All eyes are still on Nate Archibald. The gazes, however, aren't
those of fans in an NBA arena or at a Rucker League blacktop.
Rather, they are the eyes of sixth- to eighth-graders, watching
intently as their phys-ed teacher demonstrates a textbook bounce
pass at P.S. 175/I.S. 275 in Harlem. "Did you ever play for the
Knicks, Mr. Archibald?" a student asks as the bell rings to end
No, Archibald never played for the Knicks, but in his 14-year
career as a point guard with five NBA teams he established
himself as one of the best little men in the game. In 1972-73,
as a member of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, he became the only
player to lead the NBA in scoring (34.0 points per game) and
assists (11.4) in the same season; he also won an NBA
championship with the Boston Celtics in 1981. Archibald retired
after the 1983-84 season and was inducted into the Hall of Fame
six years later.
From 1984 to '89 Archibald was an assistant at Georgia and then
at his alma mater, Texas-El Paso. However, his heart remained in
his hometown, New York. During his NBA days the playground
legend would return to the city in the off-season, running
clinics, coaching amateur teams and buying equipment for kids.
Archibald earned a degree in elementary education from UTEP in
1974, and after going home for good in 1989, he earned a
master's in adult education and human resource development from
Fordham. He is now pursuing a doctorate.
Archibald is in his ninth year of teaching health and physical
education at the Harlem school. It's not the milieu in which you
expect to find a Hall of Fame athlete--an overcrowded inner-city
facility where faculty turnover is high and new books are often
lacking. "People wonder why I'm back here, but I just love
kids," says Archibald, 50, a father of five and grandfather of
eight who lives in the Gun Hill section of the Bronx. "I'm not
here to change lives," he says. "These kids need positive people
to take an interest in them."
Though he admits to sometimes thinking about the glamour of
running his own college program, Archibald knows that that life
is not for him. "Maybe I should have stuck it out in college
coaching, but I'm not really the type," he says. "I never liked
to cruise around in fancy suits. I always felt most comfortable
in my sweats."
COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER [Cover of October 15, 1973 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED magazine featuring Nate Archibald dribbling ball in game]
COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER [Nate Archibald]
"I'm not here to change lives," says the New York City phys-ed
teacher. "I just love kids."