When we finally sat down with Elvin Ivory it was a welcomed relief. After a long period of tracking down someone named Elvin Ivory, it would be another month or so before I even knew if I had the right Elvin Ivory. I had never spoken with him, only heard tales of a towering superstar on the court accompanied by photographs of pure jaw dropping feats and neither of these were matching up with the sound of the voice mail greetings I was encountering.
Finally one afternoon one of the many numbers I had been calling appeared and a very soft and extremely polite voice said “Hey…It’s Ivory, what’s up?” Somewhat confused I had to ask a few softballs to make sure I was speaking to the correct Elvin and after his identity confirmation and a few laughs we were off and running.
Myself and camera man john arrived at the airport to pick up Elvin on a Friday afternoon and as the passengers began coming down the escalator John asked “so whats this guy look like?” My response was “I dunno, never met em, but trust me I don’t envision too many 6’8″ sixty-six year olds walking off this plane.” What I didn’t expect was it being so easy to pick him out due to the fact Elvin looks EXACTLY like he did in his college photos, the man is still at his playing weight. Not only that, he still averages 38 points a game, still dunks all over chumps and still has more swagger than Ike Taylor can find on Ebay. While the beard has grayed and he sports sleek black fashion frames not a whole lot has changed.
After a little Cajun hospitality we eased into what would become a full eight-hour interview. Elvin’s story, much like Marvin Winkler’s, makes for very easy story telling. Growing up in 60′s Birmingham, Elvin was well aware of his surroundings and as he puts it “the hand I was dealt as a human being.”
Growing up the son of a single mother and Eastern Star instilled Elvin with a desire to change the system surrounding him from an early age. As the tape ran Elvin quietly talked about numerous events that shaped his outlook, most importantly was the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, his church. Sunday September 15, 1963 was the turning point, he wasn’t just playing basketball anymore, he was using his gift on the court to prove to white America that separate was in fact not equal.
The only thing I knew about Elvin going in was he possessed a nearly “Ali” like awareness of his talents, there is nothing you can say about Elvin Ivory he hasn’t already said about himself. After speaking with him for several hours I understand why this is and I’m okay with it. He spent his entire life growing up with three goals in mind: escape his environment, change the system and leave the door open for the next person to walk through. Basketball was his ticket , he punched it and I think Lafayette is a better place for it.