Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Historical Glimpses: Nathaniel “Big Nate” Thurmond

(FortCollins-CO) So this edition of Historical Glimpses has been almost 45 years in the making and rightfully deserved. The player honored is one of the most under appreciated, overlooked, most often forgotten, and rarely mentioned legends of the NBA and I can’t figure out why. He was only one of the best defensive centers of all-time and played in what many aficionados would consider the first golden age of basketball. Well, if I hadn’t already given you the title of this article, which I regret because I should of ran a contest to see who would of pulled his name out of a hat, I bet that very few would have mentioned the name Nate Thurmond. One of my personal favorites, regardless of era, and the only other player other than the late, and great, Wilt Chamberlain to average the 20/20.

Nate Thurmond is known as, “The Pride of Bowling Green University,” because of his college career there. At BGU, Thurmond averaged 17.8 points and 17 boards in a three year varsity career, remember freshman were not allowed to play varsity during this era, that made him All-American his senior year. A prequel to successes yet to come because Thurmond could very well have been the perfect combination of Chamberlain’s offensive prowess and Russell’s defensive majesty.

When his time at Bowling Green was up, he was drafted third overall by the San Francisco Warriors in 1963. The Warriors already had Wilt Chamberlain at the center position, but that didn’t stop Nate from putting up All-Rookie team numbers of seven points and ten rebounds in limited minutes. The Warriors knew what they had in development and subsequently traded Wilt that next year. Good thing too, because Nate was ready to solidify himself as an NBA giant with a breakout second year where he averaged 16.5 points and 18.1 rebounds.

Nate would stick with the Warriors for an astounding eleven years, which included a relocation and name change when the San Francisco Warriors became the Golden State Warriors. In that span of time Thurmond quietly became one of the most feared defenders, solid offensive contributors, and quintessential big men of the era. He didn’t do it with flash and brash, but what he did do was always leave his opponents with a sense of respect for his game. This respect was surely the product of the way that Nate made you earn everything, all the time. Russell, Chamberlain, and Jabbar have all been put on record as saying that Thurmond was the hardest man to score on during their careers.

And one more thing for all you hoop heads out there. Nate Thurmond is the only other player other than Wilt Chamberlain to average more than 20 points and 20 rebounds in a single season. Pull that out of your repertoire next time you want to have a buddy buy your dinner on a bet! Need desert too? Just ask, how many rebounds Nate grabbed on his best night on the boards? The answer is a staggering 42!

After his years with the Warriors you might have thought Nate’s career would slowly fizzle out before his retirement and you would be wrong. He was traded to the Chicago Bulls and he would treat the NBA to another mind-boggling feat. In the debut game of his debut with Chi-Town, Nate would show the world the first recorded quadruple-double in an NBA game! He scored 22 points, squeezed 14 rebounds, dropped 13 dimes, and swatted 12 shots. Who got game? Big Nate got game! He couldn’t keep that type of play up, and as expected, took on a very roll-oriented position as his career started to slow, but Chicago wasn’t his last stop in the NBA. Thurmond made his final stop in his home state of Ohio with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Numbers that year are not awe-inspiring, but a career that certainly was, was coming to an end. At his career’s finale, Nate Thurmond has averages of 15 points per game, 2.7 assists, and 15 rebounds.

So the final chapter on Big Nate reads a little bit like this: Nate Thurmond was All-NBA Rookie team in 1964, NBA All-Defensive first team in 1969 and ’71, NBA All-Defensive second team in 1972, ’73, ’74, Golden State Warriors All-Time leading rebounder with 12,771 boards, NBA All-Star seven times (1965, ’66, ’67, ’68, ’70, ’73, ’74), his number 42 is retired by two teams (Cleveland and Golden State), he was honored as one of the greatest 50 players at 50 of NBA history, and was enshrined to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. Whew, that was a mouth full!
The 6’11” Nate Thurmond is one of my personal favorites. He had style un-mimicable and game resumes to match. This is my way of making sure that the young hoop fans out there get a real slice of throwback in hopes that ballers like Nate Thurmond are appreciated for their “Giant” legend.

1 comment:

Nugg Doctor said...


I have not forgotten about your request for an article on Lloyd "Sweet Pea" Daniels, but am revisiting an old resource of mine to really give the story of "Pea" justice. Keep patient, and I promise to deliver on that request for a street baller.