SAVANNAH, Ga. — Larry “Gator” Rivers, who helped combine highschool basketball in Georgia earlier than taking part in for the Harlem Globetrotters and turning into a county commissioner in his native Savannah, died Saturday at age 73.

Rivers died from most cancers, Chatham County Fee Chairman Chester Ellis advised the Savannah Morning Information. Campbell and Sons Funeral residence mentioned Rivers died at a hospital in Savannah.

Rivers was a sophomore on the all-Black Seashore Excessive College crew that gained the primary Georgia Excessive College Affiliation basketball match to incorporate Black and white gamers in 1967. Seashore blossomed into an all-state participant, graduating from the Savannah highschool in 1969 and occurring to be a small school All-American at Moberly Junior Faculty in Missouri and an all-conference guard at what’s now Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph.

He went on to play and coach for 16 years with the Harlem Globetrotters, reuniting for a time with highschool coach Russell Ellington.

Rivers as soon as advised WTOC-TV that in his tryout for the Globetrotters, crew legend Marques Haynes led Rivers right into a closet storing tables and folding chairs, handed Rivers a basketball and mentioned “Let’s see you dribble round this.”

“So I used to be dribbling round chairs, underneath tables, doing something I may do to impress him,” Rivers mentioned.

Rivers got here residence to Savannah and bought concerned locally, volunteering in faculties, selling the rebuilding of neighborhood basketball courts and opening the non-profit youth mentorship group Gatorball Academy to show basketball.

Rivers ran for the county fee in 2020 as a Republican and was elected with out opposition after the Democratic nominee was disqualified over a earlier felony conviction.

”I don’t know after we weren’t associates,” Ellis advised WTOC-TV, calling Rivers “a legend.”

”That was an enormous a part of him, giving to the youngsters that’s behind him,” Ellis mentioned. “Like he mentioned, ‘Any person gave to me, and so it’s my job and my duty to provide again.’ And that’s going to be lacking a complete lot.”

Rivers’ dying introduced condolences from U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and others. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp mentioned Rivers “led a lifetime of accomplishment and selected to spend a lot of that life serving the individuals of group.”

Johnson wrote on social media that “Legends by no means die, so you’ll all the time be round, my good friend,” including in an official metropolis assertion that Rivers “by no means forgot Savannah or Seashore Excessive College and devoted limitless hours of mentoring and educating the principles of basketball and life to scores of younger individuals. For this, he’ll all the time be remembered.”

Funeral preparations had not been introduced Sunday.

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