Suns, Adams Part of 40-year Hoax

By: Greg Esposito, Suns.com

Posted: April 8, 2013

The Phoenix Suns have fallen prey to a massive hoax. One that had been perpetrated for almost as long as the franchise has been in existence. The worst part is, it even involved a member of the Ring of Honor.

Don’t worry, Dick Van Arsdale didn’t go all Manti Te’o and completely make up his brother Tom’s existence, Tom Chambers didn’t have flubber in his shoes, nor did Joe Proski use performance enhancers to grow that spectacular patch of man fur he called a beard. No, this involved something more serious. Something that went nationwide and even made the pages of the Los Angeles Times.

One of the culprits was the Oklahoma Kid, center Alvan Adams and it all started long before the idea of calling Phoenix home or putting on the purple and orange short-shorts ever crossed his mind. For the past 40 years he, along with former Suns teammate John Shumate, have held a secret. A deception so complex that it involved 13 other college basketball players and four students with bad hair from a small college.

Let me explain. Thanks to a Wall Street Journal article last Friday, Adams and Shumate found out they both had been claiming an honor that never really existed in the first place. Luckily, unlike George O’Leary, they had nothing to do with padding their own resumes.

Back in 1973, Adams, Shumate and 13 other players participating in their first season in of NCAA basketball received an honor called the Leo G. Hershberger Memorial Award from the National Association of Collegiate Basketball Writers. There was only one problem, or make that two. Neither the man nor the association ever actually existed.

They were the brainchildren of four college friends from the University of William and Mary. The entire thing was a plot by the quartet to get more recognition for first-year swingman and fellow classmate Mike Arizin, someone they felt the national media was ignoring. So in order to ensure Arizin was recognized, they created their own association and deceased fictitious member of said association to name their award after. The kicker? The four didn’t even know much about college basketball.

After months of studying worthy candidates for their award that was more fake than most people in Los Angeles, they settled on 15 recipients, including Adams, Arizin and Shumate. They made white and red official looking certificates and mailed them to the athletic directors at the different schools.

Most athletes, Adams included, didn’t think much about the award, placed it somewhere and never really thought about it again. That was until Friday morning when their past honor became a punchline decades in the making.

The front-page story was the first time the four men admitted to the prank they had pulled as college kids. And it was also the first time the players realized their award was fictitious.

Adams found out while doing yard work Friday morning when his son called him to tell him about the story. While the name of the award didn’t ring a bell, once the 6-9 big man saw the picture of the certificate accompanying the article he knew exactly what it was and where he had stored it all these years.

Prior to retrieving the certificate from where it had rested for four decades, Adams admitted all he remembered about the award was that his name was misspelled on the certificated (Alvin instead of Alvan). Many people would be angry about such a thing, but Adams wasn’t. He immediately called Shumate (today a Suns scout) to talk about the award. The longtime friends and co-workers laughed about the entire situation realizing that both of their names had been spelled wrong on the initial certificates.

The irony of the entire situation is the unassuming award garnered very little attention when initially distributed, but with college nothing but a distant memory for the 15 recipients, it will now, thanks to a bizarre hoax of four college kids, never be forgotten.

Who knows, maybe it’ll be enough for Adams to finally take the certificate out of the manila folder that it’s called home for years and hang it up for the first time since receiving it. It’d certainly be a conversation starter, even if his name still isn’t spelled right on it.