There was plenty cats who could snatch a quarter offa backboard,
They used to say up at Happy Warrior, but the Goat was the only one
Who’d float so long that he could leave change,
And they’d slap each other on the back and laugh until they couldn’t breathe.
Some folks still tell the story, old timers—hell, old men now,
But they don’t laugh much no more, because they all know the story;
Ain’t one of those things where people ask Whatever became of…
Like a Boobie Tucker or Funny Kitt, because Earl was a myth, see,
A neighborhood Icarus, but one with moments of doubt
The pusher, all loud clothes and soft smooth voices, played and played hard.
College coach ain’t gonna push for no brother who ain’t got the grades,
No matter how much lift he got. Then what, man?
You gonna hang outside the park, leanin’ on the fence,
Some old man whose name used to get you respect?
Shit, man, you think you can fly? Man, I got somethin’ make you fly.
The pusher baited and Earl hit the hook hard;
Wasn’t long before he was noddin’ on corners like some old damn wino,
Pretty soon a stint Upstate after he botched robbin’ some bar,
Then a long slow slide until he died.
The Hawk, Alcindor, The Pearl—they knew he was the man,
Best ever according to Lew, and man how he flew,
But the streets have their own peculiar physics
And the rim ain’t nothing but ten feet high.