SF Writer Publishes History Of the High Five

Bernal Heights resident finds the story behind the high five.

By Chris Roberts
|  Tuesday, May 28, 2013  |  Updated 5:24 PM PDT
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Who did the high five first? A San Francisco writer takes a look.

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The high five began with the military. Or it began with basketball.

Whatever the true origin of the now-ubiquitous sign of congratulations, mutual admiration and countless other situations in which the slapping of palms is apropos, the story is unraveled thanks to a San Francisco writer.

Bernalwood, the all-things-Bernal-Heights blog nonpareil, brings our attention to Jon Mooallem's story in ESPN The Magazine, "History of the high five."

Low fives had been a part of African-American culture since World War II. So was it Lamont Sleets, a college basketball player in the 1970s who now lives in Eminence, Ken., the first to apply a raised arm to the formula? That's what the National High Five Day creators in 2007 had claimed -- only to have Mooallem find out that the story was false.

Or was it Glenn Burke, an outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1970s who congratulated a fellow player on a key home run with a smack of the nearest appendage that made the most sense? Burke, who later came out as gay in 1982 after he was ostracized from major league teams, told people in San Francisco's Castro District that he invented the five. He lated died from HIV complications in 1995.

Or is there a third, "entirely plausible" story, as the Bernal-living author indicates? Check out the story and see for yourself. Know who fived before you -- before you five again.

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