Bo Kimble 20 Years After Hank Gather’s Death: “Hank was just as special, if not more special as a person.”
Last week was the 20th anniversary of Hank Gather’s death on a basketball court. He and teammate Bo Kimble were of course the cornerstones of Loyala Marymount’s hugely entertaining teams in the late ’80s. In 1990, Kimble and Gathers were poised to take their run-and-gun offense deep into the NCAA Tournament, only to see Gathers collapse and die of cardiac arrest during the team’s conference tournament. During the Tournament, Kimble attempted his first free throw attempt of every game in honor of his best friend and former running mate, who struggled so mightily with his free throw shooting that he’d even attempt to shoot some left handed.
Kimble joined WGFX in Nashville late last week to talk about his best friend, how he was the funniest guy he’s ever known, what their relationship was like on and off the court, how he thinks LMU would have won the NCAA Championship that year if Gathers hadn’t passed away, and why he decided to shoot those free throws left handed during the 1990 NCAA Tournament.
On if he’s even more shocked today than at the time by LMU’s 140 point outburst against defending champion Michigan in the 2nd round of the 1990 tournament:
“Yeah absolutely. First of all at the time, all we were doing was just playing the best that we could, even when Hank was alive. The system just really allowed us to put a lot of points up, but it was not really just on the offensive end. The system was really just such a blessing, so that no mater who we played – Michigan, UNLV – we never adjusted our style of play to adapt to anyone. We knew were going to be the better conditioned team, we knew that we were going to force tempo, full court press all over the place, and we felt like if we took 100 shots or more, we were going to beat you, and there were going to be many stretches in the game, where you were going to wish you were on the bench having a rest, but it was only halftime. So that was our mental advantage as well as our physical advantage. We were blessed to be able to run better than anyone else.”
On Hank Gathers as a person:
“Well whatever opinion you had of Hank Gathers, and the world had an opportunity to identify with Hank on the court as a great tenacious basketball player…but Hank was just as special, if not more special as a person. He reminded me of a Dave Chappelle or a Richard Pryor. Imagine being the best friend of those two guys and he gets to practice his material every moment he’s around you. For example, our team became better dressers because they knew if you wore a certain pair of shoes that Hank Gathers thought he could make fun of, you never wore those shoes again. Same thing goes for your whole attire. But Hank was really just blessed to be a funny, witty guy. Off the court he didn’t have a serious bone in his body, and he just enjoyed and had talent making people laugh. The one thing I truly missed about Hank is nobody will be funnier than Hank Gathers on a day to day basis. I miss him making me laugh in that regard. But when I think of Hank Gathers, I always think of those funny moments because out of 1,000 times believe me, I have tons of stories that really remind me of the greatness of him as a person and a player before I even think of the tragedy. One of the best stories I can tell of Hank, our high school team we were on our way to D.C., the cheerleaders and the whole basketball team. I don’t know why they let Hank get a hold of the mic at the front of the bus. It was the funniest 2 1/2 hours. Some of the jokes I had heard ten times, but he found a way to tell the joke funnier each time. And he talked about every single person on that bus, and believe me, Hank Gathers had no mercy when it came to making people laugh. At your expense, if it made 20 people laugh, he’s not going to apologize. That’s just how funny he was. But I wish I had that stuff on tape just like the basketball stuff because it’s something I would just plug in, because I couldn’t believe how on-point he was with all his jokes. I mean he talked about everyone.”
On their relationship on the court:
“On the court, we were enemies, are you kidding me? But that’s the way Hank was, that’s the way we grew up, and that actually made us both the best competition we could ever have on a day to day basis. When we played 1-on-1 games, sometimes we would have to go from winning on offense to just giving points on defense because him and I were just so fierce and we wanted to win without arguing. So Hank made me better as a player everyday, I made him better as a player everyday. And you couldn’t find two people who worked harder to be great. When Hank had his fainting spell and missed three weeks, I scored over 50 points four times in a row and was on my way to leading the nation in scoring. When I missed 18 games as a junior, Hank Gathers led the nation in scoring and rebounding. So it was very evident that we realized that we were stronger together than individually. And we just toned down our games enough to be great together collectively. That’s one of the things I’m proudest about.”
On the left-handed free throws he would attempt and make in Gathers’ honor:
“So ironically enough, me taking the shot was what it was really all about. I didn’t really care if the shot went in or if it was an air ball, because it was actually my selfish way to pay tribute and honor Hank; to recognize all the times I had seen over the past 11 years him work on his free throws. So I thought instead of being like the younger players and writing Hank’s number and name on my sneaks, I thought there was no better way of honoring Hank and saying hey buddy, I love you, and I respect your efforts on trying to be a better free-throw shooter. But you still sucked anyway! So that was my way of basically saying I love you Hank, I respect you, and I miss you. I’m happy the shot went it, I will say that. And more importantly, 20 years later, if the left- hand free throw makes people remember the legacy of Hank’s life and my life and what we were able to achieve with that special team we had at Loyola, then I’m so glad it went it. But it really wasn’t about going in, it was about honoring Hank.”