View Full Version : Mike Bibby - Obsessive-Compulsive Hypochondriac? Anti-Social Freak?

08-19-2001, 09:18 PM
The silent type: Mike Bibby, the man who would be King, brings his game and family to town
Scott Howard-Cooper
PHOENIX - This really was Mike Bibby talking.

We know because it was in person, throughout 12 hours of weight training, pickup games at the athletic club in his summer-baked hometown, extra shooting inside a church gym a couple miles away, family time and Dime time.

As opposed to those moments in college when he didn't want to be the star guard at Arizona with the fractured relationship with his father who coached in the same Pacific 10 Conference, so his roommate would stand in for a phone interview with the unsuspecting talk-radio host who had no idea he and the listeners were being duped.

It had to be Mike Bibby eating.

He washed up first. Not like most people do, to be sanitary. More like surgeons do before going elbows deep into some guy's chest cavity. If someone comes to his table at a restaurant to introduce themselves and shake hands, that's another trip to the bathroom. Someone hands him a pen for an autograph, that might be another trip.

One friend, that roommate who when he wasn't faux Bibby was actually scrub guard Josh Pastner, finally told him in exasperation to carry around his own freakin' pen so the germ factor wouldn't be such an issue.

And you know it was Mike Bibby playing.

He didn't boast or taunt or verbally challenge, and it had nothing to do with these being pickup games, even if the ones at the athletic club on this day weren't exactly the stuff of rec leagues, with Jason Kidd of the Nets, Anthony Norwood from Oregon, NBA veteran Mario Bennett and Cal and former Christian Brothers High School product Monty Buckley, among others, also playing. Bibby could play in a library and not get in trouble.

"I've never heard him trash talk," Kidd says during a break.

Bibby walks by just then. Kidd talks louder, to make sure his words are heard.

"I don't even think he knows how to trash talk," Kidd says, smiling.

"I used to do it in high school," Bibby throws back. "But my mom told me to leave it alone."

It's a true story, the time he was a sophomore or junior and Virginia Bibby was in the stands and saw him mouthing something to an opponent and got on Mike afterward.

It hasn't changed since, either, through two seasons at Arizona, being the No. 2 pick overall in 1998 by the Grizzlies and three seasons in Vancouver, and no one expects it to be any different in Sacramento as the successor at point guard to Jason Williams, the embodiment of the Kings' emotional style.

Among the many contrasts -- Williams is flashier with the ball, Bibby more stable and consistent; Bibby is a superior shooter, Williams better at breaking down a defense with penetration -- none will be as obvious as the emotions. Or lack thereof.

Bibby will probably by far be the least demonstrative Kings starter, although, of course, there are some nights with Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Doug Christie and Peja Stojakovic when Mount St. Helens in full rage would be sedate. He has always been that way, too.

In high school, he was so determined to stay in the background and with his friends that when the coach said he wanted to move Bibby up to varsity as a freshman, Bibby at first turned down the promotion and said he would have to talk to his mom first.

That could have been more a sign of Virginia's role in his life, except that in college, where teammates nicknamed him E.T. because of his long fingers, he would hang with the managers and seldom-used players such as Pastner, John Ash and Justin Wessel more than the other stars.

"If you don't know him, people might say he's cocky," said Pastner, still a close friend. "Totally wrong. Exactly the opposite."

The only thing that changed in the pros was that he became closer to Michael Dickerson than when they were teammates at Arizona -- by last season, they would huddle on charter flights reading the Bible and the deal in hotels was that they had to have adjoining rooms so they could keep the dividing door between them open.

But he never struck a close friendship with Shareef Abdur-Rahim, the star, and people close to him on a regular basis say they never saw him raise his voice to anyone in anger; in three years of constant losing.

The closest, and this is pure Bibby because he is so finicky about food, was when teammates discovered he was getting flight attendants to pick up pints of ice cream and stash them on-board because he didn't want the same ice cream bars that were being served to everyone else. Then the volume was dialed up, but in mock exclamation about his beloved Häagen-Dazs chocolate being heisted.

The worst thing that can be said? He is stat conscious. He is so stat conscious, in fact, that it was not unusual for Bibby to note how he got shortchanged in some category upon seeing the box score after games. As it was, he averaged 8.4 assists and finished fourth in the league, while playing for a team that was 25th in scoring, at 91.7 points per outing. With the Kings, No. 1 at 101.7, he may go for the assist crown, something that has never happened in Sacramento.

By any measure, he will be a success in his new setting and won't feel the pressure of trying to live up to Williams' popularity. That's been determined.

End of story. Just like when he was in high school here, his home since age 3 after being born in New Jersey while father Henry Bibby played for the Philadelphia 76ers, and it was time to decide on a college. Actually, it was before it was time to decide on a college.

Mike decided on the University of Arizona during his junior year at Shadow Mountain High, before so much as an official visit anywhere. He had made the 90-minute drive south to Tucson with his mom, his rock, for an informal visit and knew he had arrived. He turned to Virginia Bibby after all of one hour on campus and said so. And that was that.

He liked the chance to stay close to home, but most of all he liked the Wildcats' tradition of successful guards, because he went to college to play basketball and to become a better NBA prospect, not for the education.

He majored in family studies.

"Which is what?" he is asked.

Bibby shrugged.

"What I went to school for is what I'm doing now," he said.

None among his closest friends and family members can begin to guess what he would be doing now if the pros had not worked out. He would be a successful pro. Period. So he gave UCLA, where Henry started at guard on three consecutive national championships, two in the bridge years between Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton and one with the early Walton Gang, a cursory look and enrolled at Arizona.

Once there, Mike immediately won an NCAA title of his own, averaging 18 points a game in the championship tournament as a freshman.

It was the same thing when he left school. Two seasons was enough. He was ready. It was decided. No looking back. No second thoughts. The toughest part was knowing what to say at the press conference, Bibby never having been much good at those sort of things.

But he had just been named Pac-10 Player of the Year and first-team All-American and, besides, all those questions about Henry, by then coaching at USC and divorced from Virginia, were wearing. How many other players had to deal with so many questions about a matter that is still so private that no one will discuss the specifics of the fallout, except that father and son these days don't talk much but are cordial on such occasions?

Mike would have made the jump anyway, but he and his girlfriend had also become parents on Christmas Eve of that sophomore season. He was a father at 19 and going to the NBA.

But he was also still so connected to home that Virginia would often cook and fly somewhere close, like Houston or L.A. or Sacramento, to deliver meals, and soon it became something for all the Grizzlies to share in, just like when she would make the drive from Phoenix to Tucson three times a week with six or eight plates stacked in the back seat.

He was still so close to the same friends from his youth that everyone got tattoos of Team Dime -- Dime because he always wears uniform No. 10 -- about 20 people in all including some family.

"Family and friends," Virginia said. "He likes being in a comfort zone."

More like he loves it.

"I talk to people," Bibby said. "I just don't always go about it how they want me to. My uncle will say, 'There's a little kid over there. Go say hi to him.' I'm not good at stuff like that. I feel people will come up to me if they want to meet me."

Said Dane Flores, his half brother: "At first, he didn't know what to do in those situations. I had to tell him, 'Make them feel good.' Before, he wouldn't really interact with them. He could be that quiet. But now he understands about reaching out to interact with people."

The good news is the comfort zone has great mobility. Girlfriend Darcy Watkins and their two kids will be coming to Northern California with Mike. Both brothers and their families are also moving. Virginia will be a familiar face to flight attendants on the Phoenix-to-Sacramento run. And he will see his brother-in-law at least twice during the season -- Eddie House plays for the Miami Heat.

All that will help, but the trade from the Grizzlies to the Kings will be a great thing on the court no matter what, after a combined 53-161 in Vancouver, after going from No. 2 pick to disappearing from the national stage. He has decided so.

[Mark my words- Bibby will not make the Kings a better team! -ed]

"Don't touch me you dirty animals!!"

08-20-2001, 09:38 PM
The one thing that can stop Mike Bibby?

Imagined Disease