The NCAA basketball titan, NBA Globetrotter, and master of the three-point shot years before its time, "Pistol Pete" Maravich was born in Alequippa, Pennsylvania on June 22, 1947.

The Early Years

Pete's middle name, Press, was also his father's first. He had been a basketball player and coach for various teams for most of his life. Press raised Pete to play basketball starting from the age of 7, teaching him the various fundamentals and infusing a devotion to the sport that would stick to him for most of his life. Maravich would practice for hours on end every day during the summer, learn to dribble while riding a bike and even "went to bed with a basketball until {he} was 14." The Maraviches later moved to the Carolinas, where Pete had a fairly successful high school career playing for Clemson, South Carolina's Daniel High School, Raleigh's Broughton High, and the Edward Military Institute of Salemberg, North Carolina. He graduated from the latter in 1966.

That fall, he enrolled at Louisiana State University, where his father had recently been named the head coach. Freshmen were not allowed to play on college varsity teams at the time, so Maravich spent his first year posting jaw-dropping numbers for LSU's junior varsity club, averaging 43.6 points per game. He was then sent up to the varsity squad, where one would think his performance would suffer against stronger players. Instead, he got better, averaging 43.8, 44.2, and 44.5 points per game over his next three seasons. (For perspective, this is equivalent to scoring more than a point a minute.) Each of these three seasons were more than 2 points per game better than Frank Selvy's 1954 season, the fourth-best in NCAA history.

The 1970 season saw Maravich score 1381 points, the most by any collegiate player in a year and 167 more than the previous record. It was a season that saw 10 games of 50 points or more, earned Maravich the 1970 Naismith College Player of the Year Award, and set his NCAA scoring total at 3667, a record that stands to this day by more than 400 points. And the 2nd highest total used an extra season! Maravich broke just about every other NCAA scoring record that existed as well, and holds most of them to this day (most career free throws made, most career games with 50+ points scored, and so on). He was given virtually every award possible during his LSU seasons, including being selected to the The Sporting News and Associated Press All-America teams, earning his varsity letter all three seasons, and winning the Rupp Trophy.

The 6'9", 200-pound guard quickly became famous, but not just for his floppy brown hair and trademark droopy gray socks. Many great players have acquired a reputation for flashiness during their career, and many more known as self-centered, but few combined the two as strongly as did Pete Maravich. His countless hours of solo practice refined his skills to supernatural levels, but left him with a rather narrow view of who the star was: himself. When combined with the many variations on the typical play--no-look passes, figure-skating-fast pivots, and an indescribable adeptness with the ball itself--that Maravich had developed, it became obvious that he would be a one-man show wherever he went. This more or less stood true for both his years at LSU and professional career. Such showmanship earned Maravich not a small amount of detractors; Pat Riley is quoted as having called him "the most overrated superstar." But Maravich held the philosophy that

"They don't pay you a million dollars for two-hand chest passes,"
and therefore,
"If I have a choice whether to do the show or throw a straight pass, and we're going to get the basket either way, I'm going to do the show."

This attitude about his sport was unorthodox for the time, but still brought in crowds by the thousands to watch him score 40 points a game and make shots from 30 feet out, ten years before the three-point line was created. (In fact, Maravich actually often preferred trying the downtown shot over something a little closer.)

To The Pros

Dangerous iconoclast or no, Maravich's technical dominance could not be denied, which put him in great NBA demand following his graduation (after he managed to lead LSU to a 3rd-place finish in the NIT--but no championship). The Atlanta Hawks, looking to grab a regional player with such talent as to be the foundation for its lineup, traded up to select Pete Maravich third in the 1970 NBA draft, behind Bob Lanier and Rudy Tomjanovich. His $1.9 million salary caused some resentment among his teammates, but they couldn't say he didn't earn it. He became the league's 9th-highest scorer in 1970-71 and earned a place on the NBA All-Rookie Team. After a second season where mononucleosis compounded the typical sophomore slump, Maravich tinkered with his play and had a dynamic third year. He still managed to score (26.1 PPG, 4th in the league), but more importantly finally started sharing the wealth- his 6.9 assists a game was good enough for the 6th highest league average and his first All-Star appearance. The Hawks also went 46-36 this year, the best record Maravich would see during the prime of his career.

Maravich's fourth season was his best yet, as he netted a whopping 27.7 points per game--second in the NBA only to Bob McAdoo. This helped him garner the attention of the newly formed New Orleans Jazz, who saw in the player a crowd-drawing, point-scoring dynamo who was regarded as the best player in Louisiana State basketball history. So in 1974, they sent the Hawks two first- and two second-round draft choices, in addition to Dean Meminger and Bob Kauffman, for Pistol Pete. In the short term, the deal was a mixed bag: Maravich's career highs in rebounds and steals were offset by the lowest field goal percentage of his career and the inability to get draft picks from their NBA-worst 1974-75 season. Maravich overcame this ignominy as well as shoulder injuries the year after to set a career high in field goal percentage and get his first nomination to the All-NBA first team.

But then came 1976-77, which was by and far the best year of Maravich's career. He led the league with 2273 points, 68 of which came on the night of February 25, 1977 against the great defender Walt Frazier. This game still stands as the 11th highest individual score in NBA history. He again earned the typical round of awards in addition to keeping the his non-scoring stats more than respectable. But this was sadly Pete's last great year, for bacterial infections and knee injuries the following season would affect his style for the rest of his career. The flash was gone from his game, the extra bit of skill that put him above the rest. He still kept himself competitive, but was waived by the Jazz shortly after their move to Utah. On January 22, 1980, he was picked up by the Boston Celtics and saw time, but only as a shadow of his former self. Ironically, this was the first year in which the three-point shot was recorded. Haunted by chronic injuries and growing age, Maravich still managed to sink 10 of 15 threes attempted--a .667 rate. Pete Maravich retired on September 20, 1980. He was 33 years old.

After The NBA

After some depressing years without the sport he had been obsessed with since grade school, Maravich suddenly rediscovered religion and began to turn his life around. He turned to a vegetarian diet, resolved to be a better husband and father (to his wife Jackie and sons Joshua and Jaeson), and became a motivational speaker. He seemed to be destined to the long life of bliss that so many ex-athletes have the privilege of enjoying when he suddenly suffered a heart attack while playing pickup basketball before a television interview. He died on January 5, 1988, at the age of 40.

Yet his legacy survived. His jersey was retired by the Utah Jazz in 1985, and he became the youngest player to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987. 1988 saw the official renaming of the LSU basketball court to the Maravich Assembly Center. Later, he became the subject of Pistol: The Birth Of A Legend, released in 1991 and starring Adam Guier as Pete. Finally, in 1996, "Pistol Pete" Maravich was named to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, comprised of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. Maravich is still regaled to this day as one of the best basketball players who successfully, though not always pleasingly, blended show with skill.


Season     Team         G       Pts  	PPG    	 FGP  	 FTP    REB  	RPG 	AST  	APG  	STL  	BLK 
1970-71    Atlanta      81 	1880 	23.2  	.458 	.800  	298 	3.7 	355 	4.4 	01 	0
1971-72    Atlanta      66  	1275 	19.3 	.427 	.811  	256 	3.9 	393 	6.0 	0 	0
1972-73    Atlanta      79 	2063 	26.1  	.441 	.800  	346 	4.4 	546 	6.9 	0 	03, 4
1973-74    Atlanta      76 	2107 	27.7 	.457  	.826 	374 	4.9 	396 	5.2 	111 	134
1974-75    New Orleans  79 	1700 	21.5  	.419  	.811 	422 	5.3 	488 	6.2 	120 	18 
1975-76    New Orleans  62  	1604 	25.9 	.459 	.811 	300 	4.8 	332 	5.4 	87 	232
1976-77    New Orleans  73 	2273 	31.1  	.433 	.835 	374 	5.1 	392 	5.4 	84 	222, 4
1977-78    New Orleans  50 	1352 	27.0 	.444 	.870  	178 	3.6 	335 	6.7 	101 	83, 4
1978-79    New Orleans  49 	1105 	22.6 	.421 	.841 	121 	2.5 	243 	5.0 	60 	184
1979-80    Utah/Boston  43  	589 	13.7 	.449	.867  	78 	1.8 	83 	1.9 	24 	6
Career               	658     15948   24.2    .441    .820    2747    4.2     3563    5.4     587     108

1) The NBA did not start recording steal and block statistics until the 1973-1974 season.
2) Named to All-NBA First Team.
3) Named to All-NBA Second Team.
4) Named to NBA All-Stars.


Information from all of these might not be present in this writeup, but I had all of them open while composing it, so I'm just covering my bases. They're all good resources for more Maravich information, either way. /msg me if you have any corrections, additional facts, or other suggestions.
Thanks also to Ralph Hickok's A Who's Who of Sports Champions and the Everything Quests: Athletes and Sports Figures quest for the inspiration of this node.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.