Greg Hardy covers sports for the Orlando Sentinel, and the lucky sucker once got to put his rebounding skills to good use at a Prince concert. Thanks to Handsome Joe Garza for passing this story along.
The night was Friday, August 15, 1997. I had fourth-row seats. During the encore, Prince threw his towel into the crowd. Maybe it’s because I was close to where the actual basketball hoop would have been if the arena were set up for a Heat game, but I suddenly was blessed with mad rebounding skills.
Because my seat was on the aisle, I had the freedom of a little more space around me. I went straight up, then came straight down with the towel in my hands. I windmilled my elbows out hard to complete the box out. Prince’s towel. Mine! I shoved it under my shirt for the rest of the show so no one would swipe it. Perfect.
When the lights came on, and the audience starting filing out, I was approached by a South Beach version of Tony Soprano. Big, older guy, blinding electric blue sports coat that distracted from his fake platinum hair. “Are you the guy who caught the towel?” he asks.
“Uh … yeah!” I pulled it out from under my shirt.
“My girlfriend would really like it,” he jerked his thumb back behind him, and I saw his aging beauty queen. “How about I give you a hundred bucks?” He whipped out a fat wad of a cashroll from his trousers.
“I don’t know,” I mused. “It’s pretty special.” In truth, this was a plain white terrycloth towel indistinguishable from what you’d find on a floor of a YMCA. It wasn’t like it was embroidered with a Prince Symbol to prove who it was who wiped what.
“How about two hundred?”
“One fifty,” he said, letting me know that’s that. I said sure.
When we left the arena, people were handing out cards advertising an after-show at Glam Slam, Prince’s club on South Beach. With my windfall, Miriam and I sped to the shore. South Beach Tony’s donation funded our cover charge and the drinks we started buying for strangers at the bar.
Then, after spending two hours in an arena watching Prince play from 10 feet away, we spent an hour in a nightclub 2 feet from where he kept rocking. Mostly it was jamming and instrumentals, but I’ll never forget a faithfully funky version of The Temptations’ The Way You Do the Things You Do.
So maybe Prince never did tear up the NBA. At least my basketball skills paid off on the floor of the Miami Arena in front of thousands of cheering fans. Baby, I’m a star.”