Down on a 289-acres spread in Brenham, Tex., roams the world's tallest cowboy, Elvin Hayes. To hear Hayes talk, tangling with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a piece of cake compared to working with a cow. "You work some kind of long hours," said the Bullets' all-star forward, who resides in Houston during the off season when he isn't tending to business at his cattle spread.
"When I first came down here this summer, I was getting up a 6 and not stopping until 10 p.m. That's a long day. And I've got only 100 head of cattle."
No wonder Hayes hardly touches a basketball in the summer. It could ruin his deft branding touch as he applies the Big E symbol to his cattle. For Hayes, the basketball season is long enough without extending it to hot July days in Texas.
"People wonder why I can play all those minutes during the year and not get tired," said Hayes. "My body is never out of shape. But basketball is more a mental strain, anyway. What I do during the summer is get my mind off the game by keeping busy. The ranch and all takes care of that."
Not all the Bullets are so work-oriented. For most of these potential millionaires - "You've got to remember," said one Bullet official, "that rich people don't have to work" - summers are a time to relax, do some traveling, lecture at a few camps and not worry about shooting percentages, foul problems and calls by misguided referees.
Most aren't interested in playing much serious round ball during summer's dog days. But there are exceptions, especially, hungry last-season rookies Larry Wright and Mitch Kupchak, both of whom are too enthusiastic to know how to rest.
Wright loves playground ball so much that he plays almost every day at any of a half-dozen fertile Washington recreation spots. Kupchak has returned to the University of North Carolina for a concentrated strengthening program working with weight equipment.
"I wasn't strong enough last year," Kupchak said. "So I've built my whole summer around workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. I never miss one. I'm convinced it's going to do me a lot of good."
Anyway, he added, he feels guilty if he goes even two days without some type of strenuous exercise. "Maybe I shouldn't worry," he said, "but I don't want to lose my edge."
Kelvin Grevey didn't want to spend the summer getting up at 11 a.m. every day and then filling in the rest of the hours by playing basketball or tennis.
"I wanted to do something useful," he said, "but I didn't know what."
Then he met Washington attorney Ronald Goldfarb. Why don't you asked Goldfarb, helped out by getting into the community and working to improve conditions?
Grevey liked the idea, and now he is a summer probationary officer with a caseload of 10 juveniles.His salary is being paid by a Goldfarb-organized group, which hopes eventually to utilize other pro athletes in similiar ways.
For Grevey, a political science [WORD ILLEGIBLE] at Kentucky who had no prior experience in the rehabilitation field, this has been a summer of surprise.
"These are kids from 12 to 17," he said. "All of them can be rehabilitated with help but it takes so much time and patience.
"I'm really doing on-the-job training. I had been a Big Brother and I had done counseling at camps but nothing like this. I've got to do everything from making sure they meet the terms of their probation to helping them get jobs or additional schooling on money for school.
"I find myself going into the community for help. You've got to use as many available community resources as possible."
There have been some surprises. Grevey wasn't sure at first whether he could reach his charges, "but now I can see them opening up to me. I try to break that barrier between us as much as I can. I can be their friend as well as a probationary officer."
He has seen firsthand the causes that lead to juvenile crime: "the lack of facilities in the community, the crowded conditions, the lack of interest, the bad influence of peer groups. These officers are trying but they have 60 or more kids to handle. I know how hard it is for me with 10.
"I definitely want to continue to work in the community during the off-season. I can see the benefits. I just hope more pro athletes can, too."
"Can you hang on a minute? The air-conditioning man is here."
With that, Mike Riordan put down the phone and guided the repairman to the faulty unit. Outside, the sign identified the place as "Riordan's Saloon."
"I've been fortunate," Riordan explained. "Not many major breakdowns so far.But this air-conditioning keeps faltering when it's hot."
The headaches of a businessman, Riordan's haven't reached the aspirin stage yet, but then he's been in the restaurant-bar business only three months. It's like being a rookie all over again.
Things are going well, he explained later. His location in the heart of Annapolis' waterfront area is a good one and he is attracting enough tourists and natives to keep things busy.
Riordan is learning his new trade from the ground up. He helps out in the kitchen, tends bar, waits on tables, keeps the books - anything that has to be done in his small operation.
"The idea of opening a restaurant has been brewing for years," said beer-drinking Riordan. "The right combination of factors finally came along. The location, the backing and people who can help me out when I'm off playing basketball.
"If I retire, I can do this full-time or get into coaching. I'm really enjoying it. It's lot of work, especially getting things off the ground, but there is a lot of satisfaction in it, too.
"Heck, the people are so nice around here we don't even need a bouncer or doorman. It's a quiet eating place. That's what is fun about it."
One of these days Wes Unseld might walk on the Capitol Centre floor with a camera instead of a basketball. He's becoming a serious photographer - he took a college course in photography this summer - and now he also has a real estate license.
"I'm starting back working on my master's in education, too," said Unseld. "I've done that a number of times alreay but this time I think I'll get it."
He also fits in three weeks to run his basketball camp. But as for playing a lot himself, no way. "I'm not young anymore," he said.
The same could be said for Dave Bing, who is in the midst of the 10th year of his All-Pro Basketball Camp in the Pocono Mountains. Bing sponsors seven camp weeks - four for boys, three for girls - while associates run his management firm in Detroit.
"We sell out every week here," said Bing. "It's a great way to spend the summer. I find it very relaxing and rewarding."
Phil Chenier occupies some of his time by lecturing at camps like Bing's and playing in a high-caliber playground game or two. Just enough to keep that picture-perfect shotting form of his oiled and flowing.
And if you happen to be looking for a racquetball patsy in the suburbs of Atlanta, keep away from Tom Henderson's housing complex.
"I'm playing a lot of serious racquetball this summer," reports the man who can get the ball up the court as quickly as any guard in the NBA. "Only found one dude who can beat me. And I'm going to get better."
But how is your basketball game, Tommy?
"Hey, training camp is just away. Let me forget about basketball for a while."