NBA legend Bill Walton was fascinated by the detailed biography two authors, Wayne Federman and Marshall Terrill, had put together on the life and career of another NBA legend – Pete Maravich. Federman and Terrill, in their effort to put together the most comprehensive book about ‘Pistol Pete’ got a huge assist from their inside collaborator, Pete Maravich’s widow Ms.Jackie Maravich.
“This is an incredible book. There are so many facts, so many stories. I was a great personal friend of Pete, never a teammate; I played against him a lot. But, this book has been so interesting and entertaining. This book has captured my imagination that I have put everything else aside as I just powered through this every day.”
Maravich was a legitimate scoring machine in college
Walton, who had played in the NBA from 1974-75 until 1987-88 and had won the NBA championship rings with 1976-77 Portland Trail Blazers and 1985-86 Boston Celtics, shared his overall delight with the detailed book while also offering the memory of some vintage moments he had with ‘Pistol’ Pete.
Maravich was an NCAA phenom who broke all scoring records during his 4-year legendary stint at the Louisiana State University (LSU). Under the leadership of the head coach Press Maravich (his father) was selected as a 3rd overall pick of the 1970 NBA draft and began his NBA journey with the 1970-71 Atlanta Hawks.
“Amazing [thing] about Pete is … 44 points per game, in his career, for three straight years in an era with no 3-point line. Dale Brown, who coached LSU after Press and Pete were there, went back and charted all the games with the running score – Maravich free-throw, Maravich 22-foot jumper, Maravich lay-up – and he calculated that with the current college 3-point line rule at 19’9” Pete Maravich would have averaged 13 3-point makes per game, which would have given him a career average of 57.0 points per game under today’s rules! That guy was UN-BE-LIEVABLE! We love him, we miss him terribly, what a great man, what a great human being.”
Pistol Pete was lighting everyone up as a member of the Jazz
After posting substantial numbers across the board for the Hawks during his first four seasons as a pro, becoming an All-Star twice and trailing only Bob McAdoo on the 1973-74 NBA’s best scorers list, Maravich was traded by the Hawks to the expansion franchise New Orleans Jazz on May 20th, 1974.
“I remember when Pete got traded from Atlanta, where he started his career, to New Orleans, where the team down there is an expansion team. And they had never won a game! They were 0-14, the worst team in the league, they could do anything, and Pete was lightning them up.”
Maravich was a natural fit for an expansion team like the Jazz when he played in front of the frantic New Orleans crowd, which was aware of all of his past scoring feats and accomplishments while he was at LSU. He was given all the authority to run the team’s offense and did it to the best of his ability.
Getting named to the All-NBA First Team in 1975-76, Maravich’s most productive NBA season came in 1976-77 NBA season when under new head coach Elgin Baylor he led the league in scoring by averaging 31.1 points per game while playing the League-high 41.7 minutes per game.
That season 29-year-old 6’5” guard went absolutely wild in terms of scoring, being completely off the radar of players who were trying to slow him down – he scored 40+ points on 13 occasions and 50+ points on four occasions.
“And the Portland Trail Blazers, we go in there, we had a team, not the Championship team, but had a good enough team, and we were pounding them early, way up at halftime. And Pete, in the second half, just takes over. He goes absolutely wild. He plays one against five. And he is up and down the court, shooting jumpers, hooks, full-court behind the back passes, through the guy’s legs. He did just everything. And in the very last play of the game, we are up one, Pete dribbles up, four of our guys go chasing him, because they know he’s not going to pass it, and he is falling out of bounds, and he shoots it as he is tumbling over the row of fans in the corner. And I am standing underneath the basket waiting for the last rebound, if we’re going to win the game, or not going to win the game ever from the New Orleans Jazz. And the ball swishes through the net!”
On February 25th, 1977, Maravich exploded for unbelievable 68 points against the New York Knicks, the most any guard in NBA history had scored up to that point, with Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor being the only players in NBA history to top that scoring output.
Ending his career with the Celtics
However, after missing to make the postseason with the franchise that moved to Salt Lake City for the 1979-80 season and had great difficulties with knee injuries, Maravich was waived by the Jazz on January 17th, 1980.
Only five days later, Boston Celtics inked the deal with Maravich. In Boston, he joined forces with the emerging superstar rookie Larry Bird and provided the Celtics with the instant firepower of the bench.
That was the season NBA introduced the three-point line, and Maravich’s long-distance proficiency finally gained legitimacy and recognition, with him hitting as many as 10 out of 15 tries from behind the arc.