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“In my day … we didn’t make enough money to live on the rest of our lives” - Bob Pettit on why he retired from the NBA at age 32

But don't feel bad for the legend because he enjoyed life after basketball.
; St. Louis Hawks forward Bob Pettit (9) lays the ball in against the Los Angeles Lakers during game 6 of the 1961 Western Division championship at the Los Angeles Sports Arena

Bob Pettit

Bob Pettit was one of the earliest stars of the NBA, dominating the league in every season he played. However, he hung up his shoes at just 32 years old, surprising many people because he was still performing at an elite level in his 11th and last campaign (1964-65).

Apparently, the legendary power forward had already planned to step away two years before his retirement. The reason for his decision was a career change, as he had received a job offer from a Baton Rouge bank. And at the time, working in the banking industry was probably more lucrative than playing in the Association.

"In my day … we didn't make enough money to live on the rest of our lives. We all had to work after basketball," Pettit said.

From "Big Blue" to bank man

The Louisiana native shared in an interview with The Athletic that he was excited about accepting the offer from the bank company. After he happily took the job, the chairman allowed him to play two more years in the NBA.

"And I said, 'I'll do it,'" Pettit shared.

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Upon checking the timeline of his story, it seems that the St. Louis Hawks icon made his decision sometime after the 1962-63 season. In that campaign, he was still averaging 28.4 points and 15.1 rebounds per game.

It's a bit sad for fans that the 6-foot-9 big man had to step away from the sport he loved to embark on a better-paying job in the banking industry. Such a case might be unheard of in recent generations when NBA stars rake in millions of dollars every year.

But during Pettit's time, there likely wasn't enough money to go around. While his annual salary as a basketball pro wasn't disclosed, the first contract he signed with the Hawks franchise amounted to $11,000.

Happy with his life after basketball

Even so, don't feel bad for the first-ever NBA MVP because he has always exclaimed how happy he was with his decision back then. In an interview with HoopsHype in late 2021, he reiterated that he enjoyed his "retirement."

"I found something that I enjoyed as much as playing basketball," Pettit said. "I enjoyed my life after basketball. Not a lot of players can say that."

The 11-time All-Star finished his playing career after becoming the first player in league history to eclipse the 20,000-point mark.

He also added 12,849 rebounds to his 20,880 points for good measure. If he had continued playing, he would have surely added thousands more to those stats.

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