Ken Berry remembers shooting hoops with Ron Howard behind the scenes of The Andy Griffith Show
Who do you think won at H.O.R.S.E., Andy or Opie?
You have to watch closely to know it, but shooting hoops was a favorite pastime for many in Mayberry. Even Aunt Bee got in on the games.
In “Only a Rose,” we find out that it was her time on the high school basketball team that started the friendly competitive spirit between Aunt Bee and her BFF Clara Edwards. At the end of the episode, Clara and Aunt Bee reminisce, and Clara tells Aunt Bee, "You were the backbone of our basketball team." Aunt Bee responds, "But you were our best dribbler." The memory is so fond, they immediately launch into singing their old alma mater.
Yes, basketball sits on the sidelines of the show. When Andy and Goober need someone to fill in on their bowling team for "Howard the Bowler," before they land on Howard Sprague, we learn that Mayberry citizen Ab Winters gets ruled out because he’s got regular basketball games on Tuesdays and Thursdays, further proving the sport’s popularity in the small TV town. (It is Tarheel country, after all.) So even though the show spent a little more time on a baseball diamond than a basketball court, you can rest assured that some of our favorite Mayberry citizens could dribble circles around others.
Despite these mentions of basketball in various episodes, though, the sport doesn’t become the focus of any particular episode. But, behind the scenes of The Andy Griffith Show, the game was so beloved that a backboard was installed for a very special reason.
According to Mayberry R.F.D. star Ken Berry, The Andy Griffith Show’s young star Ron Howard liked to shoot around between scenes with anybody he could get to play, so they had a backboard put in just for the child actor. Berry told the Archive of American Television:
"Ron, of course, didn’t stay on with the cast of Mayberry R.F.D., but I got a chance to meet him and work with him [on The Andy Griffith Show]. And I remember they had a backboard on set, onstage, and that was put in there just for Ronny. And we shot baskets. We played H.O.R.S.E."
It’s certainly a charming picture that Berry paints of friendly basketball games on set, with pint-sized Ron Howard going up against contenders like Berry — and likely putting up the most points over time, assuming they gave the kid the advantage. You have to imagine his TV dad Andy Griffith also got in on the action, considering how much fun Andy made the set of his show.
Next time you’re thinking about the vibes behind the scenes of The Andy Griffith Show, on top of the guitar and banjo playing, just know there were also fast breaks made to the hoop as they laid down each episode, while also doing lay-ups between scenes.
And although Berry’s time working with Howard was brief, the veteran actor seemed as struck by the good-natured child star as his costars. Berry said, "It was a good place to work. It was fun. And I remember going away, having worked with Ronny and thinking, 'What a great kid! Boy, his parents must’ve done something right.'"
Perhaps part of that was making sure their boy got enough exercise while filming episodes of his breakout show?