By Ryan McNeill
While reading through Jon Wertheim’s book “Transition Game: How Hoosier Went Hip-Hop” I came across a great story about Moochie Norris. In one of the chapters Wertheim was talking about Indiana basketball legend Damon Bailey and his struggles in the CBA while playing for the Fort Wayne Fury and he brought up Moochie Norris who became a cult figure because of his ecclectic personality. While Bailey struggled to fit into a me-centric league where making the extra pass rarely happened, Wertheim contrasted this with the success that Norris enjoyed in large part because of his eccentric personality.
Moochie Norris, a typical basketball Bedouin inasmuch as he had attended three colleges and played for six teams in four years when he landed in Fort Wayne. Norris was one of those characters straight out of a movie like Slap Shot or Bull Durham that romanticizes the quirks of bush leagues. Named after the Cab Calloway song “Minnie The Moocher,” Norris was a six-foot dervish who thrilled the fans in Fort Wayne with his dunking and hair that alternated between braids and a prodigious Afro. He also had insomnia and rarely slept for more than two hours a night. In the infomercial hours, he would don glasses that flashed lights and emitted a thumping sound when he closed his eyes. But Norris could play a little, and Bailey was instrumental in bolstering the kid’s confidence, feeding him the ball and moving to off-guard when an NBA scout was in town so Moochie could demonstrate his ball-handling skills. Before long Norris had gone from a wacky cult figure to a solid CBA player. By season’s end he was called up, made the most of his opportunity and now plays for the New York Knicks, where he is midway through a guaranteed $22 million contract. Naturally, at the time, Bailey expressed nothing but happiness for his former teammate. Still, consider their fates – the wacky, well-travelled insomniac is in the NBA and the paragon of basketball virtue isn’t – and you can’t help but marvel that the basketball gods work in strange ways.
Norris last played in the NBA for the Hornets during the 2005-06 season when he averaged 3.8 points in 11.4 minutes per game and his career fizzles shortly after he shaved off his Fro. Anyone else think that Norris suffered from a Samson complex?