The Afro is back. The one like Prince sported when he played basketball for Minneapolis' Bryant Junior High in the early 1970s. He was an, um, undersized guard – a talented reserve (No. 3 in the photo), according to one of his coaches -- but one of the stars of the team was his half-brother Duane Nelson (No. 21 in the photo).
The photo of Prince the hoopster went viral today because Libor Jany, one of the Star Tribune's newer reporters, discovered the clipping in our library and posted it on Twitter. The photo has been picked up by Deadspin, Slate and others with titles like "Prince was an Afro-rocking, coach-hating schoolboy basketball player."
This photo, taken from a Bryant Junior High School yearbook, was published in July 1984 in the Star Tribune as part of a multi-day series on Prince leading up to the premiere of his movie “Purple Rain.” For the series, I interviewed countless people in Prince’s life – from his parents and his high school music teacher to various classmates and musicians.
As he moved on to Central High School (class of 1976), Prince, who still likes to play basketball (even wearing his high-heeled shoes), gravitated more toward music, especially since he wasn’t getting much playing time on the court.
Two quick memories about the series:
The publisher of the Star Tribune told me that the series accounted for the biggest newsstand sales of the paper ever – figures that were later eclipsed when the Minnesota Twins won their first World Series in 1987.
At the post-premiere party for “Purple Rain” in Hollywood, a member of Prince & the Revolution told me that the series “blew our minds.” The musician said the band talked more about the series than about the movie.
One thing the series disclosed: Prince’s true age. I tracked down his birth certificate and learned that he was actually two years older than he had purported to be. He was born on June 7, 1958, as Prince Roger Nelson, according to the birth records.