Whenever the Douglass Tigers basketball team played their arch-rivals, the Langston Golden Tigers, fans came from all over upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. Even folks from the other schools in the old Tri-State Athletic Conference showed up to watch the two titans battle each other for supremacy.
It would be the best game in conference play.
Fast forward 56 years. The location is different. The coaches are different.... the teams different. But with typical Douglass-Langston games, the outcome wasn't decided until the last two minutes of the game.
Dobyns-Bennett paid tribute to the legacy of the Douglass Tigers two weeks ago during its game with Johnson City Science Hill. The DB Indians were dressed in the uniforms of Douglass, while the Science Hill players were adorned in the gold uniforms of Langston.
The evening began with a rousing pep talk by Douglass alumnus Donald Hickman to the DB squad in their dressing room.
Hickman, the first African-American to play basketball for Dobyns-Bennett after Douglass was closed for integration, reminded the DB-Douglass players of the legacy they were honoring in the game against Science Hill-Langston... that even though Douglass wasn't allowed to play DB back in the day, both teams knew the other was pretty good, as they kept an eye on each other across town.
When it comes to competition, Hickman told the squad to the target of every team's goals. "Be the team that everybody wants to beat," he said. "Be a relentless competitor. That's what (Coach Bob Deering) told us before every game with Langston. Play like you're playing against the best team you've ever played against. Don't make dumb mistakes, even though people make stupid mistakes all the time."
While Hickman was busy revving up the DB-Douglass squad, many of your Douglass alumni, friends and neighbors were enjoying a reception in the DB girls' basketball gym. Unlike 22 months ago in February, 2020, only about half the expected Douglass crowd made the trip into the Buck Van Huss Dome to reunion in their Douglass sweat shirts and tee-shirts.
Again, the fellowship was unmistakable as stories were swapped, sandwiches, fruit and veggie plates were consumed. After the game, a small group of the Douglass alumni faithful gathered in the Douglass Community room in the V.O. Dobbins Community Center to continue the reunion.
But after the DB reception, folks were escorted to their front row seats in the Van Huss Dome to enjoy one of the most exciting basketball games of the season. It was just like Douglass and Langston would have wanted it.
Below is the account written for the Kingsport Times-News: