In the end, former NBA journeyman center Dwayne Schintzius will probably be remembered most for boasting easily the most outrageous mullet in basketball history, and you get the feeling he never had a problem with that. Schintzius, who passed away on Sunday after a two-year long battle with leukemia, boasted a bodacious hairdo that he speculated led to a trade that cost him a prime gig backing up David Robinson on the San Antonio Spurs in 1990. And like Oscar Gamble's afro or Rollie Fingers' handlebar mustache, Schintzius more or less perfected his particular style.
Unlike Fingers, and to a lesser extent Gamble, Schintzius was never a game-changer on the court. Playing with the Spurs, Kings, Celtics, Clippers, Pacers and Nets during his nine-year career, he never averaged more than the 3.8 points per game he managed during that rookie year with the Spurs, finishing with career summations of 2.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and half a block in just nine minutes a contest.
Of course, the contests were never the thing for Schintzius. Though he was a McDonald's All-American in 1986 and managed big numbers during his four years at the University of Florida, he never seemed to take the game as seriously as the game's "protectors" seemed to want to take it. As evidenced by this clip (pun intended, because that's probably what Schintzius would have said) from Eric Freeman's take on the Great Mulletgate of 1990:
Former University of Florida basketball center Dwayne Schintzius, of Brandon High, was the NBA draft's 24th overall pick in 1990. He liked the San Antonio Spurs and anticipated a long career there. But Spurs general manager Bob Bass didn't care for Schintzius' "lobster'' hairstyle.
"He told me to cut it,'' Schintzius said. "So I got it cut and sent him the shavings in an envelope. I'm not sure he appreciated that. And then, away I went.''
The hair grew back, as it usually does, to a career-length of way, way past his ears, but Schintzius' game never made the same strides. He hardly seemed deterred after the NBA took a pass on him starting in the 2000-01 season, playing overseas and even for one season in the startup D-League during 2001-02, but the writing was on the wall.
Still, Schintzius got out of it what he could. Though he was Florida-born and bred, Schintzius traded in on his sturdy looks and 7-2 frame to act as the stereotypical lunkheaded Eastern European center, in the 1996 movie "Eddie." The characterization may not have aged well, but it was a cute acting turn that also allowed Schintzius to parlay his talents in a series of pretty damn strange commercials for … something.
After repeated viewings, we're still not sure what he was endorsing:
Schintzius was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago, and after what then appeared to be a successful bone marrow transplant with his younger brother acting as donor, he seemed to be back on his way toward a healthy second life. The cancer returned, though, and a second transplant from his brother did not change the diagnosis. The Tampa Tribune reported that his particular strain of leukemia was "an uncommon blood cancer that affects only three in 100,000 individuals in the United States each year."
Sad, but fitting. Uncommon, just like the big center. Rest in peace, big man.
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- Dwayne Schintzius