graduating from college, Harris spent one season in the NBA. He originally signed with the St. Louis Hawks, but after 15 games they traded him and Dick Ricketts to the Rochester Royals for Jack Coleman and Jack McMahon. In 41 total games with the Hawks and Royals, Harris averaged 2.5 points per game on 24.8% shooting and made $4,800. He decided to end his NBA career after that season, since his wife was pregnant and he was planning a new business.
Harris developed a close friendship with Chuck Cooper of the Boston Celtics, the first black player drafted by the NBA. "He was a huge jazz buff and I loved jazz music", said Harris. "I was a huge fan. So any time we’d got to the big towns, he’d go look for the jazz club and take me with him. We had a wonderful time. He was a gentleman."
Harris had a chance to return to the NBA the following summer, after joining a group of Dayton alumni in an informal game against the Hawks. Harris played well enough that Hawks coach Alex Hannum asked him to be his fourth guard, but Harris declined. The Hawks would go on to win the NBA championship that year. Harris left the game to become a successful businessman, operating a chain of television and appliance stores and an advertising agency in the Dayton area. He later worked as a vice president for an insurance company. Harris also became one of the region's best-known broadcasters, providing color commentary and play-by-play of University of Dayton basketball games for WHIO Radio (CBS) from 1965 to 1981, including ones that would feature his Flyer sons, Doug (1975–1979) and Ted (1981–1985). Harris and his wife, Barbara—1953 winner of the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts—have been married over a half-century and had 10 children.
In 2013, Harris was inducted into the University of Dayton Athletic Hall of Fame.
- Mark Woods. "My folks thought I was a basketcase to take up hoops". Sunday Mail. 11 January 2004. Sport, 21.
- "Seton Hall's Streak Ends at 27". Chicago Tribune. 2 March 1953. C1.
- Joseph M. Sheehan. "Duquesne downs Dayton 70-58 in Garden final". New York Times. 20 March 1955. S1.
- Dan Caeser. "Former Hawks guard McMahon dies in sleep". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 12 June 1989. 1C.
- Chris Harris. basketball-reference. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
- Gary Shelton. "Initials same but game surely isn't". St. Petersburg Times. 5 June 1992. 1C.
- "NBA's Original Brit Still in Play" Mark Woods, MVP, 2011.
- Tom Archdeacon. "UD great Harris finally getting his due". Dayton Daily News. March 1, 2013. Retrieved on September 25, 2013.