Kings Assistant Coach Clifford Ray's wing span is more than 8 feet
SACRAMENTO, CA - There are "fish tales" and then there is Kings Assistant Coach Clifford Ray's story that trumps most unbelievable stories involving man's relationship with the sea.
Before Ray was a coach, he was an undersized, but ferocious, center for the Golden State Warriors - winning an NBA championship during the 1974-75 season. What made him an effective player was the use of his long arms.
"I wasn't 7 foot, 6' 7" or 6' 11", so my wing span allowed me to play with a lot of bigger guys," Ray explained.
Ray never dreamed his wing span (a 45-inch reach) would ever take him beyond the game of the basketball, but in 1978 that's exactly what happened.
The former Warriors star was getting ready to board a plane and join his teammates after going through knee rehabilitation when he received the strangest phone call of his life.
"They're going to have you come to Marine World," remembered Ray. "And they thought your reach might help a critical situation."
One of the park's star dolphins Mr. Spock had swallowed a large bolt, and marine biologists feared the metal object could tear the dolphin's stomach lining, but they were unable reach the bolt without surgery. That's when they called Ray.
"It is a very unusual request, we are asking you to put your hand down a dolphin's throat," Ray said as he retold his story. "They told me what I would experience. I got through the first stomach and into the second stomach; and on the first attempt, I actually got the bolt - a big screw I got my hand on it."
Ray believes Spock understood he was there to help, saying the dolphin was very calm through the entire procedure. He said Spock remembered who Ray was when he visited the park.
"When I would go to the park, he would acknowledge I was there," Ray said.