By: Chris Heath (GQ Magazine)
Date: December 8, 2016
In a 2004 sketch on Chappelle’s Show, Eddie Murphy’s brother Charlie told an absurd, but substantially true, story about a late-night basketball game at Paisley Park between Murphy’s and Prince’s entourages; Prince ran circles around Murphy’s team, then fed his vanquished guests pancakes.
Video courtesy http://www.time.com
Gilbert Davison (worked with Prince from 1984 to 1993, rising from bodyguard to president of Paisley Park): The funniest thing about it was how much Charlie Murphy got right.
Micki Free (guitarist, sometime member of Shalamar): It was the craziest thing ever. We were in a club again—Eddie Murphy was there, Eddie’s crew, Prince and I—we were all just hanging. And we got to where we were gonna go to Prince’s house, which I’d been to many times before in that day and age. Sometimes I’d go up to the house, and Prince would go in his bedroom and he wouldn’t come out—he was pretty funny that way. But this particular time we all go up there—Eddie, Charlie, Uncle Ray—and there’s a bunch of girls as usual, and Prince goes, “Let’s play basketball.” And Eddie and those guys go, “Sure, let’s play.” Eddie and the other guys changed into basketball clothes—I think they got them out of their car. Prince didn’t change, and neither did I. Prince was wearing exactly what he had on from the club, and trust me, if we came from the club, he was looking like new money. He always did. Perfection: matching boots, matching outfit, matching handkerchief, hat, cane, whatever—it was always on point. And as far as I can remember, he was wearing his heels.
Davison: Yeah, Prince had his normal nightlife attire, which was typically stage clothing, and we went from the club to the court. It was Prince, myself, and Micki Free. I just took my jacket off, but I played in my shoes and tie.
Free: It was just us six playing. Oh my God, I’ll never forget it. We go out, the Murphys are looking at me like, “Yeah, baby—Free, I’m gonna eat you alive.” I’m thinking that, too. So Prince…I’m not kidding you, he started playing basketball like he was Michael Jordan or someone, man. First shot of the game was nothing but net. He was just so bad. And everybody looked at each other like, “What the hell?” He was just so, so good—really controlled, sidestepping, just style. He could play basketball. That’s how the night went, and we won. And then his cook, Rande, made us blueberry pancakes.
Davison: The backstory to that was—and this is the part Charlie doesn’t tell—Eddie had wanted to play Prince his new album. So during that basketball game, Eddie’s music was playing, via boom box, on a cassette. After that game, Prince goes over and he tosses the cassette out of the boom box and he says, “Let me ask you a question: Do you see me stop my show to do comedy?”
Neal Karlen (Minneapolis journalist who would know Prince for 31 years; his two articles for Rolling Stone sparked an unlikely friendship that continued for the rest of his life): I did play with him. He was unbelievably good. People have said they saw him when he was wearing platform shoes—I’m not saying that’s not true, I just never did.
Damaris Lewis (model, tour dancer): I tried playing Prince in Ping-Pong once. I told him he was the Serena of Ping-Pong and I would never be playing him again. He was literally a master of Ping-Pong.
Van Jones: At Paisley, the Ping-Pong table’s right outside the studio. So it’s kind of back and forth between recording, destroying somebody in Ping-Pong, go back to recording. Oh my God, it was embarrassing. To the point that he wouldn’t even play me, he was just so disgusted with my inability to play. One time, he wouldn’t even move—he’d stand in one spot, and his arms were not that long and I’m six feet two. Talking crap the whole time. He’s like the worst trash-talker.
Springs: We played checkers, and I beat him. He did not like that. He’s so competitive. We played almost three years now—in January I was, “So you wanna play checkers again?” and he said, “Don’t remind me of that.”