PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Ernie DiGregorio, former college and pro basketball player whose career went sour after a serious knee injury, has filed a $16 million libel suit against Sports Illustrated magazine and a reporter.
The lawsuit charges a Jan. 12, 1981 article by Rick Telander contained false statements that damaged DiGregorio's reputation and caused him loss of income. It described DiGregorio as 'a real nowhere man' who is 'living in his own nowhere land,' the lawsuit said.
The article also quoted a Providence College official as describing the former PC star as 'a pain in the butt' and 'a whipped dog' and other derogatory remarks, the suit said.
The U.S. District Court lawsuit, filed last Friday, claims 'the article, when read in its entirety, characterizes the plaintiff as a quitter, unwilling to compete, unreliable and undesirable in any employment capacity, including but not limited to athletics or athletics-related activities.'
It said DiGregorio has suffered loss of income, personal humiliation, mental anguish and suffering, and has been 'inhibited from entering into business transactions and other employment.'
DiGregorio, a ballhandling whiz, starred on one of Providence College's finest teams, including the 1973 squad that reached the NCAA Final Four.
He was the top draft choice of the Buffalo Braves that year. He was named NBA rookie of the year after his first season as a professional, when he averaged 15 points and eight assists per game. A serious knee injury in his second season put Ernie D. on the sidelines, and hampered his pro development.
He eventually was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he sat on the bench for most of a season before his release in 1978. He then played sparingly for the Boston Celtics.
In recent years, he has worked occasionally as a TV commentator. He tried unsuccessful comebacks with the San Diego Clippers in 1980 and the Boston Celtics last fall.
His old Braves' contract reportedly is paying him in excess of $50,000 a year for 30 years.