Much of the free world, and particularly Minnesota, has been reeling from the stunning news Thursday of Prince’s death. He was a rare talent and a vibrant personality whose impact was immeasurably far-reaching.
Some of that reach extended into the sports world. Here are some of the highlights from that realm:
Junior high basketball
One of the most enjoyable images you will ever see is the one that accompanies this post. It’s from Prince’s early 1970s days playing basketball for Minneapolis Bryant Junior High (he’s No. 3, in case it’s not obvious). The photo resurfaced last year on social media, prompting longtime Star Tribune music writer Jon Bream — who wrote the original feature on Prince in 1984 where the photo first appeared for publication — to revisit it in a blog post last March. Wrote Bream:
“This photo, taken from a Bryant Junior High School yearbook, was published in July 1984 in the Star Tribune as part of a multi-day series on Prince leading up to the premiere of his movie ‘Purple Rain.’ … As he moved on to Central High School (class of 1976), Prince, who still likes to play basketball (even wearing his high-heeled shoes), gravitated more toward music, especially since he wasn’t getting much playing time on the court.”
Prince was a regular at Timberwolves games — particularly during the original Kevin Garnett era. The Wolves released a statement on behalf of owner Glen Taylor on Thursday that read: “Today we lost a local icon, legend and musical innovator. Prince represented Minnesota with grace, passion and a hunger for helping others. Over the years be became a huge Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx fan, attending numerous games and even treating our Lynx players and staff with a private concert at Paisley Park after winning the WNBA Championship this past fall. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy, especially the Prince family.”
Speaking of that party referenced by Taylor, it was — as many Paisley Park experiences are — a life-altering event for players. I had a chance to ask another famous Minnesotan, Lindsay Whalen, what it was like to be there. Here’s what she said not long after it happened:
“It was kind of surreal. Unforgettable. All the sudden you walk in — I’d never been there before — there’s a studio, and OK, there’s Prince. It’s just like, ‘There he is.’ He was up there doing it, man. He was running around. He had his guitar out. I think he played every instrument. He was unbelievable.”
Super Bowl halftime show
Prince performed the halftime show at Super Bowl XLI in Miami in 2007. It is regarded by many as one of the best halftime performances, and the NFL recently posted on its YouTube page an 8-minute clip of Prince performing through a steady rain.
Former Star Tribune Vikings beat writer Kevin Seifert wrote about Prince’s humorous media availability leading up to that performance, when he tried to get sports writers to dance. Prince and Sid Hartman even got a chance to meet.
“Notoriously reticent in public interaction,” Seifert wrote, “Prince addressed about 300 reporters with a 12-minute set that qualified as the most unique news conference in Super Bowl history.”
That’s just about perfect, and we’d expect nothing less.