When most of today’s basketball fans hear the name “The Dream” they immediately think of Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon. However, most New Yorkers over 45 know that the nickname “The Dream” belongs to one Dean Meminger. Unfortunately we lost “The Original Dream” last week when he was found dead in a Harlem hotel room.
Meminger might not have enjoyed the notoriety that most hardwood superstars experienced during his playing days and after his retirement, but to New Yorkers he was held in high regards. He was a standout at Harlem’s Rice High School and later went on to make a name for himself at Marquette University. The New York Knicks brought him back home in 1971 where he became an integral component of the team’s 1973 Championship run.
Meminger would have been a starter for most of the teams in the NBA during his heyday. The only reason why he came off the bench for those Knicks’ teams of the early 1970s was because he was playing behind two of the greatest guards of all time in Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. The Dream would spell Clyde or Pearl and there was not that much of a drop-off in production. He could provide scoring in addition to tenacious defense. Just look at the films of the deciding games of the 1973 Eastern Conference Championship and that year’s NBA Finals and you will see what he meant to that team.
As much I remember him for his playing days, I remember him more for his help and guidance when I was running a youth basketball program at Canaan Baptist Church. We use to practice at Rice High School and Dean would come to most of our practices and help out with our young players. Meminger was a fixture at our workouts and games. As I talked with those who knew him since his passing, everybody shared similar stories about “The Dream”. It was if his tenure with the Knicks was secondary.
For all of the great things that this man accomplished during his life, he could not overcome his addiction to drugs, and that eventually cost him his life.
We lost a great man last week. The Original Dream will be missed. Rest in Peace, Dean Meminger.