You've probably never heard of Trevor Winter. But the 36-year-old medical salesman had a career unparalleled in the annals of National Basketball Association history.
The former Minnesota Timberwolves center was a mountain of a man whose statistical accomplishments would make Bill Brasky
blush. He grabbed more rebounds per minute than either Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell.
However, it is not Winter's 3 rebounds in his 5 career minutes
that we are here to discuss. It is the 5 fouls he committed in those same 5 minutes. That wacky statistic from Winter's one career game in 1999 cements the 7-footer's status as the Foulin' Prince of the NBA.
No player in league history has ever been as singularly dominant in one statistical category as Winter was in the personal foul department. While he is one of three players in NBA history to have as many fouls as career minutes played, the other two (Forest "Frosty" Able
and Norm Grekin
) are a couple of relics from the 1950s who each played just 1 career minute -- not exactly Winter territory.
Knowing how difficult this feat is to achieve, I tracked down Winter to ask him how it could have even transpired.
While Winter is one of 52 players in NBA history to play in 1 career game
, he has to have the coolest story.
A Minnesota native, he spent 4 years as a back-up center for the Golden Gophers
, and was a senior on their 1997 Final Four team. Undrafted after college, Winter had been playing in the International Basketball Association
for the Fargo-Moorhead Beez
(yes, that was the team's real name) when he made the Timberwolves out of camp for the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
The abbreviated 50-game regular season
began in February 1999, but Winter spent the first month-and-a-half of the season on injured reserve with a lower back strain. On March 16, 1999, Winter got his big break: That afternoon, Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders informed him that he would be activated for that night's game against Shaquille O'Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers
According to Winter, Saunders laid out the gameplan to him simply. "[He told me,] 'You have five fouls to give, and for every foul you don't use, we'll fine you $1,000,'" recalls Winter. He got the message loud and clear, proceeding to commit fouls against Shaq at a record-setting pace.
Guarding the most dominating player of an entire generation was a daunting task. "When I checked in," says Winter, "[Shaq] looked me up and down, knowing I was a rookie and that he was going to come right at me." On Winter's first defensive possession, the Lakers predictably went right to O'Neal, who spun baseline on Winter for a dunk and "tried to take the rim down on me," as Winter puts it.
Over the next five minutes of action, Winter compiled 3 rebounds and 5 fouls, as his career unwittingly turned into a monument of the Hack-a-Shaq tactic
Winter has a difficult time recalling many more specifics from the game, though. "It was all kind of a blur," he says. "It was a pretty fast 5 minutes. They were trying to go to him every time and I can't blame them for that."
The Lakers won the game, 107-101, led by O'Neal's 24 points, but Winter fulfilled his duty and, just as importantly, avoided losing money. "They were happy with how I played," remembers Winter, "I asked him if they were going to fine me, and he told me 'no.'"
Despite his efforts, Winter was deactivated after the game; he would never again check into an NBA game. They say everyone gets 15 minutes of fame, but for Trevor Winter, it was only 5 minutes. Still, he left behind one of the most fascinating stat lines
you'll ever lay eyes upon.
Now that he's a family man with a job in sales, does he still get asked about his NBA career? "Since I'm 7 feet tall, people always ask me if I played basketball," he says. "I always say, 'Yeah, I played in college.' Then, if they say I should have played in the pros, I usually say I spent a year with the Timberwolves, but only played in 1 game.
"I'm not sure my kids even believe me," Winter laughs.
Even if he remains the preeminent foul artist in NBA history, Winter would be OK with that. "It's a great honor," he says. "Everybody has got to be known for something -- I'll take it."