Is It Time To Tell The Story Of This Los Angeles Playground Legend?

By Gregory Moore
Updated: February 15, 2006

Lewis' game allowed him to be a scorer on the court against event he NBA's best. Photo courtesy of Dean Prator. All rights reserved.

Lewis' game allowed him to be a scorer on the court against event he NBA's best. Photo courtesy of Dean Prator. All rights reserved.

SAN ANTONIO — The headlines say it all when you go to the website. “High School Junior Wins Player of the year”. “Lewis Wins Player of the Year for Second Time”. “Raymond Lewis Scores 73 points”. “Lewis Averages 54 points per game in Pro Summer League”.

When you start learning about Los Angeles basketball legend Raymond Lewis, you begin to wonder how the ABA and NBA could let such a talent slip away. From the news clippings it would seem that Lewis might have been a player that could have set the world on fire.

But then again, just like in many stories where there is as much intrigue as there is mystery, there is more to Raymond Lewis than just a few UPI articles.

I was turned on to researching about Lewis by a e-mail from a gentleman who is trying to keep Lewis’ name out in the forefront of the basketball world, Dean Prator. Dean’s quest to do what many may consider being the unthinkable is this: to showcase the life of possibly the greatest basketball player who never did play in the NBA.

Now many may think I’m trying to prop up some no-name street baller or that maybe Prator is trying to raise funds and awareness for some has been player. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical about whom Raymond Lewis was and as Prator told me by telephone, he was suspicious as to many of the stories that he had heard about Lewis. But if there is one thing in this business of journalism that I can attest to, it is the fact that when news stories actually back up the “urban tales”, then you believe in those tales.

Lewis had a chance in the NBA when the Philadelphia 76ers made him the 18th pick in the 1973 draft. Guess what first round pick by the same tem he torched in a one-on-one game? Yep, Doug Collins. Photo courtesy of Dean Prator. All rights reserved.

Lewis had a chance in the NBA when the Philadelphia 76ers made him the 18th pick in the 1973 draft. Guess what first round pick by the same tem he torched in a one-on-one game? Yep, Doug Collins. Photo courtesy of Dean Prator. All rights reserved.

Raymond’s story isn’t so unique from any other basketball player. In doing my own research about Lewis, I found that Lewis’ exploits started at Verbum Dei High School. There are numerous players who careers start out at that level.

Yet what makes Lewis’ story so completely off the realm of possibility in basketball greatness is the fact that his ability to play the game literally transcended the expectations of several experts. His numerous exploits at Cal State Los Angeles are very much documented by various newspaper clippings. There have been several stories corroborating Lewis’ greatness on the court against some of the better college teams, including form UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian. When Lewis was at Cal State Los Angeles, Tark “the Shark” was the head coach of Long Beach State.

PUTTING TRUTH INTO A LEGEND ISN’T EASY When Mr. Prator sent me his first e-mail, like I’ve said earlier, I didn’t know who Raymond Lewis was and even though this has been a short time since I have spoken to him and begun my research into Lewis’ basketball life, I realized that the only way anyone was going to know who this man was, why so many thought he was such a great talent that there was no doubt that he would be a major player at the professional level.

Yet that is where the fiction, tall tales and urban legends come face to face with the bare bone truths of Lewis’ life. This is as much a soliloquy as it is as much a human tragedy of profound circumstances.

In trying to bring Lewis’ life back to the forefront, it must be mentioned that this promising talent had a problem with authority figures. When doing my research and reading, I found clip after clip of Lewis walking away from opportunities to be a pro ball player.

Many of these clippings can be found on Prator’s website but I did find a few things up on a few “media” research sites as well. It seems that no matter what the decade a player talent is in, egos seem to always be the downfall of the great player and Lewis was no exception. His talent seemed to only be matched with the ego that he had at knowing that he was the “greatest” on the hardwood.

A DOCUMENTARY WORTH MAKING While I probably could go on and on about Lewis’ life, I couldn’t do him or his story justice. In the limited time span that I have for writing this column, I have barely even scratched the surface. Yet there is a man out there who is doing more than just writing about Los Angeles” most favorite playground legend; he is actually footing the bill for making a documentary about the myth, the legend, the player that once graced the playgrounds of Watts and the hardwood courts of Verbum Dei, CSLA and even a few pro camps.

New York Knicks' great Willis Reed is seen here talking with Raymond Lewis. Imagine what could have been if Lewis had been able to adhere to the advice this great player may have given. Photo courtesy of Dean Prator. All rights reserved.

New York Knicks' great Willis Reed is seen here talking with Raymond Lewis. Imagine what could have been if Lewis had been able to adhere to the advice this great player may have given. Photo courtesy of Dean Prator. All rights reserved.

Dean Prator’s mission is to make a documentary about Raymond Lewis and this op/ed is as much about Lewis himself as it is about Prator. It’s Prator’s dream to tell the world about Raymond Lewis and in this day and age, there is no better time for such a project.

Now I’m not going to try and solicit funds for Prator’s documentary. He can do that himself. But what I am going to do is to put the idea on the radar screen for the Black community and sports community at large. I want everyone who gets a chance to read this op/ed to go to www.raymondlewis.com and read for yourself. For those who may be in a position to actually help Prator make his dreams come true, I say contact him.

For basketball enthusiasts who want to know more about the legends of the hardwood, that site is just one more piece of fruit for you to enjoy. Finally since this is Black History Month, what better time than during the NBA’s All Star Weekend to actually learn about such a sports figure.

The time is now for a story like Raymond Lewis to be told and if Dean Prator’s dream comes true, this is a story that even Hollywood may want to get a piece of. But before any dream of Tinsel Town can even develop, Prator’s dream of just getting the story told has to be realized. I’m just doing a small part in helping him get the word out to what he is doing and I’m also learning about a player who I will be asking many NBA greats about while in Houston.

Let’s all do our part and get to know why Ray may have been the greatest non-NBA player to ever lace up a pair of sneaks. Do like I did and learn about this legendary figure from Watts. Maybe his life will be a catalyst for something even greater than what he imagined; his story being told to millions.

Photo with summary courtesy of Dean Prator. All rights reserved.