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Catching Up With ... Jack Marin

Each Tuesday in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

When he chose pro basketball over a medical career, folks thought Jack Marin should have his head examined. Play for the bedraggled Baltimore Bullets rather than become a doctor? 

Forty-three years later, Marin has no regrets. The Bullets' top draft pick in 1966 wouldn't change a thing. His six years in Baltimore convinced him that it was more fun to take shots on the court than to give them in a hospital.

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"I thought I'd play ball for a couple of years to get money for med school," said Marin, a Duke grad who averaged 15 points a game over 11 NBA seasons. "I didn't know that I'd find the game so enjoyable and challenging.

"I guess I just wanted to be an adolescent a while longer."

Now 64, Marin is a lawyer living in Durham, N.C. While he once battled guys like John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas, he now represents them as outside counsel to the National Basketball Retired Players Association.

A two-time All-Star forward, Marin relished his time with the Bullets, helping the club go from worst to first in three short years. His rookie season, Baltimore won 20 games and finished 48 games off the pace. In 1968-69, the Bullets won a league-best 57 games and took the NBA East.

That team -- forwards Marin and Gus Johnson, guards Earl Monroe and Kevin Loughery and rookie center Wes Unseld -- put the town on the basketball map.

"What chemistry we had," the 6-foot-7 Marin said. "It was fun, up-tempo basketball, to play and to watch. I left after every game, exhausted."

His career highlight? The 1971 division championship series against the New York Knicks, won by the Bullets in seven games. That spring, Baltimore was still reveling in the Orioles' 1970 World Series victory and the Colts' Super Bowl title. When the undersized Bullets topped the hated Knicks, fans went nuts.

"Those games were works of art," Marin said. "Perfect matchups, perfect drama. The Knicks had Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and a championship aura. We were less disciplined, the upstarts. Those were chess games, all."

Marin was guarded by New York's Bill Bradley, later a U.S. senator. Routinely, Bradley tried to rattle Marin by stepping on his toes and yanking at his shorts.

"When he (Bradley) retired from the Senate, I sent a note congratulating him on his service to his country," Marin said. "Then I wrote, 'You were a far dirtier basketball player than a politician.'"

A left-hander, Marin played with a large red birthmark that ran from shoulder to elbow. Self conscious? Not Marin.

"I told people that one night my shooting was so hot that I set my arm on fire."

In 1972 he was dealt to Houston in a trade for Elvin Hayes, who would help the Bullets to a world championship in 1978. Marin holds no grudge.

"I met my wife in Houston," he said. "She wasn't into basketball. I told her I was with the Rockets. She thought I worked at the space center."

Married 35 years, Marin is an avid golfer, the champ at his country club and a favorite in celebrity tournaments. Last month, he defeated Mickey Tettleton (former Orioles catcher) by three strokes to win the San Diego Celebrity Classic.

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Marin also volunteers as a golf instructor at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he teaches the game to Marines wounded in combat.

"These are veterans who've suffered everything from burns to amputations to brain injury," Marin said. "Golf helps these guys get through tough times. Some say they want to be competitive players some day.

"That's very rewarding."

Baltimore Sun file photos

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