Sunday, August 7, 2011

Washington Generals Top Players: Orbie Bowling

Photo by Greg Campbell
Orbie "Orb" Bowling is a giant of a man with a giant personality.

Born in 1939 and a native of Sandy Hook, Kentucky, Orbie is known for his love of basketball as well as his practical jokes. In fact, his nickname "Cheif" came from a childhood Halloween prank he pulled as a kid. Where he and a cousin dressed up like Indians and rode two horses into town.

Orbie first started playing basketball while attending High School at Sandy Hook High School. At 6'5" was the biggest player in all of Kentucky High School in 1959.

After graduating High School, Orbie was offered a scholarship to the University of Tennessee. Although Bowling has stated in interviews he would rather have been out pulling pranks than studying.

Bowling played for Tennessee from 1961-1963. His playing caught the NBA's attention and after graduation Orb was selected by the New York Knicks as the 78th draft pick.

With the NBA only having 9 teams at the time competition was fierce. Despite his best efforts in a very competitive environment, Orbie was deemed "not NBA material" and was cut.

But Bowling made lemonade out of that bad luck, and joined the Washington Generals for their 1963-1964 tour. It was a tour that included the famous game in a bull ring and playing in front of the Queen of England.

After finishing his tour with the Washington Generals, Orbie was offered a spot on the fledgling American Basketball Association (ABA) playing for the Kentucky Colonels. Bowling played in 11 games, but the Colonels ended up with a win-loss record only slightly better than the Generals and Bowling decided it was time to move on from professional basketball.

Bowling joined the securities business and eventually married and had two kids. But like most people who love basketball enough to play professionally however, Bowling's love of the game never left him.

He still regularly plays in pick up games, and has been a member of nearly every recreation, church, and YMCA league in the Tennessee area where he currently resides. He can still be seen playing pick up games to this day despite being in his 70's.

Orbie Bowling may not have been able to make the NBA, or find a long career as a professional basketball player. But with his love of the game and his love for life, he came out a winner after all.

Related Links

Tall Tales of "Big Chief" Bowling

City of Hoops

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