Before Dr. Anthony Fauci was leading the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, he was the captain of Regis High School’s basketball team in 1958.
Fauci has become an unlikely national celebrity as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases during the pandemic. Often positioned next to President Donald Trump during televised press conferences, Fauci has earned bipartisan praise for his frank assessment of Covid-19 while instructing Americans on how they can keep themselves and their communities safe.
Fauci has worked under six presidents — from Ronald Reagan to Trump — since he assumed office in 1984. When asked about Fauci’s role in shaping the federal government’s reaction to the pandemic this week, Trump pointed to Fauci’s high school basketball career:
Everybody loves him. You know he was a great basketball player. Did anybody know that? He was a little on the short side for the NBA but he was talented,” Trump said. “He won a game, I read this story, he won a game that was unwinnable against a great team and his whole team said, ‘We can’t beat this team’ and he went in and they won the game.”
The story Trump is referring to was a Wall Street Journal report by Ben Cohen that ran on March 29. Cohen detailed Fauci’s upbringing in Brooklyn and his long commute to Regis on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where he would become the starting point guard on a struggling basketball team in 1958.
Dr. Fauci.— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) March 29, 2020
Regis High School.
1958. NYC. pic.twitter.com/9lyJxz7ocg
As legend has it, Fauci led Regis on the road to face powerful Fordham Prep, a team that had defeated them weeks earlier by 16 points. Fordham Prep had a star guard in Donnie Walsh, who would later go on to play for North Carolina under Dean Smith before starting a long coaching and front office career in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks.
Though Regis had won one game all season to that point, Fauci and his school came away with the victory on that night, which his high school teammates still fondly remember more than 60 years later. Fauci only stands 5’7, but his teammates described him as a player who could “dribble the ball through a brick wall”. Here’s how Fauci’s teammates described his game, via Cohen:
Here’s the scouting report on Fauci: classic point guard, excellent ball handler, pesky defender. Six of his classmates and teammates described him as a tenacious competitor in short shorts and striped socks whose feistiness on the court defied some parts of his personality and reflected others.
Fauci, now 79, has used those leadership skills he formed on the basketball court to help guide the country through AIDS, ebola, and SARS since assuming office.
As Fauci has risen to notoriety, he hasn’t forgotten his basketball roots. He appeared on a Q&A with Stephen Curry on the Warriors star’s Instagram account, and also was a guest on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s radio show. He even has his own bobblehead now, just like an NBA player.
Fauci has been preaching social distancing since the Covid-19 epidemic started to spread in the country. Listen to what this man says. He’s been beating the odds for a long time.