'Pistol' Pete Maravich: An NBA Legacy Carried on 25 Years After
It's been 25 years.
Considered to be one of the first true great showmen of NBA basketball, Maravich truly revolutionized the game in more ways than one. He got his nickname because of the unique way he shot, akin to a gunman whipping out a pistol from his holster.
To make himself stand out from the rest of the field, he wore the word "Pistol" on the back of his jersey rather than his last name.
Once he took the court, it was all guns blazing.
Behind his trademark mop-like hairstyle, floppy socks and usually stoic facade, the Pistol was a whirling dervish on the hardwood—running the fastbreak, dishing out an underhand pass from the opposite court to a wide-open teammate and contorting himself in mid-air for a bucket which left taller and bigger opponents in awe.
For his NBA career, he averaged 24.2 points per game, 4.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.4 steals. He never shot below 80 percent from the free-throw line.
Bill Simmons adds more color to Maravich's style of play in the January 29, 2007 issue of ESPN The Magazine:
We tried to describe him but couldn't express the experience of watching someone play on a completely different plane from everybody else. He made impossible shots look easy. He saw passing angles his teammates couldn't even imagine. He was the most entertaining player alive, and the most tortured one, as well. You marveled at Pete Maravich, but you worried about him, too.
His superior basketball skill set is not only attributed to raw talent—the Pistol had to work really hard. When he was a child, he dribbled a basketball from a car traveling at 20 mph while his father Press drove. He also did this on an aisle inside a cinema while taking in a movie.
When he grew up, he put in as many as eight hours of individual practice to further hone his skills.
All this hard work resulted in a style of play admired even by the best of them.
In a list of 60 facts about the Pistol compiled by NBA.com, Magic Johnson admitted to Maravich's two sons, Joshua and Jaeson, that he borrowed the term "Showtime" from their father. In the ultimate hat tip, he said Pete "was the real showtime."
NBA greats such as Steve Nash and Isiah Thomas also looked up to Maravich in one way or another.
In the book Maravich written by Wayne Federman and Marshall Terill, Nash says "I've got a lot of Pistol Pete in my game."
Thomas quips "Pistol was a big influence on me. I've often tried his moves on the basketball court. What he did on the court are things that players today still can't do."
As great as Maravich's game was, he also had flaws just like everybody else.
Perhaps his biggest criticism was his association with losing teams. In his four-year tenure with the Atlanta Hawks from 1970-74, the team was 153-175 for a winning percentage of 47 percent.
When he tore up the league with the New Orleans/Utah Jazz from 1974-79, the team managed to compile a record of 161-249 for a winning percentage of 39 percent. The Jazz were an expansion team in 1974. Even with the Pistol at the helm for five seasons, their most successful year was in 1977-78 when they won 39 games with Maravich averaging 27 PPG.
It was only during the pinnacle of his NBA career when Maravich had a real shot at making the Finals as a Boston Celtic in 1980, enjoying a trip to the playoffs alongside Larry Bird, Tiny Archibald and Dave Cowens. However, they were upended by the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In spite of this, Maravich left a legacy for other players and fans to follow. His showtime moves and tireless work ethic will forever be etched in the minds of many.
And make no mistake about it, today's NBA wouldn't be as exciting had it not been for him.
The Pistol will forever live on in our hearts.
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