Basil Shabazz Memories: An Unexpected Christmas Gift

I don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore, so I no longer expect to wake up on Christmas morning with treats stuffed in my stocking.

I do, however, believe in longtime Arkansas sportswriter Walter Woodie. And Woodie recently left an email in my inbox that made me smile as much as any snow-dusted Snickers bar from the North Pole could have.

He sent me the following game report from an Arkansas high school football final in 1990. I consider the game’s star, Basil Shabazz, to be an Arkansas version of Bo Jackson. This game represented his finest moment:

Shabazz Texarkana REAL





Here are some immediate impressions:

1. Texarkana quarterback Mike Cherry would end up as a highly touted freshman for the Arkansas Razorbacks. As Barry Lunney’s perpetual backup, however, he never could carve out consistent paying time. Houston Nutt, then a UA assistant, coached him at the start of his college career. In 1993, Nutt left to become head coach of Murray State. Two years later, Cherry transferred to that same Kentucky school and led Nutt’s teams to two conference titles.

2. Cherry ended playing scant minutes in the NFL as a backup quarterback which, if you ask SI columnist Phil Taylor, is one of the easiest ways on earth to make money. How much money? Just ask Cherry’s granddad, whom the Associated Press interviewed before Cherry’s appearance with the New York Giants in the 2001 Super Bowl:

“I like money, and I like all the money my grandson is making. He’s already made $51,000 from the team winning their two playoff games, and he’ll receive another $35,000 just for the team playing in the Super Bowl, whether Mike calls one down or not. If the Giants win, he’ll get $60,000.”

3. “Basil Shabazz” is considered the coolest-sounding name in the annals of Arkansas prep athletes, according to me and a few people who happen to agree with me.

But what about former Texarkana receiver “Rah Man Wilson”?

I vote that dude’s awesome first (and middle?) name be resurrected from near obscurity and applied to Russell Wilson, the hotshot Seattle rookie quarterback desperately in need of a catchy nickname to match his ascendant game.

All royalties can be mailed to my North Little Rock home address.

More 1990 state finals game recaps at 1990-AP Stories. It’s especially interesting to read about the end of Class A Barton’s 63-game winning streak (which covered four state titles and was the nation’s longest at the time) and a Henry King piece comparing Shabazz and Jerry Eckwood.

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