On April 2nd, 1989, Ames Police responded to a robbery at the Burger King on Lincoln Way in Ames. Iowa State basketball player and Iowa State defensive back Levin White had herded the employees of the restaurant into the walk-in freezer so they could rob the restaurant. What the two hadn’t realized, is that an employee working the drive-thru window had climbed through the window and run to the police station to alert the authorities.
When the two emerged from the Burger King with a .22 and a large knife in hand, the police asked the two to drop the weapons. Mack turned to go back into the store, but Levin raised his rifle to point it at the three uniformed officers that initially responded to the call which met the requirements at the time for use of deadly force (if the two had reentered the restaurant and taken hostages, the situation would have also met the criteria for use of deadly force.) The officers then opened fire at the suspects, striking White in the foot, and Mack in both the hip and thigh. Mack was eventually acquitted of his charges after the court found that White had held Mack at gunpoint to force him to help White with the robbery.
However, Johnny Orr did not renew his scholarship, so Mack transferred to Arizona State, where he was dismissed within a few months in connection with a sexual assault on campus. Mack then transferred to Tyler Junior College, in Texas, where he excelled on the court, averaging 24.6 points and 8.7 rebounds on 62% shooting, including 42% from behind the arc. For his final season, Mack transferred to Houston, where he averaged 17.5 points and led the Cougars to an NCAA tournament appearance.
Following his collegiate career, Mack went undrafted, but played his way into the NBA through some impressive showings in the CBA and on a stint as a reserve for the Spurs. The Houston Rockets then signed Mack after losing Clyde Drexler to injury. Mack played for the Vancouver Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors over the next two seasons before heading to Russia for one season. After his season in Russia, Mack returned to the United States to play on various CBA, IBL, ABA, and NBL (Canada) teams, most recently playing for the ABA’s Chicago Steam in 2013, and even being named an ABA All-Star at the age of 40.
All in all, Mack’s professional playing career spanned almost two decades, with multiple stints in the NBA. It’s safe to say that the talented Sam Mack could have done some incredible things in a Cyclone uniform if not for the events that unfolded on that April evening. This one goes down as one of the original “What If” stories in Cyclone lore.