A Look Back: “Pistol” Pete Maravich
“A Look Back”: legends of sport, great teams, heated rivalries, and amazing games of the past.
Today is my first edition of my brand new series “A Look Back”. Today I will be looking back on the greatest college basketball player of all time: “Pistol” Pete Maravich. Pete Maravich was born and raised in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, which is about 20 minutes away from where I grew up. Maravich is a Serbian-American, as am I. Maravich’s father, Petar “Press” Maravich, was a son of Serbian immigrants. “Press” played professional basketball and later became a coach. He was the one who showed Pete the fundamentals of basketball.
The Maravich family moved to South Carolina because “Press” landed the head coaching job at Clemson. Pete played for 3 different high schools while in South Carolina and North Carolina, and earned the nickname “Pistol” Pete because of how he shot the ball from his side. People said it looked like he was drawing a pistol and the name stuck.
Pete was going to go to West Virginia because that is where his dad wanted him to go play basketball. However, plans quickly changed for “Press” and “Pistol”. LSU offered Petar “Press” Maravich the head coaching job, and “Press” had a plan in mind to bring Pete with him. Pete said that his dad made him sign with LSU or he wasn’t allowed to ever step foot in his house again (Pistol Pete: Heir To A Dream written by Pete Maravich). Pete signed papers to play for LSU in a Pittsburgh airport, and that was the beginning to the dynamic father-son duo.
Pete wasn’t eligible to play on varsity his freshman year, so he played on the freshman team. Pete put up 50 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists in his first game at LSU. Pete finished his freshmen year with 741 points.
“Pistol” Pete scored 1,138 points in his sophomore season, 1,148 points his junior year, and 1,381 points his senior year. He averaged 43.8, 44.2 and 44.5 points per game in those 3 seasons. He led all scorers those 3 seasons he played on varsity at LSU. He played 83 games at LSU and had a career scoring average of 44.2 points per game. He also shot a career 44% from the field and 76% from the free throw line.
“Pistol” Pete finished his career at LSU with 3,667 points in just 3 seasons. He was and still is college basketball’s leading scorer. This feat is insane because of 2 reasons: The first being that freshman weren’t allowed to play on a college varsity team until 1973. They had to play on a freshman team, so his entire freshman year didn’t even count toward his collegiate record of 3,667 points. Second, THERE WAS NO THREE-POINT LINE. The man averaged over 40 points a game for his career without a three-point line!! “Pistol” Pete was far beyond his time at LSU. If there was a three-point line and he played varsity his freshman year, I believe “Pistol” would’ve average over 50 points a game and scored over 5,000 points at LSU.
He was drafted 3rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1970 NBA draft. “Pistol” Pete was the first player in NBA history to sign a contract for over $1 million coming out of college. His rookie contract was worth $1.9 million. He played a total of 10 seasons in the NBA with Atlanta, New Orleans, Utah, and Boston. He had a scoring average of 24.2 over his NBA career, and scored 40 or more points in a game 41 different times.
“Pistol” Pete had one of the most amazing basketball careers of all time, but playing basketball was not how he wanted to be remembered. “Pistol” Pete accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior in November of 1982 in the middle of the night in his home in Louisiana. He would go around and share his testimony to anyone who would hear it. He said that “I want to be remembered as a Christian, a person that serves Him [Jesus] to the utmost, not as a basketball player.”
“Pistol” Pete died on January 5th, 1988, in Pasadena, California in a gym playing basketball with James Dobson, of Focus on the Family. Pete was there to record a radio segment that was going to air later that afternoon. Pete died of heart failure. He was born without a left coronary artery. Pete’s last words were, “I feel great”.
In my opinion, “Pistol” Pete Maravich is the greatest college basketball player of all time. I honestly don’t think that anyone can make a solid case that someone was better than he was. Even if someone breaks his scoring record, which I don’t think will ever happen, it won’t mean as much because there is a three-point shot now. However, aside from the basketball greatness, the most important thing is that he found Jesus and chose to follow Him.
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