As a wannabe basketball player in the Detroit Public Schools (Mackenzie High) I was just making my way on the varsity team while former Chadsey High’s Dan Roundfield was locking horns with Mackenzie High’s Lovell Rivers in a big man clash.
Rivers went on to Michigan State and Roundfield to Central Michigan University. The 6-foot-8 Roundfield was an intimidating force in the PSL and later in the Mid-America Conference.
On the collegiate scene, Roundfield was twice selected to the All-Mid-American Conference Team for Central Michigan University. He was also the 1975 M.A.C. Player of the Year.
Roundfield spent 12 seasons in the American Basketball Association and National Basketball Association, playing for the Indiana Pacers (1975-1978), Atlanta Hawks (1978-1984), Detroit Pistons (1984-1985), and Washington Bullets (1985-1987). Then he moved to Turin, playing for Auxilium Torino.
Roundfield earned a reputation as a strong rebounder and tenacious defender, during his career and he was named to five NBA All-Defensive teams and three All-Star teams. His nickname was Dr. Rounds.
Roundfield was selected to the NBA Eastern Conference All-Star team for three consecutive seasons from 1980 to 1982.
The last time I saw Dan was in 2003 when the NBA All-star Weekend was in Atlanta. He was at the Legends Brunch and he and I and the late Dave Debusschere found ourselves at the same table. We talked about Detroit and all our memories here. It was an enlivened conversation. It seemed like we had known each other for years.
That is why I was particularly excited to see Dan and help welcome him into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. The Induction ceremony was held this past Sunday, and as ill-timed faith would have it, Dan was not there to revel in his hometown moment of glory.
Roundfield, 59, died off the Caribbean island of Aruba the week before his scheduled induction. Reportedly he was trying to save his wife from drowning and did help her to safety, but the extreme undertow sucked him back out to sea.
Police, firefighters, the Coast Guard and volunteers searched for him, finding his body about 90 minutes later, trapped by rocks underwater.
Bernie Roundfield, who said she was helped to safety by a U.S. tourist snorkeling nearby, said in an interview that the couple, who live in the Atlanta area, had come to the island with their two grandchildren.
The couple had visited Aruba nearly 20 times and were caught off-guard by the strong currents at the swimming area known as “Baby Beach,” even though they had been there many times in the past.
“We always go to Baby Beach, and we go there because it’s so safe,” she told The Associated Press. “It happened so fast.”
Bernie Roundfield was treated for shock after the incident. Julia Roundfield, a sister-in-law of the athlete, who lives in Detroit, said members of the former athlete’s extended family were still trying to get details of the incident.
“He was a real sweet guy,” she said. “He really was a sweetheart.”
Said former Piston Rick Mahorn at Roundfield’s MSHOF induction ceremony: “Dan was a tough competitor, but he was a wonderful person first and foremost. He was respected around the league as a person of character.”
Added former teammate James Edwards: “When I came to Indiana I knew no one, but Dan and his wife opened up their home to me. Whenever I needed a meal and needed to be around family, Dan was my family. He was that kind of person, bighearted.”
Detroit has lost one of its favorite son’s way too soon. He is gone but will forever be remembered.
Leland Stein can be heard on WGPR Radio (107.5) every Sunday from 11 p.m. to midnight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.