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Bud Palmer

Sports: Basketball, Soccer & Lacrosse

Born: September 14, 1921

Died: March 19, 2013

Town: Princeton

 

John Shove Flynn was born September 14, 1921 in Hollywood, California and grew up in Princeton. His father (below), Lefty Flynn, was a swashbuckling silent-movie action star know for his Westerns. His mother, Blanche Palmer, was a classically trained singer from a wealthy fleftyflynnamily. They called their sun “Bud” because he was the spitting image of his dad. The marriage broke up by the middle of the decade, and when Blanche took custody of their children, moved them to Switzerland briefly, and then settled in Princeton.

During that time she insisted the kids drop Flynn and use her family name.

Young Bud Palmer possessed strength and athleticism beyond his years. As a boy, he had to quit boxing because the parents of his grade-school opponents complained to his mother he was too powerful to fight. Bud switched to basketball while attending the Hun School in Princeton. He had trouble reaching the rim with his set shots, so he invented a dribble-step-jump method that provided a little extra oomph. Over the next decade, this evolved into rudimentary jump shot, which he employed to great effect in boarding school at Phillips-Exeter Academy, where he also starred for the soccer and lacrosse teams.

By the time Bud was a senior, he had grown a full foot, to 6’4”. He was a swift, smart and powerful center with an unstoppable weapon that was not fully appreciated by his coaches. At Princeton, he was the star of the basketball team, breaking the school scoring record in 1942–43, however like most centers of this time, he played with his back to the basket and ran the offense as the Tigers’ pivot man.

While at Princeton, Bud earned All-America recognition in soccer and lacrosse, as well as basketball. To this day he is New Jersey’s only Division I athlete to earn this honor in three different team sports.

Bud enrolled in the Navy in 1944 and learned to pilot B-26 bombers. He did not see enemy action but assumed the dangerous duty of towing targets for rookie fighter pilots. He often joked that he was the most shot-at pilot in the war.BPalmer2copy

In 1946, Bud decided to try his hand at pro basketball. He asked Knicks president Ned Irish for a tryout. Initially, Irish refused. He changed his tune when Joe Lapchick reminded him how Bud’s jumper nearly knocked his St. John’s team out of the National Invitation Tournament. Bud made the team but coach Neal Cohalen was reluctant to play him at first because of his odd shot. Eventually, Bud became the team’s most reliable scorer, its first captain and highest-paid player.

Bud spent three seasons playing in the NBA. While working and playing in New York, he began making important media connections. He penned (anonymously) the "Ask Jake" column for Glamour magazine—the first male advice feature in a women’s magazine. He also began working in local TV and radio. After hanging up his uniform, Bud did play-by-play for the Knicks on WMGM radio, and later for Channel 11. In the decades that followed, he would broadcast sports for all three national TV networks—including groundbreaking coverage of the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, and the 1968 Summer Games, for which he won an Emmy. Bud was also a regular on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

New Yorkers also became familiar with Bud for his work at City Hall. From 1966 to 1974, the handsome man about town served as the Commissioner of Public Events for mayor John Lindsay, functioning as the official ”greeter” for visiting celebrities and dignitaries for $1 a year.

Bud retired to Palm Beach, where he passed away from prostate cancer at age 91.

 

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