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  • Bill Chastain

"Bad News" Barnes

After a reader read my recent blog about the Brothers Silna and the Spirits of St. Louis, he reminded me about the team's most colorful character, Marvin "Bad News" Barnes.

Barnes, a 6-foot-8, 210 pound power forward, went to Providence and led the nation in rebounding during the 1973-74 season. He joined the Spirits in 1974, bringing along his unique skill set on and off the court.

Here are some of the more memorable anecdotes Barnes left behind:

According to the Providence Journal, the Spirits had an 8 a.m. flight from Louisville that arrived in St. Louis at 7:56 a.m. Barnes did a double take when he saw the flight schedule and announced, "I ain't getting on no time machine."

No problem. He rented a car and drove home.

Celebrated sports host Bob Costas was the Spirits' radio announcer. In Terry Pluto's book, Loose Balls, Costas told a story about a flight delay that prevented him from arriving to St. Louis's game at Memphis until after the game started. Costas told the players he thought he might get fired.

"The guys were listening to me, offering their sympathy," Costas said. "Then Marvin Barnes said, 'Hey, bro, don’t worry about it. I’ve been looking for a little white dude to drive me around in my Rolls-Royce.'”

According to the Virginian Pilot, Barnes missed a flight to Norfolk, where the Spirits were scheduled to play the Virginia Squires. No worries, Barnes charted a plane and arrived just before tipoff, women on each arm and carrying a bag of McDonald's burgers. Once on the court, he opened his full-length mink coat. Underneath, he was dressed in his St. Louis uniform.

“Boys, Game Time is on time!” he said.

Disciplinary action prompted Barnes getting benched in the first quarter. In the three quarters that followed, he scored 43 points and had 19 rebounds.

Finally, Barnes asked Bill Reynolds of the Providence Journal if cocaine killed brain cells.

Reynolds answered: "I don’t know, Marvin, that’s what they say.”

Barnes pondered Reynolds' reply and noted: “Then I must have been a genius when I started out.”

Barnes later played with the Detroit Pistons, the Buffalo Braves, the Boston Celtics, and the San Diego Clippers. "Bad News" died in 2014 at age 62.

I invite you to hang out with me on my site at and read more of my blogs. You can also download FREE chapters from some of my fiction books: Peachtree Corvette Club, The Streak and Retrouvailles. Drop me a line at Asked and Answered. Let's talk about feel-good stories, fun facts, movies, food and, of course, two of my very favorite topics: sports and books. Whatever is on your mind.

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