Friday, June 5

Dale Ellis: Cold-Blooded

Ran across this in the Marietta Times while looking for something else:

"Marietta firefighters are battling a blaze at 103 Miller Ave.

"Property owner Dale Ellis said he was removing paint from a section of roof between the house and the attached garage with a heat gun. The fire apparently started after he went down to get a hose to spray the area he'd been working on and he stopped to check phone messages, he said."

Ellis, the best 3-point shooter in Sonic history, is from Marietta, so it's quite likely that the Ellis referenced in the article is Lumar Mundane himself.

In and of itself, the story is not really all that newsworthy. Guy works on house, house catches on fire, fire department puts out fire. Nobody gets hurt (hopefully), and life goes on.

Except that by finding that story, and checking to see if this was the same Dale Ellis we all know so well, I came across this story, written by Tom Farrey of The Seattle Times back in 1990. It's a very long one, but exceptionally written, wonderfully informative, and a thrill to read. I'll throw one excerpt at you, to give you an idea of what young Dale's upbringing was like:

[The Ellis' pride in doing things right] had a cost, Vivien [Ellis] believes, and that was his father's life.

On Sept. 22, 1969, John Henry Ellis Jr. was shot to death at age 42, the victim, Vivien says, of intra-family animosity.

John knew the man, a distant in-law, and for years they rode to work at the Lockheed plant together. But Vivien said the man did not like the Ellises, and on that day in an all-black Marietta restaurant tempers boiled over. The man shot John in the back. John turned and fired, hitting him. The gunfight ended with one last blast, a bullet through the heart of John Ellis.

"They argued, he shot him, he died,'' Lucille said.

The older children grieved the loss openly. One night Lucille sent Stephanie to bed, only to find her in the morning in another room curled up in the love seat where her father sat every Sunday night, sharing ice cream and Walt Disney with his kids.

... If Dale felt the same, he did not let on. Dale and Darryl had to stay home when the family went to the hospital. Too young, they were told. So Dale dealt with the matter on his own, a 9-year-old pillar of strength. Vivien can't recall him ever crying, and the twins rarely talked about it after that.

Pretty stirring stuff, and the rest of the article is along those lines.

You know, following the Sonics as closely as we do here, you begin to think you know the players enough to speak intelligently about them. Dale Ellis? Oh, yeah, he's from the south, got ignored in Dallas, came to Seattle, got his revenge, had some drinking and driving problems, got into a nasty spat with his wife, bounced around the league a bit, came back to Seattle, then retired.

Case closed, right?

Except it's not. Not by a longshot. Every one of these players, past and present, has traveled a remarkably convulted road to get to the NBA, and as fans, we only see them briefly as they zoom by us on that road.

20 years ago, Ellis' family never thought he'd come back to Marietta, that he was done with that town for good. Now, 20 years later, he's fixing the roof on his home in Marietta when a fire breaks out.

There's a story in there somewhere, but only Dale Ellis knows it.

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