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.