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Corky lured me into his story of fame, addiction, lies and discovery of the only true path to freedom. In our world, athletes are idols someone whom followers desire what they have. What we desperately need is heroes someone we want to emulate. The transition, idol to hero, is a common challenge for all addicts. Each of us battles his own addictions; destructive behaviors that we cannot control. Addiction is loss of self. This is the story of Corkys pain and acceptance by the One source of hope.
If ever a life appeared wasted, it was Corkys during the eighteen months I knew him. As a teenager in Newark, he perfected a deadly jump shot. His skill carried him to the Pistons and the Lakers. But first, he spent endless hours perfecting Newark city basketball moves as the only white kid in the neighborhood. He was compelled by an inner urge that guided him when and how to pass and when to shoot. Minimal notice was given to responsibility.
For two years he set scoring records in junior college. Corky strutted into George Washington University. Coach Bill Reinhart molded a team that became champions of the Southern Conference ( Corky is still highest scorer for three-year players). He finished as game high scorer in the East vs West college All-star game in Madison Square Garden. It was 1955 and his picture appeared on the cover of Life magazine. After pro-basketball, Corky fell under a deadly addiction to gambling. His story is told through the memories of those who knew him. My own interaction with him opens the book.
Walter Corky Devlin lay comatose on a couch. I discovered him sleeping in a bipolar trance. Later, I would become fascinated by his pro basketball and fast lane experiences. I thought we became friends. But friendship requires differing contributions from its participants. Corky enlisted me as observer during his march to self-destruction. I served as willing accomplice. He boasted that he could, See my soul. During those days, I possessed limited understanding of what he revealed. Never trust a con. I knew nothing of compulsive gambling. I encouraged him to victimize me. Finally, penniless, he migrated to a monastery in Kentucky.
Initially I planned to visit Corky to record his story on videotape. A fortuitous warning from a friend short-circuited my trip. Corkys version of his life consistently fabricated facts. His death launched a posthumous search, which threatened my faith. I couldnt accept writing write a life story risking a negative outcome. I solicited opinions and insights from those who knew him. Corkys stories proved fraudulent the creation of what he wanted me to find. I uncovered a complex mosaic of a soul struggling with addiction before surrendering he admitted his lies.
A few sources verified his accounts of basketball accomplishments at George Washington University. Corky starred on a renowned nationally ranked team. He constantly basked in his story of punching the villainous Hot Rod Hundley. He repeated that story for forty years. His punch proved only imagined. I spoke with players Hot Rod, Chuck Noble, Paul Arizin, Tom Gola and Zelda Spoelstra (at NBA Headquarters). Everyone liked charismatic Corky. Most gave him money. His gambling progressed into compulsion. He claimed that on the day his father died, he lost his wife to his best friend. Those traumas provided his trigger; neither incident proved true. Destructive gambling proved to be his real deal. He focused solely on his next bet feeling little regret for those he hurt.
Corkys younger brother, Bob, idolized players in the NBA. Bob enabled his brothers addiction until Corky found Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. Bob and his wife alone represented the family at Corkys funeral.
Jim Murray (1980 GM of the Philadelphia Eagles) and Corky were close friends. Jim founded the Ronald McDonald Houses with Corkys assistance. Jim and I