Prince & the Purple Hardwoods
“Those stories about Dave Chappelle with Charlie Murphy and Eddie playing basketball are true. He was in your face. He’d say “good hustle”, “give it up” and “gotta victim”.
The stories about Prince’s interest in basketball started long before the Chappelle Show’s Charlie Murphy skit. It was not uncommon to spot Prince at NBA and college games from coast to coast. Fans wondered about appearances. Were they an attempt at PR or was there a genuine interest in the game? It took digging for reporters to find his interest was a sincere love of the game.
Music producer Narda Michael Warren has talked about his time playing hoops with the legend on several occasions. How did he remember the encounter? High heels, Morris Day and a 3rd place finish..
Warren found himself in a nearby studio working on tracks. He’s produced major hits for Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and George Michael. In a word, he is accomplished.
“I’m working on a few things and word comes back that Prince is down the hall. I sent a “hello” his way, and it was returned with an invitation. So, I walked into his studio space and there are three different humidifiers pumping mist into the air. The entire room is full of this mist and that's really kind of unusual for a recording studio. I looked around and then glanced over to see Prince playing guitar by the console with the switchfoot. After sitting down, I just watch him play. I’m watching as he overdubs guitar on a song called “Gigolos Get Lonely Too. Great stuff." It was a Prince song that would later appear on a Morris Day and the Time album.
As I’m watching, I notice he records by using stops, starts and restarts on parts of the song he likes. He used that Switchfoot technique to cancel out the need for an engineer. It was time-consuming, but that’s where you’ll find a lot of perfectionists.
Prince stops playing, looks up, and says it’s time to take a break. Morris, Prince, and I go outside into the courtyard and there's a basketball hoop in the area. Prince turns and says, “let’s play a game of Twenty-One”.
I have on my red Thom McCan shoes. And Prince says, “Oh, you get your Thom McCans on.” That’s how he talked, a little feminine. My response was, yeah, I do. But then he's wearing 7" booted heels, hair all in his face and he's got a cold, allergies, a virus, or something. Morris has some cool shoes on, though, but not like knee-high boots or anything. So, the game begins and before I notice everything Prince puts up is good, "swish". I mean everything. It was like shooting around with Steph Curry. 3-point range? Swish. In close? Swish. Rebounds? Swish. It didn’t matter what it was.. it just went in. And then the game was over just like that. Morris had 16 points, and I got 13 points, but we each scored first? (laughing) All during the game, he was just cracking on my shoes. “Hey Thom McCan”, “hey right here McCan”, “come again Thom” – swish, swish, swish.
After reading Warren’s story, I ran across a similar quote from Torre about a game with Prince. If nothing else, Prince was consistent on and off the stage.
“He moved like a player and played like one of those darting little guys you have to keep your eye on every second. Blink and he’s somewhere you wouldn’t expect. Lose control of your dribble for a heartbeat and he’s relieved you of the ball. He jitterbugged around the court like a sleek little lightning bug, so fast he’d leave a defender stranded and looking stupid if he weren’t careful. With his energy and discipline it was a rapid game, but never manic, or out of control. I scored on a drive that felt too easy and as the ball dropped in I looked back at him. He said, ‘I don’t foul guests.’ Okay.” - Toure
This video is the only "known" video of Prince playing basketball. If you find one lurking in the Youtube world, send it our way.