Sinbad Had Mile-High Basketball Dreams Before Comedy
Most sports fans know him as the cleanest comedian since Bill Cosby but a little known fact about Sinbad is that he used to play basketball. In fact, he played basketball very well. Long before he was discovered on “Star Search,” he went by his given name David Adkins and had a much different plan for himself. And the former Denver University basketball player figured sports would be in his future.
Raised in Benton Harbor, MI, Sinbad played basketball well enough in high school to get scholarship offers, although he’s never said how many different schools offered him a scholarship. The one school that was recruiting Sinbad hard was Air Force and so Sinbad decided to take a trip to Colorado to visit the campus.
In a 1997 Ebony interview, Sinbad admitted that when the officials at the Air Force Academy told him he’d have to cut is afro, he lost his desire to play there.
Said Sinbad: “I was like, ‘Cut my ‘fro? No way!’ They just said I’d get over it, but I didn’t want to get over it.”
It was during this trip, and while Sinbad was visiting a relative in Denver, that he saw a picture of the Denver University basketball team in the newspaper. According to Sinbad, the moment he saw the photo he knew that’s where he wanted to play.
Said Sinbad in the Denver Post: “I said, ‘Who are those guys?’ It was Joe Wallace and Horace Kearney. I was like, ‘I want to play with those brothers.”
Sinbad walked on the team at Denver but he eventually earned himself a scholarship, lettering for two years. While most players have dreams or reaching the NBA, Sinbad had dreams of combining the two things he loved: basketball and comedy. His dream was to become a Harlem Globetrotter.
A knee injury hampered his play while at Denver and Sinbad eventually left the school four weeks shy of graduation. After turning down the Air Force after high school, Sinbad went back to the school in an odd attempt to keep his Harlem Globetrotting dream alive. According to Sinbad, he figured he could just make the Air Force basketball team, get noticed and leave.
But his plan failed immediately. Due to his injuries, he wasn’t the same player and he was cut from the team.
Said Sinbad in 1997: “I didn’t make the Air Force basketball team and went into denial. So, I kept going AWOL. My mother kept begging me to go back. I told her, `No, I’m not going back. I’ll just grow a beard. They won’t recognize me. I’ll just be another black man with a beard.’ I was going to Georgia Tech to learn about computers. I’d go AWOL all the time. I’d just leave. I’d come back, hoping they’d throw me out.”
But the Air Force didn’t. At least not right away. Which might’ve been a good thing for Sinbad. Because in 1981, while living at an Air Force base in Kansas, he entered an Air Force Talent Show on the base. His stand-up comedy was a hit and he won several contests in what became his first real foray into stand-up comedy.
He soon began serving as the emcee for these talents shows and it was then that Sinbad realized he could make a living in stand-up. And then his big break came when he won “Star Search” in 1985, defeating Dennis Miller in the competition.
He may have never reached his initial goal of making crowds laugh while dribbling a ball to the sounds of “Sweet Georgia Brown” echoing in an arena. But we’re pretty sure when he looks out over a sold-out show for the taping of an HBO special, he knows he made the right choice.