On Monday September 10th Thurl “Big T” Bailey spoke to the Wasatch athletes, parents and patrons. He told the audience how he fell in love with the game while watching a basketball game with his father. He said he was fascinated by the game and one particular player, Dr. J, Julius Erving. Thurl said that he was determined to become Dr .J and he worked with his father in their yard. He was very tall and everyone could imagine, 6’5″ in 7th grade, 6’7″ in 8th and 6’9″ in 9th grade. Thurl spoke of his junior high days where he was cut his first two tryouts before making the team in 9th grade. He spoke of the importance of having the privilege of having both parents in his life. His parents raised him to always remember how important school was and and his mother reminded him on a regular basis that C’s or less were not tolorated. His message to the youth about the importance of family and how they should always let their parents know how much they loved them was one of his major points of his address.
Thurl spoke of his decision to play at North Carolina State and how the head coach left after his freshman year and all the players were very worried about the new coach coming in. He called his mom and told her he was coming home and she flat out told him you may be going somewhere but you’re not coming home. He described how the new coach Jim Valvano told the team how he had dreamed that he would win a NCAA championship and soon. Thurl said that the first several practices all the team did was celebrate as if they had won the National Championship including cutting down the net after each celebration. At first it seemed silly but eventually it started to feel real. 3 years later during Thurl’s senior year the NC State Wolf Pack won the National Championship beating Houston in one of the most unbelievable finishes in NCAA history. Here is a brief summary of that season:
In 1983, the NC State Wolfpack, coached by Jim Valvano, stayed alive in the postseason by winning nine do-or-die games in a row — seven of which they were losing in the final minute — beating the likes of Michael Jordan and three-time National Player of the Year Ralph Sampson. The unlikely squad made it to the national championship game against No. 1 Houston, aka Phi Slama Jama, a team featuring future NBA Top 50 all-time players Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. NC State was one of the biggest underdogs ever in the final game, one that went down as possibly the best college basketball game in history-ending with one of the most well-known plays of all time.
Sports Center did a 30 for 30 feature called Survive and Advance if you’d like to learn more about Jim Valvano and the NC State Wolfpacks run to a National Championship.
Thurl talked about his time with the Utah Jazz and how much he loved the relationships he had with the players and coaches especially Karl Malone and John Stockton. He ended with answering questions from the audience. In the end one young man came up on the stage and asked Thurl who his favorite NBA team was? He told him it was the Utah Jazz first and then it would have to be the Cicago Bulls when Michael Jordan was playing.
Everyone who attended loved it and had the opportunity to visit with Thurl out in the lobby and have their picture taken with him.
Thank you Thurl for a truly inspirational evening.