Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Rudy Tomjanovich succeeded as both a player and coach at the NBA level.
NBA Career Statistics: 17.4 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game and 50.1 field-goal percentage
Number of Seasons in the NBA: 11
Had it not been for a punch from Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1977, Rudy Tomjanovich may be in the NBA Hall of Fame today.
The San Diego Rockets chose Tomjanovich with the No. 2 pick in the 1970 NBA draft. He struggled mightily as a rookie. After the Rockets relocated to Houston in 1971-72, he averaged at least 14.2 points for nine straight campaigns. That stretch included four years of 20-plus points per game.
Washington's punch during an on-court brawl could not have come at a worse time for Tomjanovich. The blow to his jaw left him with life-threatning injuries. At the time of the punch, Rudy T had averaged 21.5 points through 23 games of the 1977-78 season.
Despite being able to return for three more stints with the Rockets, Tomjanovich was never the same. His minutes dropped significantly and he made just one more All-Star appearance. During Tomjanovich's prime (1974-77), he played in four consecutive All-Star Games.
The Rockets did manage to make the 1981 NBA Finals in his final season.
The Hamtramck, Mich. native did coach the Rockets to back-to-back NBA championships, though, in 1994 and 1995. Tomjanovich also led the United States to a gold medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Both Michigan and the Rockets have retired Tomjanovich's No. 45.