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Sunday, April 02, 2023

Pete Maravich Was Decades Ahead of His Time

Pete Maravich was decades ahead of his time as a basketball player/showman. Julius Erving and Pete Maravich were teammates with the Atlanta Hawks during the 1972 preseason, and Erving told me, "It really was one of the joys of my life to play with Pete, to be in training camp with him. We used to stay after practice and play one-on-one. We would play for dinner after practice. I did the same thing with George Gervin once he became my teammate [in Virginia]--I pretty much learned that from Pete. If this guy is going to be your teammate, you really need to stay after practice and get to understand his game and know his likes and his dislikes--where he likes the ball and that kind of stuff. The best way to do that is to just play--go play each other one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three. Play away from the coaches, away from the whole team practicing in unison." In today's era of load management--and of star players who refuse to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest because they fear that not winning the event could damage their "brand"--I wonder how many future Hall of Famers stay after practice to play one on one games with teammates to both hone their individual skills and also learn about their teammates' preferences/tendencies?

Maravich sharpened and refined his skills with hours of practice from a very young age. "I'm more specialized than a doctor or a lawyer," Maravich said in an interview published in Sport and quoted by Don Terbush in a column that Terbush wrote in the November 25, 1973 edition of The Times Standard (Eureka, California). "My type of game will eventually revolutionize basketball. I'm already getting letters complaining about the tricky stuff. It's gonna be tough at first. See, I want that center to be thinking, 'Hey man, this guy is crazy, he'll do anything.' Because once he starts thinking that, I've got him. People call me a hot dog. I don't mind that, but what bothers me is to think I didn't win somebody over because he didn't have the slightest idea what I was doing--or how much time I put in. I've been doing this since I was three."

Maravich believed that his style would influence not only guards, but also big men: "The time will come before we know it when you will see forwards and centers throwing the ball behind their backs just like I do. I do what Bob Cousy did sometimes all the time."

When you see big men Nikola Jokic make incredible passes, remember that Maravich not only did it decades ago but that Maravich had the foresight to envision a time when his unique style of play would transform the game. I have my doubts about how well some of today's players would do in the NBA of 50 years ago, but I have no doubt that Maravich's shooting skills, creative passing, and showmanship would be much more appreciated today than they were 50 years ago when too many critics dismissed Maravich as a hot dog.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:03 PM



At Sunday, April 02, 2023 3:59:00 PM, Anonymous Eric said...


Your blog posts that serve as tribute to the former legends (some perhaps more forgotten than others) are always a real treat to read. Please share more nuggets you may have of the 1970s - both NBA and ABA.

I wasn't alive at the time of Maravich's sudden passing, but how was it received by the basketball fandom/world? He died close to a similar age as the late Kobe Bryant, and I wonder about how his legacy has been remembered since then/before then.

His NCAA scoring records which still stand to this day serve as an epic reminder of the revolutionary player he was. What a hooper.

At Monday, April 03, 2023 12:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you!

I enjoy sprinkling in historical content alongside articles about the modern NBA.

It is hard to believe that Maravich died so young, and that he died so long ago. I was just a teenager when he died. I was quite shocked and very saddened. At that time, the internet did not exist, and ESPN was relatively new (less than 10 years old, and not nearly as influential as it is now). So, media coverage of any event short of wars and natural disasters was much less pervasive than now. Also, the NBA was not a global sport at that time, so the league and its star players did not have the international following that developed in the years after the Dream Team (1992). Maravich's death received headline coverage, but there was not the worldwide outpouring of grief that accompanied Kobe Bryant's passing.

Maravich had a congenital heart defect that went undetected until he was autopsied. He was born with only one artery, instead of the normal two! Doctors are astonished that he lived as long as he did with such an undetected (and, obviously, untreated) heart defect: https://pediatricheartspecialists.com/heart-education/blog/53-did-you-know-the-greatest-college-basketball-player-ever-had-a-congenital-heart-defect

So, it is tragic that he died, but also miraculous that he lived so long and accomplished so much.

I have interviewed many of the great basketball players who I watched as a kid and as a teenager (and most of my favorites, including Dr. J, Pippen, Magic, Gervin, Aguirre), but I never met Maravich.


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