How An NBA Player’s Long Arm Saved a Dolphin

Sacramento Kings assistant coach Clifford Ray played in the NBA for 10 years, helping the Golden State Warriors to win a title in 1975. Yet, one of the strangest odysseys of Ray’s career happened in 1978, when the 6’9” forward was summoned by a local aquarium to help save a dolphin. A maintenance crew at Marine World was cleaning the dolphin tank when a large bolt got loose and fell into the water. One of the dolphins — Mr. Spock — saw the movement, thought it was a fish, and down the hatch it went. Mr. Spock was removed from the tank because his swimming motions could swish the bolt around and cause serious internal injuries. Veterinarians were reluctant to perform surgery, but didn’t have an instrument long enough to reach down into Mr. Spock’s stomach to retrieve the bolt. That’s when public relations director Mary O’Heron thought of her long-time friend, Clifford Ray. Calculating that his arms were just under 4 feet long, she immediately contacted the athlete to ask him to help. Ray agreed and made his way to Marine World, where he was lubed up and taken to Mr. Spock. Vets explained to Ray that dolphins have two stomachs, and it wasn’t long before he reached the first one. Nothing was there, so he reached further to the second stomach. Before long, Ray’s arm was in the dolphin all the way up to his chin. Fortunately, he was able to locate the bolt. Mr. Spock was none the worse for the experience and Marine World staff had the bolt bronzed and a plaque made with Ray’s name in honor of the occasion.