Prior to every professional American sporting event it’s customary to play the “Star Spangled Banner,” but for the most part it’s only done one way.
Full performance at bottom of article, with sound.
Once in a while you’ll have a singer try to Bogart the mic with incessant octave and key changes, and too often (as in the case with Fergie) it comes off as showy, if not downright terrible.
Many people find it annoying when singers do this, but such was not the case in 1983 when legendary singer Marvin Gaye took center stage of the NBA’s all-star game.
Then-Laker coach Pat Riley called it a “spiritual-type moment” for him, and he wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
Gaye was no stranger to the sporting world. He had sang the anthem a sporting events on numerous occasions, but few are aware of his attempts to join the fraternity of American professional athletes.
At the height of his career, he had shocked Motown executive Berry Gordy with his decision to try his hand as a boxer. This was after he had tried out to play for the Detroit Lions in the NFL. Although Gaye saw the pro-athletes he admired as inspirations, he might not have been aware of just how inspiring he was to them.
“I’ve gone on the record many times saying that Marvin Gaye was my favorite artist,” said NBA icon Julius “Dr. J” Erving. “His music touched me in a deep, special and personal way. Reading Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, it’s kind of gut-wrenching. It’s heartfelt in terms of the struggle he had … Just to do what he wanted to do. He really just wanted to be a crooner. He just wanted to sing and share his gift with the world.”
“His music resonated with me just growing up as a kid in the ’60s and ’70s in Chicago,” said Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas. “His music was our music. He really hit how we were feeling … in poverty, and our desperate cry for just recognition, and understanding.”
“It was just common knowledge that whenever you talked about the anthem, everybody just pointed to it like, ‘Yeah, that was the best one that was ever done.’ Not because his techniques were good — they were — but because spiritually, in that moment, he really captured the feelings of everyone in The Forum. I’ve never been part of an anthem where everybody’s just in unison and lost control and just started moving. It was a beautiful moment.”
The performance is something people still talk about to this day. Thomas went on to say that “before you knew it, you were swaying, clapping and were like doing something to the anthem that you’d never done before in your life. Or since.”
“It just wasn’t the players. It was the whole arena. Everyone in unison almost caught the Holy Ghost.”
Enjoy what many still call the “greatest anthem in the history of sports.” You’ll have a hard time not swaying along.