JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Bleacher Report and Ghost Stories

Red McDavid, circa 1995.
Red McDavid, circa 1995.

I’ve been writing for Bleacher Report for about half a year, and I absolutely love it. The gig is sweet—one lengthy, in-depth feature per month, about wide-ranging topics. It’s truly fun, my editor it awesome … and lots and lots of people seem to read the site.

About two months ago, my editor asked if I had any idea for a piece related to the NBA Draft. One name immediately entered my mind: Taj (Red) McDavid.

I’m not sure why McDavid has stuck with me, but he has. In 1996, he was one of three high schoolers to make himself eligible for the Draft—the others being Kobe Bryant (ho-hum) and Jermaine O’Neal (meh). Both of those guys became All-Stars and all-time greats, while McDavid, well, vanished.

By “vanished,” I don’t mean he got a job and did other stuff. No, he vanished. Nobody knew where he went. After 2001, no articles ever discussed his whereabouts, or offered quotes from the man himself. He wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter or … anywhere. I told Bill (my editor) this, and said all I had was an address—one that might not even be right. “I could fly down to South Carolina,” I said, “but I don’t know what …”

“Fly down,” he said.

So I did.

Knocking on his door wasn’t an easy thing to do. That sounds dumb, surely, to reporters who cover Iraq, Afghanistan, etc … etc. But it was awkward and uncomfortable. People usually vanish on purpose; by design. So when they’re confronted, it can be ugly and weird.

Anyhow, that’s not what happened here. Red was fantastic, I was euphoric.

After sitting down with Red, I went to the high school, digging through old yearbooks. Then I went to the Anderson County Library and went through microfilm and more microfilm and more microfilm. Before long, the narrative came alive …

Hope you enjoy it. Here’s the link.