Jon Teitel's "Forgotten Legends" Series: Norfolk State's Bobby Dandridge

May 3rd, 2011
In his most recent "Forgotten Legends" interview CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Norfolk State great Bobby Dandridge. Dandridge played a year with the legendary Pee Wee Kirkland while compiling a legendary career of his own, eventually playing 13 seasons in the NBA and winning championships with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971 and the Washington Bullets in 1978.

Jon Teitel: In 1968 you won a conference title as a teammate of playground legend Pee Wee Kirkland. What was it like to play with Pee Wee, and how unstoppable were the two of you when you played together? 

Bobby Dandridge: Pee Wee started the season as a back-up guard because he had transferred in from Kittrell College, but our starting guard got hurt in the preseason.  We were a fast-breaking team and Pee Wee had great speed.  He was used to being the leading scorer, but he became our point guard who got the ball to other players, which was a credit to his game. 

JT: In 1969 you averaged a school-record 32.3 PPG and earned All-American honors. Did you feel like you were one of the best players in the country? 

BD: For sure, be it D-I or D-II.  I would play against D-I All American players over the summer in D.C. and I was able to hold my own.  

JT: What are your memories of the 1969 CIAA Tournament (Dandridge scored a conference-record 50 points vs. Virginia Union and was named tournament MVP despite losing the title game)? 

BD: I set several records in that conference tournament.  When people nowadays say that the basketball we played back then was not up to par, I disagree because my records still stand.  We lost in the finals to Elizabeth City [State], and their coach Bobby Vaughn later told me that it was one of the best wins of his career.    

JT: In the summer of 1969 you were drafted in the 4th round of the NBA Draft by Milwaukee (10 spots behind your teammate Charles Bonaparte) and in the ABA draft by Kentucky. Did you ever consider going to the ABA, or was your heart set on playing in the NBA? 

BD: I grew up in an era where if you had any dreams of playing in the pros, you went to the NBA.  I felt Kentucky was something I could fall back on. 

JT: In 1971 you won the NBA title with Milwaukee while playing with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson: what are your favorite memories from that season, and what was the feeling like in your locker room after you won? 

BD: I felt almost numb. I was about 23 years old and did not realize the significance of winning an NBA title.  A lot of great players have never won a title, but after my success in college winning titles was just the norm for me.  I also played with guys like Curtis Perry and Bob Boozer, and had coaches like Larry Costello.  Everyone assumed a role, and we all fit well together around the catalysts of Kareem and Oscar. 

1978 NBA Finals

JT: In Game 3 you missed a three-pointer at the buzzer. What do you remember about the shot, and did it have any effect on your confidence? 

BD: I had been in those situations before, and I believe that you make some and you miss some. 

JT: In Game 4 (before a then-record crowd of 39,000 at the Seattle Kingdome), you had your shot blocked by Dennis Johnson with two seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Do you remember the crowd being louder than normal that night, and how was DJ able to block your shot? 

BD: Dennis was an outstanding defensive player who played more with his head than his quickness. He was guarding me for a reason.  The crowd might be a factor when you walk into the arena, but when you are out on the floor you automatically tune out the noise.  You have greater expectations for yourself the larger the crowd is. 

JT: In Game 6, Coach Dick Motta moved you from forward to guard en route to a 35-point win. How difficult was it for you to make the switch, and how was your team able to destroy the Sonics? 

BD: It was not hard to make the switch.  I was about 6'5" and pretty agile, so I often switched defensively between the 2 and the 3 spots.  We had great substitutes in Greg Ballard and Mitch Kupchak in case our other guys got in foul trouble.  We went about 3-4 players deep at every position. 

JT: In Game 7 you scored 19 points and had the series-clinching dunk to give Washington the title while playing with Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. What did it feel like when you made the dunk, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterward? 

BD: I rarely dunked so that was a feeling of elation.  It was Washington's first title, and it was personally great to help owner Abe Pollin win it all. 

JT: In 1979 you finished 5th in the MVP voting (ahead of World B. Free and David Thompson). Did you feel like you were one of the best players in the NBA? 

BD: At that particular time my game was at its peak, both my performance and my confidence to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.  It was like being back in college, when I felt that I had no limits on the court.

JT: You averaged 18.5 points per game during your 13-year NBA career, made the playoffs eight times and were a 4-time All-Star. How satisfied are you with your career, and do you think you belong in the Hall of Fame? 

BD: I definitely think that I belong in the Hall of Fame.  Looking back at my accomplishments, I am overwhelmed that a skinny kid from Richmond, Virginia was blessed enough to play in the league.  It was like a lifetime dream that came true, and I always cherish my playing days.

JT: From 1987-1992, you were an assistant coach at Hampton. Why did you decide to become an assistant coach, and how did your success as a player relate to your success as a coach? 

BD: I lived in D.C. after retiring in 1982 and spent some time developing the NBA Rookie Transition Program, which is now used in all the major sports.  I decided to move back to Virginia, and it was a good opportunity to see if coaching was something I really wanted to do and give back to the young men. 

JT: When people look back on your career, what do you want them to remember the most? 

BD: I want to be remembered as a complete player who played both ends of the floor and contributed to the sport both on and off the court.  I also gave back to the basketball community, especially young people. 
Dandridge is on Jon's list of best pro players in MEAC history.

Bethune-Cookman: Carl Fuller (1971)
Coppin State: Larry Stewart (1992)
Delaware State: Emanual Davis (1997)
Florida A&M: Clemon Johnson (1979)
Hampton: Rick Mahorn (1981)
Howard: Larry Spriggs (1982)
Maryland-Eastern Shore: Talvin Skinner (1975)
Morgan State: Marvin Webster (1976)
Norfolk State: Bob Dandridge (1970)
North Carolina A&T: Warren Davis (1968)
South Carolina State: Frank Card (1969)