Letter: How About Mike Heisley?

Letter: How About Mike Heisley?

The state historical marker of Alexandria Basketball legend Earl Lloyd is a magnificent addition to our heritage. As a youngster in the 1950’s, I fondly recall marveling at Lloyd on our 12” television set guarding the opponents best “big man”, gathering rebounds, and setting picks for scorers Dolph Schayes and Paul Seymour.

Surprisingly with its extraordinarily rich basketball tradition, Alexandria has only produced 2 public high school athletes who succeeded in the National Basketball Association: Earl Lloyd and the late 5’9” Mike Heisley.

(Alexandria Boys & Girls Club and DeMatha alumnus Keith Bogans would be a likely 3rd, but his family moved from the City.)

Heisley, whose basketball career peaked as a member of St. Rita’s CYO State Championship team of 1951, wasn’t much as a player, but he was memorable as still the only Alexandria owner of a rare and costly NBA franchise.

Heisley who grew up in the gritty section of Del Ray near the railroad tracks is unknown to many, but was a 1955 GW High School athlete who attended Georgetown University on scholarship as a bright student from a low income family and worked various part-time jobs continuously to make ends meet. His family of 7 lived in a 2 bedroom row house without an automobile and the closest he came to the Belle Haven Country Club was as a caddie.

Subsequently, he made his teachers at GW and his professors at Georgetown proud, as he applied his educational experiences to achieve extraordinary success in business and ultimately purchase the Vancouver Grizzlies for $110 million. This made Heisley the only Alexandrian to ever join this elite owners group. He later moved the team to Memphis, invested $25 million in the ability of NBA legend Jerry West to turnaround the franchise, and celebrated along with the citizens of Memphis, as his previously dysfunctional team quickly became a consistent playoff contender.

While Mike did not play in the NBA, perhaps his GWHS education and his business acumen manifested by his later selling the team for $350 million warrants a state historic marker as well.

Heisley’s extraordinary accomplishments in business and charitable endeavors are noteworthy and testimony to the results possible with an Alexandria public school education; for example, he donated his leadership and $175,000 to spearhead the development of Alexandria’s Vietnam War Memorial.

If not a state historical marker, at least being selected to join Earl Lloyd in Alexandria’s Public High School Athletic Hall of Fame which has failed to select him during the past 5 years. Perhaps making one’s foul shots is deemed to be more significant by the Selection Committee than turning an NBA franchise into a consistent playoff contender which gained $240 million in market value during his stewardship.

Let’s recognize career accomplishments outside of playing ability in athletics.

Jerry File

Alexandria, Va.