Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The real story behind Charlie Murphy’s basketball game with Prince

Photo: Comedy Central
Photo: Comedy Central

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Prince’s passing and, unfortunately, it’s been colored by legal battles and restricted music rather than recollection. Last week, we also lost one of his friends, Chappelle’s Show alum Charlie Murphy. Murphy was always a memorable part of the series, and some might say it was his recurring “True Hollywood Stories” sketches that really caused the show to break out (for better or worse, it was responsible for “I’m Rick James, bitch!”). In the sketch, Murphy would tell stories of hanging out with the world’s biggest celebrities alongside his brother, Eddie Murphy. One, you might remember, centered on Prince.


In the story, Murphy talks of a night when he and Eddie squared off against Prince in a pick-up basketball game and were promptly destroyed. As Murphy tells it, Prince never changed clothes and even served them pancakes afterward. While no one necessarily doubts the story (“The specificity of these tales lends them veracity, even if we can’t actually vouch for them ourselves,” we said in our review), we now have confirmation that the night unfolded pretty much exactly as Murphy told it.

In a new interview with Esquire, blues guitarist Micki Free, a former friend and collaborator of Prince, said as much. He’d know, too, as he himself played in the game.

Charlie Murphy wasn’t lying. Everything that happened in that [”True Hollywood Stories” sketch] was for real. We went back to Prince’s house after the club. It was 1985, and there was a bunch of girls with Eddie [Murphy], myself, Charlie—rest in peace—and some other guys. And out of nowhere Prince says, “Do you guys want to play basketball?” Me and Charlie and Eddie are looking at each other like, what the hell? And Prince goes, “Me, Micki, and Gilbert against you, Eddie, and Uncle Ray.”

We played three-on-three. I don’t remember if we changed our clothes, but I know for certain that Prince did not change his. He didn’t gear up to play. If anything changed beyond the blouses, it was his heels. Prince changed into some tennis shoes. All I remember is when Prince made that first shot, it was all-net. I’m looking at him make shot after shot, like, “What the hell?” Then at the end they really did make us pancakes—blueberry pancakes. And they were good! Hanging out with Prince was magical.

And that’s not all Free had to say. The man’s got plenty of Prince stories, all of which serve to elevate the musician’s legend that much more. Take this gem, for instance:

There was one time where I was coming into this club, and I had my suits made from the same people that made his suits. And I had my boots made from the same guy that made Prince’s boots. So I was coming into the club with my then wife, Teri Copley, an actress from the ‘80s who had her own TV show. Prince was leaving the club, and he walked up to me— I thought I was looking sharp! And he looks straight at me and says, “Hmmm… You only missing one thing.” And Prince took out a pair of red panties from his suit, which I still have to this day, and put them into my pocket! He pat them and said, “Now, you are looking good.” And he strutted on out. Crazy times.

Yep. That’s our Prince.