George Yardley draws one final crowd

Bryce Alderton

George Yardley dazzled fans with his graceful style on the basketball

court. On Thursday, friends, family and admirers arrived at Calvary

Chapel of Costa Mesa to pay final respects to the Naismith Basketball

Hall of Famer, Newport Harbor High graduate and community icon.

Bursts of laughter rippled among nearly 800 well-wishers as 12

speakers, including fellow NBA Hall of Famers Bill Sharman and Dolph

Schayes, remembered the revered Yardley, who died Aug. 12 after

succumbing to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease,

at age 75.

The 1 1/2 -hour service began and ended with a slideshow of photos

spanning Yardley's life shown on video monitors throughout the

church. A majority of those photos centered on family, including one

where Yardley, an avid golfer and tennis player in addition to his

basketball prowess, tilts his head over before planting a kiss on

wife Diana.

One of Yardley's four children, daughter Marilyn, played a song on

the guitar in dedication to her father. The tribute included the

words "he hears me when I call."

Speakers like the 6-foot-8 Schayes, a 12-time NBA All-Star in his

15 seasons with the Syracuse Nationals, brought the crowd to laughter

several times with stories of Yardley's wit and honesty between the

two video presentations.

Yardley, part of the Newport Harbor Class of 1946, went on to basketball stardom at Stanford and the NBA. In the pros, he was named

an All-Star six times in seven seasons playing for the Fort Wayne and

Detroit Pistons and Syracuse Nationals.

Schayes remembered guarding Yardley, then a member of the Detroit

Pistons, in a game during the 1957-58 season, when Yardley became the

first player to score 2,000 points in a single campaign.

"There was a pick-and-roll and I switched to George. His eyes

[lighted] up," Schayes said. "He went around me and dunked. I like to

think I helped George score 2,001 points."

David Feldman, a sportscaster who got his start in Orange County

before moving to ESPN, met Yardley 15 years ago and stirred the crowd

with laughter about he and Yardley. Yardley was famous for wearing

braces on both knees when playing tennis. .

"Every ball that came over the net, [Yardley] said, 'Yours,

yours,'" Feldman said. "He didn't move. We lost the first three

games, and I asked him, 'What is the deal?' He said, 'With your

athleticism, we're not going to win, and I'm not going to hurt these


"You will not find a more loyal, more enjoyable person to be


Yardley didn't get caught up in style or his accomplishments, said

Richard Yardley, one of his twin sons.

George Yardley retired from the NBA at 31, with a lifetime average

of 19.2 points and 8.9 rebounds. He kept a promise to his family --

which also includes daughter Anne and son Robert -- that he would

return to California to provide a better life for them by starting

his own engineering business, which became the George Yardley Co.

"He never talked about achievements, but he was always pursuing

excellence," Richard Yardley said. "He did not care about people's

fame and spent time with people he liked."

One of the happiest moments for Richard Yardley and siblings was

learning their father had accepted Jesus Christ in his later years.

"The Lord blessed him and saved the best for last," Richard

Yardley said. "My dad always loved dessert.

"I prayed he would receive the Lord, and it was an answer to 30

years of prayer."

* BRYCE ALDERTON is a sports reporter. He may be reached at (949)

574-4222 or

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