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The Legend of “Pistol” Pete Maravich

The Legend of "Pistol" Pete Maravich

Like Father Like Son

The Legend of "Pistol" Pete Maravich
Press Maravich (on left) with his son Pete Maravich (on right)
Photo courtesy of Jackie Maravich

Pete Maravich was born on June 22, 1947 in Alquippa Pennsylvania. His father Press Maravich played professional basketball for a living. However, Press was never a star player and this severely haunted him.

He vowed that his son would become a better player than he ever was.

In an attempt to withdraw interest in the sport from his son, Press would send his son inside while he would shoot baskets on a hoop right outside their home. Pete would sit inside and watch for hours on in. Pete got jealous.

As a result, when Pete felt Press wasn’t looking he would sneak outside to practice. He would practice the same shots/moves he saw his father performing earlier in the day.

A Dangerous Love for the Game

At this point, Press realized his son had an interest in the game. However, he wanted his son to focus more solely on the sport. Pete was very good at both football and baseball as well. As a result, his father was worried interest in these sports would get in the way of him becoming a successful basketball player.

So one day Press took Pete to a baseball field to field some baseballs. Press didn’t stop hitting balls in Pete’s direction until Pete misplayed a ball and it hit him on the forehead.

Pete started to cry and it was at this moment that Press convinced his son that he should give up on baseball.

Press took an even more aggressive approach in convincing his son to quit playing football. During Pete’s eighth grade season, Press had a conversation with his coach in which he convinced him to put his son in as much harm way as possible.

After having to take many constant hits as the team’s quarterback, Pete decided to quit football.

One of the Hardest Working Athletes of all Time?

Maravich would dribble a basketball while he walked to school, he’d dribble inside a movie theatre and sometimes he would even lie down across the back seat of his father’s car and dribble while his dad drove him around town. His extreme practice methods became a legend all across town.

On school days one could see Maravich practice for up to eight hours per day. He’d practice shooting before school, followed up by dribbling drills and one on one moves after.

Maravich would often ignore his school work. As a result, his teachers would often call home. Surprisingly Press would often tell the teachers “to mind their own business.”

Every day during summer break Maravich would wake up at 6 AM to go practice basketball at his local court. He would do so until other people arrived. When other people arrived he would play pick up games. After everyone else left in the evening, Maravich would stay to shoot some free throws.

Results are Finally Seen 

The Legend of "Pistol" Pete Maravich
Press Maravich (right upper hand corner) with the NC State Wolf Pack team he coached
Photo courtesy of NC State

Due to his crazy work ethic, Maravich would be playing on his local varsity team by the time he reached eighth grade.

At the time, he stood at only 5-foot-6 and weighed only 85 pounds. During a game that season he scored 33 points. As a result, he would go on to earn the nickname “Pistol Pete.”

Throughout his high school career he would become well known for his incredible court vision, no-look passes and Stephen Curry like range.

Entering his senior year of high school he stood at around 6-foot-5. This increase in size made unguardable for even most college basketball players, let alone high school basketball players.

He would routinely practice with and dominate his father’s former college team the NC State Wolfpack as a senior. That same team would go on to hold a 20-4 record in the ACC that year.

Becoming the Greatest College Basketball Scorer of All-Time

The following season Maravich would commit to an LSU Tigers college basketball team that held a 3-20 record during the previous season.

During his college playing career, he’d go on to break the NCAA’s record for points scored in a college basketball career with 3,667, while averaging 44.2 points per game.

What makes this number even more impressive is the fact that this record was made during an era in which the three-point line didn’t exist. There was also no shot clock, which led to fewer possessions throughout the game. Lastly, he only played three years of collegiate basketball.

According to LSU’s former coach Dale Brown, the number would’ve been 57 points per game had the shots from the three-point range counted as three points. Brown is a reputable source on the matter as he charted every shot Maravich took throughout a game.

Legend has it opposing teams would even sometimes carry Maravich off the court in applause after a strong performance. Kids looked up to him as an icon. Many would try to replicate his style wearing baggy socks while rocking a mop styled hair cut.

A Short NBA Career

Throughout his NBA career, Maravich would average 25.2 points per game, 5.2 assists per game and 4.2 rebounds per game.

During his first three seasons while playing on the Atlanta Hawks he would make the postseason each year. Then the next six seasons he would go on to miss the playoffs and he only once made it to the Conference Finals during his playing career.

However, this is more in large part due to a lack of talent on the team surrounding him. There are only six other NBA players to have averaged 24 points, five assists and four rebounds for their career, and all of them besides him have won an NBA championship. The other players on that list include Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Larry Bird.

Tragically, Maravich got injured in 1978 while on the verge of helping the New Orleans Jazz make their first playoffs. It was at this time where his body would start to deteriorate. He would then start to look for a purpose beyond basketball, despite playing one more season for the Utah Jazz/Boston Celtics in 1979-1980.

A new Found joy for Life Beyond Basketball

It was at this point where Maravich suddenly started to drink and his friends/family didn’t like the new person he was beginning to become. Then he decided to become a born again Christian.

As a result of the change he felt he had a new sense of purpose in this world. At this point, he became a family man and gave up on drinking.

Unfortunately, Maravich would collapse while taking the basketball court to film a quick segment of pick up basketball for a local Christian radio show. Not more than an hour later on the date of January 5, 1988 he would be pronounced dead. His presumed last words were “I feel great.”

The cause of death was a heart attack. What makes his death particularly eerie was at the age of 26 while giving an interview Maravich stated “I don’t want to play 10 years in the NBA and die at age 40 of a heart attack.”

After giving that interview Maravich would go on to play six more seasons in the NBA. Soon after he’d die of congestive heart failure. He was 40 years old at the time.

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