The day Fennis Dembo (who?) threatened to kick my ass

It’s never good news to hear your full name screamed across an arena during a practice session. If you are a journalist it means somebody is extremely upset with you and wants to call you out in front of their teammates and other media members.

I’ve heard my full name called out during Lions and Pistons practices, during a Tigers dressing room session.

This time in the fall of 1989 I was being called out by Piston 6-foot-5 forward Fennis Dembo. Let me introduce you to Dembo because I am willing to bet most don’t know who he is because he made no impact here in Detroit.

He enjoyed such a stellar career at the University of Wyoming that Sports Illustrated put him on the cover of the magazine. He appeared wearing a 10 gallon cowboy hat under the tag line “A Dazzling Dude.”

He once busted Hall of Fame player Reggie Miller for 41 points as Wyoming upset UCLA in an NCAA tournament game.

They called him “The Electric Man” in Laramie. He was the invisible man in Detroit because fans never saw him unless then were checking out the end of the bench. He did earn a championship ring here in 1988-89 after the Pistons used a second round flyer on him. My guess is the Pistons somehow would have managed to win that title even if you took away the 36 points he scored that season in 31 games.

After training camp the next season I reached out to one of my Piston sources who told me the Pistons were fed up with Fennis and would release him soon. It was such Earth shattering news that The Detroit News buried my scoop on page 99 F. But Fennis saw the story and called me out during practice.

“TERRY FOSTER!!!,” he screamed. “We just coming off a championship and you got to be writing negative stories.”

He didn’t believe the story and accused me of making it up. Fennis stood underneath the basket at the Palace of Auburn Hills closest to the Pistons dressing room when he fired a basketball at me and challenged me to a game of one on one. After beating me in basketball then he was going to kick my ass.

I remained calm during his onslaught.

“Fennis if we played one on one now you would beat me 12-0,” I said. “But they are still going to cut you. The Pistons don’t think you can play.”

Dembo only lasted a few more days until the Pistons released him. He never kicked my ass in basketball or with his fist. However, I admit I was a little nervous running into him a few years later when the Bad Boys Pistons held a reception at the Westin Hotel downtown.

Fennis would be there. A few years earlier he shot and killed a man. I didn’t have all the details then, but someone broke into his house in San Antonio. He feared for his life and shot the intruder.

Fennis saw me at the reception and broke into a big smile. We talked and laughed about our incident. He explained that he was upset because he loved basketball so much and wanted to remain with the Pistons. My story marked the beginning of the end in the NBA and he became upset.

So he threatened me that day. But at the reception he was the greatest guy in the world.

Find Terry Foster Podcast here:

Published by terryfoster8

I am a 58 year old retired sports journalist, husband and father of two living outside of Detroit in search of his next big adventure in life.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: