His nickname, "Bad News" tells you all you need to know about Marvin Barnes. Marvin was an unbelievably talented and gifted athlete, but also a very poor decision-maker. Notorious for his off-court scandals, which ultimately affected his basketball game.
Marvin was a man of Providence. Born and raised, in Providence, Barnes would stay to play college ball at Providence College where he had a phenomenal career averaging 20.7 points, 17.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists over the four years. His college performances were so promising that the 76ers decided to draft him as the 2nd overall pick of the 1974 NBA draft, behind Bill Walton. Barnes ended up picking the Spirits of St. Louis and played in ABA for several years before switching back to the NBA.
Unfortunately, following frequent off-court issues, his pro career started to deteriorate slowly. He played in 9 different teams from 1974–1986 and never seemed to find his place under the sun.
You'll find countless fascinating stories about Barnes in "Loose Balls" a book by Terry Pluto. We cherry-picked the best anecdotes, so without further ado, here are some of his most unbelievable off-court stories.
It all started at Central High School in Providence Rhode Island, where he was a part of a gang that attempted to rob a bus!?!
Barnes once robbed a liquor store in broad daylight. If being 6’9″ didn’t make Barnes stick out enough, the fact that he was wearing a jersey with his name on the back was the clincher.
He once missed the team flight, chartered a plane, insisted the team pay the pilot, then walked into the locker room minutes before tipoff carrying a bag of hamburgers and wearing a mink coat over his uniform. He finished with 44 points that night.
One time, the Spirits were getting set to depart on a flight from Louisville at 8:00 AM that would get into St. Louis at 7:56 AM. After one look at his ticket, Barnes said “I ain’t gettin’ on no time machine,” and rented a car for the trip home.
Marvin once said,
I’m a basketball player, not a monk. I play the women, I play clothes, I play cars, I play everything I can play. There are players and there are playees. The playees are the ones who get played by the players. I am a player.
The basketball legend died at the age of 62, back where it all started, in Providence.