Dr. Warren Perkins, a multi-sport athlete at Warren Easton and Tulane who played in the first NBA game, died Friday at 92.
Perkins was a practicing podiatrist for 50 years until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina demolished the family home in New Orleans and he turned his attention toward restoring it.
But it was in basketball where he made his mark.
Twice an All-Southeastern Conference selection at Tulane, he joined the fledgling NBA in 1949 and was a member of the Tri-Cities Blackhawks when they defeated the Denver Nuggets 93-85 in the first game in league history, played Oct. 29, 1949, in a high school gym in Moline, Illinois.
It was a fact Perkins wasn’t aware of until it was brought to his attention by local sports historian Bob Remy decades later.
“When that story came out, he was almost surprised by it,” Warren Perkins Jr. said of his father Friday. “But he obviously was very proud of it, as he was being a four-spot letterman at Easton and a three-sport letterman at Tulane. He had a couple of chances to sign in baseball, but he liked basketball better. He was a superstar.”
Perkins, a Navy veteran of World War II before beginning his collegiate career at Tulane, played two seasons with Tri-Cities at a salary of $7,000.
“It was fun, but you never knew what the next day would bring,” he said. “My first year, I think we made 28 trades. One day you’d be guarding someone who was your teammate the day before. The second half of my first season, we brought in a new coach, Red Auerbach. Remember him? The next year, he’s off coaching Providence. That’s how it went.”
At Tulane, Perkins was a major part of the Green Wave’s basketball resurgence under coach Cliff Wells — whose post-war teams, with Perkins and another Easton grad, Alex “Greek” Athas, posted records of 22-9, 23-3 and 24-4 from 1946-49.
Perkins was the first basketball player selected to the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame. He also was a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Audrey; four children, Warren Jr., Robert, Diane Butler and Jodie DeMoss; 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.