Marty Embry and Mark Harris
December 4, 2019
Flint's own "Renaissance Man" is Marty Embry. Author, professional basketball player, chef, real estate investor, bodybuilder, public school official, his resume reads like a guy who wanted to take a big bite out of the pie of life. He hasn’t wasted a day doing it!
The start of his career involved something he had very little to do with—winning the genetic lottery and experiencing a meteoric growth spurt that took him from sub-six-foot to six foot nine, in just a few years. Talk about that 'awkward' phase. But for Marty it was pretty magnificent. Growth spurts aside, he possessed something else: a fighters heart and determination to be the best. The field he selected for this endeavor was basketball. Flint was already famous for sports, and its basketball teams were no exception. At the time he entered high school, Flint Central was already the top dog, having nearly toppled Clarkston for a trip to the state finals in 1980, led by Eric Turner, the consensus GOAT of Flint high school hoops.
Marty came in as a 6-3 sophomore, but by his junior year he had sprouted again to 6-6. In that year he would anchor the undefeated Indians to a 28-0 record, its first of three consecutive Michigan Class A titles. Marty was dominant. Big, strong, fast, and with a presence in the paint that few could handle. In truth, NONE could handle. He wasn't done growing. By his senior year he had another 3 inches of growth, and at a towering 6-9, 250 lbs he was a force unlike any other in City hoops history.
The graduation of Eric Turner and running mates Matt Carrington and Keith Gray left the team to Marty, and the man taking over as floor captain, Mark Harris. Known as "Ice Man”, Harris was a force of nature. Hands like hooks, inhuman leaping ability, court sense of a fighter pilot, basketball brains to spare, and the shot. That shot. The deadliest J-hook thing of beauty Flint hoops had ever witnessed.
Together they steamrolled the competition their senior year of 1982, and led the Tribe to another Michigan Class A State Championship. But before that coronation, they had to get past pesky Southfield at Jenison Field House in East Lansing, in the state semi finals. That game was memorable for two reasons—the first was the officiating. I have only watched two athletic contests in my life - two- where I honestly felt the officials were so egregiously incompetent that it made you wonder if there were other motives. The Michigan-Ohio State 'yard short' debacle was the most recent, but the first was this game in 1982.
The Tribe had inexplicable calls levied against them all day. It was so bad it seemed obvious by half time that the refs had decided one state title for Flint Central was enough. If the opponent couldn't stop the Tribe, well maybe they would. They didn't count on Marty, Mark and a third legend Darryl 'DJ' Johnson. Johnson would sink a 25-footer to put the Tribe in position to win the game. But it would take the heroics of the Harris to ICE the game.
With everyone in the world knowing who would take that shot in the waning seconds of the contest, Harris glided up the court like Wayne Gretzky on skates in Central Park. With the entire Southfield defense waiting for him, he pulled up short of mid-court, 48 feet from the hoop, and drained the game winner. Pumping the number 1 sign with his extended index finger, he strolled off the court. Was there any doubt? Not for Ice. To this day, it's the single greatest athletic play I have ever witnessed first hand. Bedlam ensued. The Tribe went on to take the state title.
Following a distinguished career at Depaul, Embry got a shot at the NBA with the Utah Jazz, and wound up playing overseas where he became a bodybuilder/hoops star. He competed with and against some of the best in the world, along the way. His writing career includes multiple titles and genres, and his cooking is to die for. He's a prankster deluxe, loves dogs, kids, and people. He's just a cool guy!
Harris went on to a Hall of Fame career setting records at Vincennes and Ft. Hays, and getting a shot at the NBA, with the Los Angeles Lakers. To this day anyone who saw him play in Flint says he had the best shot. He's on every "Best Ever' list in Flint hoops, and is hands down one of the most amazing athletes I've ever seen play. At 6-0 tall he was as good or better than 75% of any NBA guard I've ever seen.
Marty Embry and Mark Harris are mentioned as influences among an army of talented athletes in Flint history. This is not just true of basketball players either. When Sullivan Award, and Golden Spikes winner, New Yankee no-hit pitcher Jimmy Abbott was asked why he wanted to excel at sports at Flint Central the first name he mentioned was Marty Embry. Whenever Flintstones gather to talk of the legends of the courts and fields, Mark Harris’s name is intoned with reverence. No one will ever forget what they did on the courts for the city. Few will ever forget their talent, their panache, those titles, or that shot. They are, for many, the epitome of a Flintstone. Tough, resilient, eclectic, unusual in the best way, and above all - winners.