Elvis Old Bull, one of the brightest flashes to ever shoot across the Montana high school sports landscape, died in a single-vehicle rollover crash on Interstate 90 east of Billings, according to the Billings Gazette. He was 42.
Old Bull was voted by Sports Illustrated as one of the 50 greatest sports figures in Montana for the 20century after leading Lodge Grass High to three straight state titles and earning the MVP award all three years from 1988-1990.
Not the fastest or quickest or highest jumping or the best shot, Old Bull, a 6-foot-3 point guard, was simply electric, especially when the game was on the line.
Old Bull scored nine points in 36 seconds to lead Lodge Grass to come-from-behind victory in the 1989 state title game against Cut Bank, according to the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame’s biography of the inductee.
“Old Bull was at his best in the waning moments of all three contests (at the state tourney), making the deft assist, grabbing the clutch rebound or swishing the high-arching 3-pointer when it mattered most,” current Tribune sports editor Scottwrote March 13, 1990, shortly after Old Bull and Lodge Grass won their third straight title.
The Lodge Grass teams from 1988-90 were regarded at the time as among the best in the state, regardless of class, and it was Old Bull who made the team go, a Class B version of Magic Johnson leading the team on fast break after fast break with a wide smile, mullet and an assassin’s heart when the game was on the line.
Old Bull scored more than 1,900 points during his high school career and was tournament MVP all three years. He had 484 assists in his career.
But Old Bull’s hoops career virtually ended with that third title.
Despite being widely recruited, Old Bull never played college basketball.
Although, occasionally, you would hear rumors that he was playing at such and such small-town, weekend tournament.
Those sightings seemed only to make his legend grow.
In his book, “Counting Coup: A true story of basketball and honor on the Little Big Horn,” Larrywrote of his encounter with Old Bull at a pickup game that “Elvis finished a fast break by opening the rear door of the gym, while the rest of the players ran back down the court, stepped outside and barfed. Elvis had left the building.”
Few players, and many would say none, in the state’s history were better than Old Bull; almost more assuredly, none has ever held the mystique of Old Bull since he lives much more in the memory and news clippings than peers such as Larrysince Old Bull never played college ball.
Sports Illustrated writer Gary Smith, in his acclaimed piece on Montana Indian basketball legends, wrote of Old Bull: “He leads his team to the third state title, wins his third tournament MVP trophy, then simply stops going to school. He watches his classmates graduate through eyes swollen from a car wreck from another night’s drinking. And the sun arcs across the Montana sky.”
Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Justin Moran says the driver of the sport-utility vehicle was trying to pass a tractor trailer when the crash happened just before 11:30. Tuesday. The SUV drifted into the median and off the road before rolling.
All three people in the vehicle were ejected.
A 26-year-old woman and a 51-year-old man, also from Lodge Grass, died at the scene. Old Bull died at the hospital.
Authorities are still trying to determine who was driving.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.