There are many all-time great players to grace the floor in NBA history that have left an unforgettable mark. Among those was Hall of Famer “Pistol” Pete Maravich, who put forth a career that earned him the recognition of being one of the all-time greats that helped shape the league in what it has become today. Former Utah Jazz great was a player well ahead of his time that was a highly-skilled offensive talent that had a tragic ending to his life at a young age.
Pete Maravich’s collegiate career
Before stepping into the NBA, Pete Maravich put together an incredibly productive collegiate career at LSU, where he earned recognition as one of the country’s best talents.
In his three-year collegiate career, Maravich had numerous accolades to his name. He had become the two-time College National Player of the Year, a three-time Consensus First-Team All-American, three-time SEC Player of the Year, led the nation in scoring three times, and finished as NCAA Division I all-time scoring leader.
Maravich was a scoring machine averaging 44.2 career points per contest, which he averaged north of 43.0 points in each of his three collegiate seasons. Maravich accomplished all of that before the inclusion of the 3-point line, which many believe his scoring averages would have been much higher had there been a 3-point line. He also wasn’t allowed to play during a full quarter of his freshman year because there was an NCAA rule that didn’t let him take part in varsity competition.
All of that set the stage for a promising NBA career that saw him earn much recognition as one of the future stars of the league.
Pete Maravich’s illustrious NBA career
At the collegiate level, Pete Maravich’s play raised the bar significantly high for the level of expectations in the NBA.
Maravich was taken third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1970 NBA draft, where he quickly became a star in the league. He played in 10 seasons with the Hawks, New Orleans Jazz, and Boston Celtics where he racked up five All-Star selections, two All-NBA First Team nods, two All-NBA second team nominations, a scoring title (1977), and had his jersey retired by the Hawks, Jazz, and Pelicans.
Maravich did have his holes in his game defensively in the NBA, but he was a bonafide scorer as he averaged 24.8 points per contest. That saw him average north of 20 points eight times while his scoring title came after averaging 31.1 points per game. That came saw him tally more than 40 points 13 times, including 50 or more on four occasions. His 68-point outing topped that against the New York Knicks, which was most points scored by a guard in any game and only trailed Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor as the third highest-scoring performance.
Maravich’s career began heading south in the 1977-78 campaign as he missed 32 games due to injuries to both knees. That became a common thread from that point on as it limited his performance on the court as he played in only 49 games in the 1978-79 season. That led him to the following year being his last campaign of his career as his knee issues only worsened.
He played in only 17 games with the Jazz before he was placed on waivers by the team. Maravich signed with the Boston Celtics, who were led by star rookie Larry Bird. The Celtics fell short in the playoffs, and he retired after the season as his knee problems had pushed him into stepping away from the game at age 32
Pete Maravich’s tragic death
Pete Maravich moved into retirement with his next chapter because away from the game of basketball.
He chose to pursue yoga and Hinduism that led him back to being an Evangelical Christian. Things took a devastating turn on January 5, 1988, as Maravich collapsed and died of heart failure at age 40 while playing a pickup basketball game in the First Church of the Nazarene in Pasadena, California. The autopsy showed that he had a rare congenital defect that showed he had been born with a left coronary artery in his heart. That led to the right coronary artery becoming enlarged due to that missing portion.
Mavarich’s legacy is remembered as being one of the game’s best scorers during his prime. Although it was short-lived due to nagging knee issues, he had an everlasting impact on the game of basketball and the NBA.