CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every now and then there are athletes who comes into our lives who is more than just "ballplayers." Their accomplishments are such, and they compete with such splendor, that they become iconic.
In the Kanawha Valley in the 1960s, there was such an athlete in former Charleston High School basketball player Curtis Price.
If you were not around, it is hard to explain how big of a basketball shadow was cast by Price in Charleston.
I remember first seeing him in 1965 when he was a ninth grader at Thomas Jefferson Junior High. He and teammate Skip Mason led their team to an undefeated season and won the City Conference championship. Even as a ninth grader, Price had a certain style, grace and elegance about him.
He then went on to Charleston High from 1966-68. He led the Mountain Lions to the Class AAA state title game in 1967, where they lost to Beckley. They then had an undefeated season in 1968 and won the state championship over Beckley 78-64. From 1967 to 1969, Charleston only lost two regular-season games and accumulated an amazing 48-game winning streak.
But it wasn't just the winning that made Price and his teams so special. It was also the timing.
At a time of incredible racial strife in our country, Price and his teammates had a unifying influence on our city. Their crowds were racially diverse. They brought pride to the East End neighborhoods, the Washington Manor projects, the middle class and upper-middle class in Kanawha City and other Charleston neighborhoods. Fans from other schools who just loved basketball flocked to see the Mountain Lions play.
When they played, the old Civic Center was the place to be. There were large and spirited crowds looking forward to seeing fast-break, up-tempo basketball. The Mountain Lions did not disappoint.
Besides Price, other CHS players included Charles Rush, Larry "Deacon" Harris, Levi Phillips, Eugune "Sonny" Burls, Skip Mason, Don Megginson, Steve Parsons and Randy Elkins.
Coach Lou Romano was also a star, but it was Price who was nicknamed "The King." Prior to his senior year, he was named a Street & Smith's Magazine All-American, a rare honor for a kid from our state. He more than lived up to the billing.