Lou Dunbar’s Minden Upbringing Opened a World of Opportunities

By Nico Van Thyn
Written for the Louisiana Sports Writers Association

Lou Dunbar traveled the world starring for the Harlem Globetrotters, the most beloved and probably the best known basketball team anywhere.

His development as a youngster in Minden provided the foundation for his entry onto the global stage, and now, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. He’s going to be honored next week in Natchitoches during the LSHOF Induction Celebration June 24-26. Visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255 for information and participation opportunities.

No matter where Dunbar was, what language the residents spoke, what side of the road the team bus rode on, his heart always came back to Minden, and it will again next week.

“It’s home,” said a man who made the world his home in his professional career. “My family, my oldest friends, they’re in and around Minden. So this is a very special honor to share with them.”

His fame began at Webster High, where he broke in as a freshman, a rarity for Coach Ozias Johnson’s powerhouse program.

“Louis has developed faster than any boy I’ve ever had,” Johnson said in 1971. “He is a real team man. If we wanted him to score 40 points a game, all we’d have to do is get the ball to him more.”

His senior-season scoring average was 28.2, and that year he swept state honors: a 34-1 record and the Class AA state title, “Outstanding Player” in the Top Twenty state tournament, “Outstanding Player” on the Class AA All-State and All-Prep (all classes) teams, “Mr. Basketball” in the state all-star game (with a record 33 points).

In a Class AA semifinal, he had 41 points and 19 rebounds. As Webster wrapped up the state championship, Dunbar had 26 points and 17 rebounds and, despite playing with four fouls, dominated the final quarter.

One player he topped for All-Prep honors was 7-foot center Robert Parish, his frequent high school and college opponent. They were friendly rivals, while Parish played in his hometown, Shreveport.

Parish went on to be a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer, play in more NBA regular-season games than anyone, and be a four-time NBA champion center (three with the Celtics, one as a Bulls’ reserve).

Their high school teams met seven times, with Dunbar and Parish — no surprise — each playing heroically.

The first three battles were in the 1969-70 season when Dunbar was a junior at Webster and Parish a sophomore at Union High (Shreveport). Their schools then were in Louisiana’s all-black athletic association (LIALO).

Webster won two regular-season meetings; Union won a bidistrict state playoff and went to the state tournament. Webster finished with a 31-3 record.

They did not play the next season, although both led their teams to state title games. When schools integrated, Parish had moved to Woodlawn, in Class AAAA. Webster remained one of a few all-black schools open in North Louisiana, but now competing in the formerly all-white Louisiana High School Athletic Association.

In 1973 and ’74, the super prospects met again — four times — as collegians when Parish, staying in Shreveport, chose Centenary.

Now they’ll share the spotlight again in Natchitoches in the magnificent Hall of Fame museum. Parish was enshrined in the LSHOF in 2002.

Dunbar will be a focal figure in the Thursday 3 p.m. press conference and Saturday’s 6 p.m. Induction Reception and Ceremony, both televised live on Cox Sports Television.

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