Larry Grant will tell a complete stranger that he made the No. 23 famous before Michael Jordan.
It’s a lighthearted means of introduction.
But it’s also legitimate to many who watched the former Lee Edwards basketball great in action during the 1960s and later at Western Carolina University.
Asheville High will hold a jersey retirement ceremony for Grant between its varsity home games against North Buncombe on Friday. Since the Black Hawks do not have a junior-varsity girls team, the varsity boys should tip-off at about 7:30 p.m.
Grant is the first former Lee Edwards basketball player to have his jersey retired.
Lee Edwards existed from 1935 to 1969 before the same campus became Asheville High. Former Cougars boys coach Ken Mapp said he made it one of his missions to see that Grant was recognized before stepping down from his second stint at Asheville in 2006.
“I’m about to bust open,” Grant said Thursday.
“And I usually don’t get this excited.”
Grant was a terror on the court for anyone who played Lee Edwards during the 1968-69 season.
The point guard averaged 18 points, eight assists and five rebounds a game.
Lee Edwards lost to Atkins, 71-70, in the 4-A state championship game played at Greensboro Grimsley, but Grant was still named of the most valuable player of the state finals. A multitude of postseason honors included being the MVP of the Blue-White All-Star game (Grant had 25 points and 11 assists) and participating in the East-West All-Star game.
“The thing that I remember most is not only the games themselves and seeing my name in the headlines every day, the excitement from the students and the faculty,” Grant said.
“I remember getting a standing ovation during a school assembly and that meant so much.”
Grant scored more than 1,100 points at WCU and was a college All-American before graduating in 1973.
Grant, 63, retired in December 2013 after a two-decade career with Buncombe County Health and Human Services.
At the moment, Grant said he still drives patients to their medical appointments as a part-time job. He is also in his 25th year as an official for local high school and recreational basketball.
Grant said he was calling a local game at a Salvation Army on Thursday evening and looking forward to Friday’s ceremony which would include family, friends and another WCU great, Henry Logan.