What does Eric Trump and his President-elect father have in common with basketball legend Dr. J and my ole Temple University buddy Bill Schulkin?
What if I told you it was a pair of gloves, not just any gloves, but “Dr. J’s Hot Hand Basketball Gloves.”
These were special gloves my basketball-loving buddy Bill invented in the late 1980s and sold tens of thousands of until they were outlawed in 1992 by the former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who banned them from professional basketball.
The gloves were named after basketball superstar Julius Erving known worldwide as “Dr. J.” Erving was Bill’s partner in the “Hot Hand” glove project. For years they were a red hot item in sports stores like Sports Authority and Herman’s across the country until Stern ordered them out of the NBA causing sales to dribble off and eventually die.
What was so special about these gloves was they had tiny rubberized dots in the palm that gave basketball stars like one of the great centers of all time for the Atlanta Hawks, Moses Malone, a firmer grip on the basketball. But Stern would have none of it. The commissioner was a purist. He just didn’t want gloves in the game, even though they were commonplace in baseball and football.
So where do the Trumps fit into the gloves story?
On January 5, 1983, Bill’s son Jordan was born in New York University Hospital in Manhattan. Bill was gleefully watching his new son squirming in his crib one afternoon through the glass window partition and happened to notice another dad next to him watching his new son Eric, while Eric’s mother Ivana was getting her hair and nails done in another room.
The two fathers started chatting amiably.
Now cut to next scene at Madison Square Garden’s basketball court years later. Bill who had a penchant for promotion was performing a publicity stunt to show off his innovative basketball gloves from which the wearer’s fingers and thumb stuck out at the knuckles, but the gloves’ palm provided a magical grip.
Bill had rented Madison Square Garden to put on 20-minute exhibition game featuring the media vs. Bill, Dr. J and the then sports retailer Herman’s team, Herman’s All Stars, with all players wearing, of course, Dr. J’s Hot Hand gloves. Next day it was all over the newspapers.
After the game, Bill and Erving were invited to stay for a professional Knick’s game. They were given dinner and seated courtside as guests of the Garden’s and New York Knick’s management.
“While we’re sitting there, Donald Trump came over and asked me for two pair of my gloves, one for himself and another for Marla Maples, which of course I gladly gave him,” said Bill.
Shortly thereafter, Trump invited Bill to pull off another stunt at one of his casinos in Atlantic City, matching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar going head to head with Erving, with only Erving wearing his Hot Hand glove. The first one to sink 10 baskets would win. Unfortunately for Bill, a gloveless Kareem won, but it still was a great stunt that got lots of publicity for Trump’s casino and today endures as a fond memory for my friend Bill about our President Elect who definitely had the hot hand in the race for President.