Pete Maravich, better known as the "Pistol," is one of the most unappreciated and forgotten legends of the game. A player ahead of his time who unfortunately had his career and life cut short too early to this day holds the spot as one of the flashiest players the league has ever seen. But who did Pete view as the best player in the game back in the 1980s'?
The short-lived star duo
Pete Maravich is best known for his days with the Hawks and the Jazz, with which he notched 5 All-Star appearances, 4x All-NBA selections, and a scoring championship in 1977. That year The Pistol averaged 31.1 ppg, 5.4 apg, and 5.1 rpg, displaying scoring ability ahead of his time. There is no telling how much Maravich would have averaged in his prime if he had a three-point line at the time.
The three-point line was introduced for the last two seasons of Pete's career, but that was Maravich outside of his prime, struggling with injuries and staying on the court. It is pretty forgotten that Maravich played his final season in the league in 1980 with the Boston Celtics. Coincidently that was Larry Bird's rookie season.
Maravich didn't play much of a role, appearing in only 26 games and averaging 11.5 ppg. But that was already Bird's team, as he took them to the ECF in his rookie season while proving he would be one of the best players in the NBA for the coming decade.
That was enough to convince Pete Maravich that he was simply the best in the world, and he shared the best description of "Larry Legend" in an interview after his retirement:
"I think he is the best, you know. Larry is not really the best rebounder in the NBA; he is not really the best passer, I don't think, he's not the best dribbler, he's not the best shooter, he's not the best scorer. He's just the very best."
Pete Maravich, The Universe Galaxy NBA
Bird was never considered the best at anything specific, but his all-around game and skill made him impossible to contain. The mix of shooting, size, basketball IQ, rebounding ability, and confidence made Larry a legend and one of the best players in NBA history, even in the eyes of Pistol Pete Maravich.