Montana’s ‘Magic,’ Basketball Great Elvis Old Bull Dies

Elvis Old Bull was one of Montana's greatest basketball players.

Elvis Old Bull told an incredible story on the basketball court.

From 1988-90, the high school rez-baller’s fans in Missoula, Montana compared his skills to Magic Johnson, which was fitting at a time when Johnson and Larry Bird were the top players in the NBA.

“He had this mystique, when he showed up, ‘Elvis is here! Elvis is here!’ Don Wetzel Jr., 41, who watched Old Bull play in high school, told Vice.com. “He was Magic Johnson, three or four steps ahead of everybody else and so clutch when he needed to be.”

Old Bull played for the Lodge Grass Indians, where he worked miracles. “In our junior year, at home, we were down 10 to Hardin with 57 seconds left. Our gym had been packed to the core, people all the way up to the top of the balcony, but it emptied out. The next day, people in town were shocked to find out we came back and won,” Gordon Real Bird Jr., a guard for the Lodge Grass Indians from 1988-90.

Real Bird recounted that story to Vice in which, Old Bull scored nine points in 36 seconds, and they, Lodge Grass, were able to tie the game, which they then won in overtime. “That game, more than any other, showed the incredible things Elvis Old Bull could do on a basketball court,” Real Bird said.

Old Bull never went to college (he declined scholarships offers), or the pros, but his reputation in Montana still spread wide. He had led the Indians to three consecutive Class B championships between 1988-90, and was named State Tournament MVP all three years. In 1999, he was the only high school athlete to be selected as one of Sports Illustrated’s Montana’s 50 greatest athletes.

In 2008, Old Bull was inducted into Montana’s Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, and gave this bit of advice: “Make the best of what you’ve got in life.”

On September 30, Old Bull died in a car accident. He was only 42-years-old. Reports from a local news station, KTVQ.com in Billings, Montana said that he was traveling east on Interstate 90 in an Oldsmobile Bravada, when Old Bull and two others were ejected from an SUV before landing in the west-bound lanes.

The crash was reported around 11:20 a.m. Authorities said Old Bull was transported via Help Flight to St. Vincent Hospital following the rollover, where he was later pronounced dead, KTVQ said.

On October 4, his life was celebrated on the same court where he became a legend, the Lodge Grass High School’s basketball floor. “Of course the funeral was sad, but I sure was happy to see my brother Elvis pack that gymnasium one last time,” Real Bird said.

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