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Let Pope tell the story: “It was a beautiful experience. Who gets to be fired by Larry Bird after getting to know him so well? It’s a real treasure for me now. We had developed a great relationship. I was living and dying with every moment to stay alive. I had made it through training camp. And then your childhood hero fires you. He was emotional, teary eyed, and so was I. I figure I can’t start crying in front of Larry Bird, so I stood up half way through (Bird’s talk), shook his hand and said thank you very much.”

He went to training camp with the Bucks the following season, with ruptured discs in his back. He kept the injury a secret, knowing it would send him back to the CBA or the chocolate factory. Pope actually failed the Wholesale NBA Jerseys
team physical, but Karl didn’t tell him for a year. The coach explained that he had just wanted to help Pope earn some walking money before cutting him, but he kept putting it off. The day of final cuts, Pope was amazed he was still employed. He was watching the clock, and when five o’clock came and went no one had told him if he wasn’t on the team.

He started the season on injured reserve, and then the Bucks’ starting power forward , Darvin Ham, broke his leg. “The next day Coach is talking to the team, and he’s talking like I’m going to start,” recalls Pope. “I have no idea if I’m on IR. So he puts out the starting unit and sure enough he’s got me out there. As we go through the game plan, I see we are not doubling the post. I’m going to start against Kevin Garnett and Coach is not bringing help. It was sheer terror. Kevin had a terrible game. I think he was just annoyed because he was being guarded by a no name guy. He got upset at me. In the third quarter he hit a couple of shots and starts cussing at me, ‘You can’t guard me!’ and gets T’d. For a fan it was awesome.”

In Pope’s second year with the Nuggets, coach Jeff Bzdelik was fired after 24 games and was replaced by assistant Michael Cooper on an interim basis. Cooper waived Pope. Thinking his pro career was finished, Pope and his wife drove to Iowa to visit family. On the return trip, driving through Nebraska, he received a call from his agent telling him that Karl his old coach in Milwaukee who had cut him a year earlier not only had been hired as the Nuggets coach, but he wanted Pope back on the roster immediately. A day later he was in uniform in Atlanta after taking a red eye flight and by the second quarter he was inserted into the game.

He settled on medicine. While earning an English degree at Kentucky, he had taken no science classes, which were prerequisites for med school. So during his NBA career he took science classes. When he was with the Bucks, he took classes at Marquette. When he was with the Knicks, he took classes at NYU and Columbia. When he was with the Nuggets, he took classes at the University of Colorado. He missed a lot of class time because of his NBA job, but his professors accommodated him and Pope compensated by reading every word of his textbooks.

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