When the twin sons of former NBA guard Mookie Blaylock signed football scholarships with Kentucky on Wednesday, it created a blast from the past for Lexington's Jerry Grasso.
In 1990, as a junior at Kansas State University, Grasso and two buddies from his dorm hit a Manhattan, Kan., tavern known for playing host to bands. That night, they saw a band from Seattle playing they had never heard of before.
It was called "Mookie Blaylock," after the former Oklahoma University guard who was then with the New Jersey Nets.
"They were playing and I thought, 'This is a great band,'" Grasso recalls. "It really had the starty-up band feeling, there was a girlfriend selling CDs on the side."
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After that night, "they disappeared," said Grasso, the vice president of corporate communications at Lexmark International. "I always wondered what happened to 'Mookie Blaylock.'"
Some years later, Grasso and his wife, Kim, moved to Seattle, the birthplace of the grunge music movement.
At the time, one of the most successful of the grunge bands was Pearl Jam.
"We get to Seattle and there is Pearl Jam," Grasso recalls. "I turned to my wife and said, 'That's the band I saw in college that was called Mookie Blaylock. I know it is.' And she said, 'No, it's not.'"
Pearl Jam, the band that according to therockczar.com is responsible for six of the 100 greatest grunge songs ever, initially toured under the name Mookie Blaylock.
"A few years go by, and they've had however many hits it was they had, and Eddie Vedder is on TV telling the story," says Grasso of the Pearl Jam lead singer. "I'm telling my wife, 'See, I'm not an idiot. He said they were Mookie Blaylock.'"
Do an Internet search on "Pearl Jam" and "Mookie Blaylock" and you can find all kinds of varying stories on how the band came to be named for the basketball player and why it changed its name.
In a 2008 interview with The Missoulian newspaper in Montana, Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament explained things this way.
"When we were recording our first record, we had a per diem of about $10," Ament said. "So when we got lunch at the store across the street, we'd always buy a pack of basketball cards. When we turned in our tape, we didn't have a name for the band yet, so we put a Mookie Blaylock card in the case.
"We were about to go on tour and we still didn't have a name and needed one quickly. We were told it didn't need to be a name we were going to use forever, just something for the tour. Someone saw the Mookie Blaylock card and said, 'How about 'Mookie Blaylock?' We decided to go with it."
Last week, after Daron and Zack Blaylock signed to play football with UK, Grasso, 42, envisioned a perfect closing of the circle for the band that used to be called Mookie Blaylock.
"Here's what I'm hoping," Grasso said. "I hope (the Blaylock twins) end up in the Super Bowl someday — and Pearl Jam plays the halftime show. That would be perfect."