If you’re a fan of basketball, then you’ve almost certainly heard Thurl Bailey’s name on one commentator’s lips or another. 

He’s a former power forward whose time on the court is now a matter of myth thanks to two absolutely stunning seasons in the late 80s. 

Bailey’s life is a little less hectic now. He’s a public speaker, entrepreneur, and he’s got a lot of other ventures going on as well. If you’re familiar with the public speaking circuit, then you might well have seen a Thurl Bailey talk at some point or another.

With Bailey’s name still very much on the lips of the public, we thought now was a pretty good time to talk about his legacy, his career, and how things started for him. 

Bailey’s life is a storied and interesting one, full of twists and turns, as well as big career moments and smaller victories. 

If you’re interested in learning a little bit about basketball history, then stay awhile and listen to the fascinating story of Thurl Bailey, one of the world’s most underrated basketball stars.

Thurl Bailey’s Early Life

Sadly, Thurl Bailey’s early life was fraught with difficulty. He was born into a violent household, with his mother and father regularly having quite shockingly aggressive disputes with one another. 

During one trip to his home, Bailey pointed out a bullet hole, which was made when his mother shot at his father. 

He also frequently had to call the police on his parents in order to get them arrested for their fights. It wasn’t an auspicious beginning, but Bailey made it work.

When he attended high school, Bailey found himself friends and a social circle easily, owing to his affable charisma and good-natured charm. 

He captained his school’s basketball team and was also the first black student president at his high school, which foreshadows his incredible achievements later on. 

Bailey also involved himself in music and other endeavors at high school, something he continues to be interested into this day.

Basketball Stardom

Bailey’s interest in community endeavors and his fascination with art made him a natural pick for the Utah Jazz. 

His coach, Jim Valvano, recommended him as the first pick for the team owing to his incredibly diverse skill set. 

Valvano himself was a huge figure in Bailey’s life; he had an unconventional coaching style, as Bailey explained to Betway in a fascinating interview. 

At one stage, Valvano had his team cutting nets down for two hours just to get them into a championship mindset.

When Bailey was drafted into the Jazz, stardom wasn’t far behind. He was the team’s captain for a long time, and although he was somewhat overshadowed by more famous players in the Jazz, Bailey was the strong, silent beating heart behind the team’s successes. 

After Karl Malone was drafted, Bailey became the first pick for coach Frank Layden and went on to play two absolutely blinding seasons: the 1987-88 season and the 88-89 season.

In the former, Bailey was on the court for every single game, managing to start 10 times as well. Bailey played 82 games of the second season, showing that he was a mainstay for the Jazz. 

Across the whole of his time with the team, he made an appearance in a rather staggering 665 matches, only missing 4 in which he was eligible to play. 

If anyone doubts Thurl Bailey’s work ethic, let them look at that statistic. He was the true workhorse of his team.

Later Years: Community Work, Retirement & Music

After several stellar years with the Utah Jazz, Thurl Bailey was traded away in 1992 to the Timberwolves, with Tyrone Corbin making his way to the Jazz in return. 

Bailey would go on to play with the Timberwolves for two years, at which point he exited the NBA and began playing instead for the Greek League for a year. 

Bailey would return to the Jazz later in his life as a free agent, but he retired in 1999, with his legacy secured and his best work as a basketball player behind him. However, Bailey didn’t slow down even once. 

Across his whole life, he’d been an advocate for community matters, and he continued to do that important work after he retired, moving to the public speaking circuit and speaking on the importance of remaining hopeful and resolute in the face of overwhelming challenges and adversities. 

His public speaking engagements date back to his time as a pro player when he stood in for a teammate who couldn’t make a school engagement despite a very tight time schedule.

Bailey is also an avid musician; he’s released three albums so far, and there could be more on the horizon. 

If you’re a fan of smooth, sleek jazz-inflected R&B (perhaps appropriately, given his time with the Utah Jazz), then you’re going to love Bailey’s work. 

It’s sleek and slick as honey, and it’s great for unwinding and relaxing after a hard day, or playing during a particularly sophisticated dinner party. There are elements of gospel too, which reflect Bailey’s faith.

So, where is Thurl Bailey now? Mostly, he speaks at public engagements and works on his business endeavors, as well as telling all and sundry about his basketball career and how he’s learned from it

Bailey is on the board of several businesses, including fertilizer company Fertile Earth and movie distributor FourLeaf Films. 

It’s fair to say that although Bailey’s basketball days may be over, there’s still plenty of life left in him, and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down just yet.


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