Perhaps if you were to look up the word “globetrotter” in the dictionary, Gerry Wright’s name and photo would pop up.
Texas, Norton Air Force Base, Spain, the NBA, Iowa and the Middle East? These are just a few, very few, of the places that Wright has lent his talents to over the past decades.
In this smorgasbord of international travel, Wright has lent his advice and talent to school kids as well as princes and princesses. He has showcased his skills on the court, as well as pressing youth to “Do the right thing,” as Spike Lee would say. He is indeed a true international man. Look out, Agent 007.
Many local basketball followers certainly remember Wright for his days in the ’80s when he and San Gorgonio High School were the dominant force in prep basketball.
Wright was the son of an Air Force father, Henry Wright, and Elma Wright. The family came from Texas to Norton Air Force Base in 1970 when Wright was just six years old.
Sports were always around the talented family. But his first love was not basketball, it was football.
However, Wright found out that the gridiron was not his thing.
“I tried to get into football,” he says.
He loved football, but a neck injury while playing the sport pointed him in a different direction.
But why not? After all, his dad was an All-Air Force player pick in his days. But while on the base, Wright began to play pick-up games at the base gym.
This, according to Wright, was a turning point on his road to basketball success. His workouts with people like Jesse Malone and others gave him motivation and encouragement.
“I owe a big thank you to lots of guys on the base. They helped me out and worked with me for hours at a time, all the time.”
Due to its proximity to the base, Wright would eventually attend San Gorgonio High School. He decided to play basketball, riding the wings of all the time he put into the base gym
Already growing tall as a freshman, and with all the hype slowly growing about the skills of the youngster, just how did Wright kick off his prep career?
“I scored one basket,” said Wright. “That’s it, just one basket all year.”
But his sophomore year was certainly different. He was well over the 6’0 mark and his skills really began to show, and Coach Dave Stockham’s powerful team started to make waves.
The Spartans became the premier team in the Inland Empire and beyond. They dominated the CBL, but for Wright, one thing really stands out for him in the midst of the success.
“I really remember the 40-game winning streak; that’s the one thing that really stands out. I also remember winning the Kiwanis Tournament; I wanted to win it all.”
The Spartans would go 24-3 in his junior year and 27-1 in his senior year. But along the midst all the jumpers and lay-ups, Wright would pick up a certain nickname that still sticks with him.
According to Wright, who still gets a chuckle out of it, his calling card came from an interesting source.
“I had a teammate who liked the DJ Sir Mix A lot, who was popular at the time. He changed the name around a bit and came up with Sir Jam A Lot. I liked it and I kept it.”
Even on a computer search the nickname has him identified as Sir Jam A Lot. He certainly earned it in high school, throwing down many times in opponents’ faces, making high school games exciting for the fans and the Spartans. Still today, people hear that nickname and quickly identify it with Wright. The buzz goes on.
“I don’t mind it at all,” he says.
In one prep game in particular that Wright recalls, he was the leading scorer again--but this time for both of the teams.
“We played Colton and I had more point in that game than their entire team had. I was not trying to rub it in, it just happened.”
After leaving his mark at San G in 1987, Wright, who was pursued by many colleges, including consideration from USC, decided to go east and play at Iowa.
With future NBA players like DJ Armstrong and Kevin Campbell part of the Iowa history already, and the Hawkeyes being a power in the Big Ten, it was just enough to lure Wright to move across the country.
With coaches like Lute Olson and Tom Davis as part of the Hawkeye programs over the years, along with Sweet 16 appearances in 1983 and 1988, the Hawkeyes had an impressive resume.
Wright had success in college basketball, as well as the team, and gave Wright a taste of March Madness. He liked the school so much that in 2001 he went back to the university to earn his master’s degree.
Entering the NBA draft after his last year at Iowa, Wright thought himself as a “tweener,” meaning was he a big, strong guard with skills, or could be considered a smaller forward with skills.
“I sort of compare it to the Lakers’ Ron Artest. Do you want a guy who can bang and get boards, or do you want someone to score and kind of run the show. I could go either way. It was fine with me.”
In the end, an odd scenario took place. He was eligible for the draft, and he was taken by the Detroit Pistons. But he never played one minute for the team.
He knew all along that he wanted to serve his country. He let everyone know of his intentions. He bypassed the NBA, and instead went to bat for the USA.
He became a Navy lieutenant and became an instructor at the Naval Academy and a naval navigator.
“It was nice to know that an NBA team wanted me, but I knew early on that I wanted to serve my country.”
After leaving the Navy, the real adventure began. Passports and frequent flyer miles were to become the norm for Wright.
Still in good shape and having a love for the game, the world-wide tour would begin.
Germany, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Bulgaria and Peru were some of the stops he made during his long tenure as a pro player. He did have a few quick stints with some NBA teams, but the large majority of his pro time was in a different continent.
“Yes, guess I am a true globetrotter,” said Wright after a brief moment. But he certainly would not change it for the world.
“I got the juices flowing again when I played. I enjoyed my time overseas.”
He also noticed and adapted to the different style of play. He says that some leagues, especially Germany, are not too far behind the play of the NBA, also noting that there are more and more European players in the NBA.
Wright did encounter some racial prejudice in Europe, but he found it more like ours than anything else.
“I had one game where some fans were making monkey-like sounds to me, but it did not bother me and I found it kind of funny.”
But while those stops were interesting and impressive, royalty awaited Wright.
Through a string of good luck and connections, Wright landed the job of personal trainer to the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia.
A broken ankle by royalty landed him a posh job working for a prince at some nice facilities.
“I got that job by recommendation. A series of events happened and, well, it is a long story but I got to be around royalty. It was different but I liked it.”
Wright came back to the states and had even more success as a coach at San Bernardino Valley College.
The Wolverines were among the best in the state under his stay, with many going on to play at a four-year college.
Now he is at San Bernardino Arroyo Valley as the main man. He also helps out with the girls’ team. All of the players on the boys’ varsity team were not even born when he was jamming at San G. He says that he wants to “bring character and guidance to the young men” where there had been little before.
Some of his players know of his Sir Jam a Lot days; that is in the past for Wright, but he still remembers them fondly, along with all the other places he has been too.
He also has become an author, writing the book “Straight Talk” to add to his impressive credentials.
After living a lifetime of adventures, what could this Jack of all Trades do now?
“I am looking forward to helping out young people where I can.”
That’s good too, but he will still be that high flying Sir Jam a Lot to basketball fans.
Written by: Precinct Reporter Group
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