keGri Ambassador Spotlight: Duke Legend, Gene "Tinkerbell" Banks
Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Along with announcing the launch of keGri, we are excited to announce our first brand ambassador, or keGri Grinder, Gene Banks!
Gene Banks is a basketball legend from Philadelphia. He graduated high school ranked as the #1 high school basketball player in the nation. Though he was teamed up with NBA legend, Magic Johnson in the first McDonald's All American Game, the top high school all-star game showcase in the world, Gene was awarded the first ever MVP award.
Gene went on to commit to Duke University which, at the time, was a somewhat middle of the pack basketball school. Gene was looking at many schools, including UCLA with the great John Wooden as coach. In hindsight, many experts believe that Gene’s decision to go to Duke was one of, if not the single biggest signings in the history of Duke Basketball. For them to pull the #1 player in the country was not expected at that time, but has become the norm for Duke since the signing of Banks. In fact, it was a bit of a shock for him to sign. He has been called "The Godfather of Duke basketball" because, as future national player of the year and NCAA and NBA legend Johnny Dawkins put it, "Gene paved the way for a lot of us."
But he chose Duke and the rest was history. While at Duke, he enjoyed a hall of fame career, currently still at #8 all-time scoring, and #9 all-time rebounding. He is one of four players in Duke history to ever get a triple double, and only one of two who did it as a freshman, the other being last year, RJ Barrett. And as a freshman, he was a force in getting Duke all the way to the NCAA Championship game in 1978. He was the ACC Rookie of the year, and a rare, three-time All American.
His last year at Duke was the first year that Coach Mike Krzyzewski took the reins. Gene won the ACC scoring title over players such as James Worthy and Ralph Sampson. His game-tying, buzzer-beater in 1981 over North Carolina, pushing the game to overtime, and subsequent go-ahead layup to win the game is credited as the re-ignition of the Duke/UNC rivalry, the greatest rivalry in college basketball and, perhaps, sports.
After breaking his wrist in his final college game, Gene slid in the NBA draft from a potential top-4 pick to the second round where he was picked by the San Antonio Spurs. Gene went on to be a great signing and player in San Antonio, along with The Iceman, George Gervin. There, they made it to the NBA Western Conference Finals twice, pushing the Showtime Lakers to 7 games.
He spent four years on the Spurs before being traded to the Chicago Bulls, where he teamed with a guy most people know as Michael Jordan. He was also known as Air Jordan, His Airness, GOAT, etc. But Gene played there for two seasons before suffering a torn achilles tendon.
After rehabilitating, Gene ended up playing overseas, being awarded as the "best foreign player” to play with the Maccabi Rishon LeZion team in Israel up to 2007.
Currently, you can hear Gene tell his own stories and talk with NBA legends and other influential basketball names on his own podcast, called "The Bank Shot with Gene Banks."
He's had in depth discussions with people like Ralph Sampson, Charles Oakley, Lindsey Harding, George Gervin, Bob McAdoo, Phil Ford, and many more!
At keGri, we want to make everyone the greatest version of themselves. To be able to align and partner with someone who has exemplified GREATNESS since the days they were in high school, and to make a career of being great, it is our utmost honor to have Gene Banks as our first keGri Grinder!