Editor's Note: Part I of a 20 part series. SP Yup is up next with Rod Strickland. -Pradamaster
There were many determining factors in the Bullets' improbable 1977-78 championship, but none was more overlooked than the emergence of Kevin Grevey. Oh sure, there was the free agent signing of Bobby Dandridge, the leadership of Wes Unseld, and even the acquisition of Charles Johnson off the scrap heap when injuries befell the backcourt, but Grevey was a forgotten key.
The third-year swingman had struggled in his first two seasons playing behind Phil Chenier and Hall of Famer Dave Bing, who was wrapping up his legendary career. But Bing bolted to Boston, where he would play one final season, and Chenier struggled with back problems that kept him out of the preseason. Coach Dick Motta had no choice but to rely heavily on Grevey, so he inserted the youngster into the lineup alongside veterans Dandridge, Elvin Hayes, and Wes Unseld.
Instead of rolling over, Grevey emerged. He averaged 15.5 points in just 26 minutes per game, emerging as the team's top outside threat. His style, in particular, meshed well with Dandridge. Dandridge was a point forward that liked to mix it up inside, while Grevey was an excellent catch-and-shoot guy. Whether it was Dandridge, coach Dick Motta, Grevey's own improvement, or a combination of the three, Grevey's offensive skills stabilized the wing. He even got in on the all-star game festivities, as he reached the semifinals of the old all-star HORSE competition before losing to Pete Maravich in the semifinals.
But Grevey's best accomplishment came later in the season. The Bullets stumbled in the middle of the season, but finished strong to finish third in the Eastern Conference, setting up a first round mini-series with the sixth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. Before Game 1, Grevey was reportedly approached by college basketball coach Howard Garfunkle, who ran the 5-Star Basketball Camp. Garfunkle handed Grevey a business card to put in his sock, saying "after you lose tonight, give me a call." A perturbed Grevey took his anger out on the Hawks, scoring a career-high 43 points in the victory. After the game, he tracked Garfunkle down and asked if he had any more business cards. Garfunkle gave him an entire box, and Grevey would stuff one in his sock before every playoff game that season. Perhaps that, and not "it ain't over until the fat lady sings," should have been the slogan of that improbable title run.
Grevey continued to be a Bullet mainstay after that season. He averaged a career-high 17.2 points per game during the 1980-81 season, but the foundation of those great Bullet teams in the 70s was falling apart. Grevey suffered an injury during the next season and was never the same player, moving on to Milwaukee in a reserve role until retiring in 1985. Following his retirement, Grevey returned to the area to open his own restaurant in Falls Church. When former teammate Mitch Kupchek became the Lakers' general manager, he called Grevey and offered him a spot as a Laker scout. Grevey accepted, and remains in that role today.
Make no mistake, though. Kevin Grevey is, and always will be, a Washington Bullet, and after the instrumental role he played in that 1977-78 team, that's the way it should be.