NBA title winner was proud of his North Tyrone heritage

IF, like me, you’ve been enthralled by the Netflix documentary series ‘The Last Dance’, which charts the successes of the dominant Chicago Bulls team of the 1990s and the career of Michael Jordan, then your interest in the NBA and basketball will have been reignited, so you can imagine the pleasant surprise I got when I was pointed in the direction of a recent Tweet by Newtownstewart man, Michael Corless.
He posted a black and white photo of the Rochester Royals team of 1950/51, with the following text: “Grandad’s first cousin Joe McNamee number 20. NBA champion 1951 with the Rochester royals (now the Sacramento kings). Must be the only man with a father from Douglas Bridge to win an NBA title.”
While that post came as a surprise to me, it appears that the fact Joe had won an NBA title was a bit of a shock for Michael too.
“I was surprised because I thought he had played basketball at a lower level but it was great to find out that he had actually won an NBA title. [It’s] definitely something [for the family] be proud of,” he said.
Joe’s dad, Joseph senior, who was born in Douglas Bridge in 1887, emigrated to San Francisco in the 1920s. There, he married Rose Connolly and the pair raised two boys, Joe and his brother, Frank, who is now 91.
Several of Joseph’s siblings stayed in Strabane, including his brother, who became Michael’s great-grandfather, while currently Michael’s aunt Petua McNamee (owner of Cafe Scoop in Strabane) and Joe’s nephew, Aidan McNamee, who still lives on the family farm, both live in Tyrone.
Joe, though, was born in San Francisco, California, on September 24th, 1926, and he developed into quite the basketball player, shining on college courts before turning pro.
Playing for the University of San Francisco, Joe helped his school to an outstanding 1949 season when they posted an unforgettable 21-5 winning record during the regular season. They then went on to become the first team from the West Coast selected to compete in the NIT Tournament, which they promptly won thanks largely to McNamee, who averaged 9.8 points per game for the ‘Dons’, including a team-high 20 in a thrilling 64-63 triumph against Utah in the second round.
That title win resulted in the team being welcomed back to San Francisco with a ticker tape parade down Market Street upon their return from New York.

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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