In 1987 Adrian Dantley chased after a loose ball at the same time as his teammate Vinnie Johnson, resulting in the worst non helmet head-to-head collision I have ever witnessed in sports. It was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics. The old Garden was a sultry 80 degrees, the “bad boy” Pistons were pushing Larry Bird and company to the brink of elimination.
With 8 seconds left in the third quarter, Johnson lost the ball and chased it hard. Dantley came in from the opposite direction. The result was a full force head on collision that changed the face of the game. Dantley was down and out for a good 5 minutes. The Piston’s top scorer was done for the night and off to Mass General Hospital with a concussion. Vinnie Johnson spent the rest of the game on the bench with an ice pack on his head.
Bird said after the game that the incident “helped us out tremendously. It really hurt them.”
The Celtics were on their way to the NBA Finals versus the Lakers, and would lose the series four games to two.
All these years later, Dantley is a retired Hall of Famer and Olympic gold medalist. He lives with his family in the same house he bought in 1990. After a long and successful pro career with several teams, Dantley did not have to worry about money upon retirement.
What the former star did not have was health benefits.
Dantley now works as a school crossing guard in Silver Spring, Maryland for $14,685.50 a year. The salary includes medical benefits.
“A lot of people talk about the benefits, but I’m basically doing it for the kids,” Dantley told CNN. “You know, the NBA, even though you make a lot of money, they don’t pay for your health premiums. I told my wife, I don’t care how much money people think I have, I’m not gonna spend $17,000.00 on health insurance.”
Now the same guy that guarded some of the best players in the NBA, is guarding children as they cross the street.
“I’m at two intersections that’s pretty dangerous,” he said. “Two kids almost got hit twice. I almost got hit once at the beginning of September. I was a rookie and all the crossing guards were kind of kidding me a little bit.”
The 6’5” Dantley, now 58 years old, says he enjoys giving the kids high fives and encouragement.
“It’s pretty fun, especially with the little ones,” Dantley told WTOP.com.
Dantley, who grew up in the Silver Springs area said that he also was looking for something to do.
It’s win-win. Get the kids safely across the street, and save 17 grand on health insurance. The medical insurance is something Dantley will really need if he gets hurt on the job.
“I think it’s more dangerous out here than me playing one on one or me taking a hard foul from an NBA player.”
The hardest blow Dantley took as a player did not come from an opposing player, but his team mate, Vinnie Johnson. Long time Celtics and Pistons fans will remember the head on collision as a series changer.
The little school kids he’s helping now to cross the street will need a history lesson.
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