Peter Press Maravich was born in Aliquippa, PA on June 22, 1947. To say that basketball was in his genes would be an understatement because his father Press Maravich was a long time basketball coach at almost every level, including coaching the Pistol at Louisiana State University. A couple of legendary stories from Pete’s childhood will always live on in my mind as illustrations of what true legends are made of. First, there is the famous story about Pete spinning a basketball on his finger for almost an entire hour before the nail on his index finger got worn so low that his finger burst into a bloody mess. That story happened in an ice cream parlor and was highlighted in the movie, “The Pistol”. A lesser known legend was that Pete’s father Press would drive the family car around the neighborhood after dinner while Pete would dribble a ball ,through the window, outside the moving car! This guy had handles, trust me!
All of this hard work and raw skill landed Pete at the Louisiana State University with father Press. During his four years at LSU, keeping in mind that freshman were not permitted to play varsity basketball in those days, Pete would set scoring records that tower above where current college players are posting. In his freshman year of 1967 the Pistol would average 43.6 points per game on the freshman team. Just a varsity guy playing on the JV right? Wrong! The Pistol would continue to leave opposing defenses in shambles for the next three years while setting NCAA records in nearly every offensive category. His sophomore, junior, and senior years, Pete led the NCAA in scoring by posting 43.8, 44.2, and 44.5 points per game. He was named first team All-America in 1968,‘69, and ‘70 before being drafted third overall by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1970 NBA Draft.
Leaving father Press at LSU, Pete left a mark that reads like this, and will continue to read like this until the second coming of the lord himself decides to lace up some high-tops. He holds the NCAA records for points scored in a career at 3,667 with a 44.2 PPG average in 83 games, most field goals made and attempted with 1,387 for 3,166, most free throws attempted and made with 893 for 1,152, most games scoring 50 or more points at 28 times, single season scoring average and points total at 44.5 and 1,381 in 1970, single season field goals made and attempted in 1970 with 522 makes and 1,168 attempts, single season 50 points games with ten in 1970, most free throws made in a single game with a 30-31 performance against Oregon State in 1969, and had the damn arena at LSU named after him in 1988 by the Governor of Louisiana Buddy Roemer. It is now called the Maravich Assembly Center. Talk about leaving your mark!
While in the NBA, Pete continued to awe crowds with his trademark style, long hair and floppy socks, and fast-paced flashy play. As a rookie in 1971, Maravich averaged 23.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. These numbers qualified him for the NBA All-Rookie team. Similar numbers would be posted for the next five years before Pistol Pete would once again leave his mark on the game forever. In the 1976-77 season with the New Orleans Jazz Pete would average 31.1 points per game and lead the NBA in scoring and average better than five rebounds and assists. This monumental season would solidify Maravich as more than just a flash point guard, but a true lights-out scoring machine regardless of level of play. He has the third highest single game scoring total in NBA history for a guard with 68 points coming against the New York Knicks.
More than all the numbers and accolades along the way, and obviously there is a cornucopia of them, Pistol Pete may be best remembered not for his ability to score but more for his skills dishing the rock with the no-look dime to an often times invisible teammate. He was a master at the behind-the-back, between-the-legs, and even the behind-the-head pass. Pistol Pete had so many passes in his repertoire he rarely did the same one twice, and no one since has done it better. If his passes weren’t your cup of tea, Maravich could dazzle any crowd with his dribbling skills. Nearly impossible to touch when he wanted to elude defenders, Pete made a show out dribbling out the clock while an opposing team was trying to foul. He was such fluid ball handler, and maybe the best since the Harlem Globetrotter’s Marques Haynes (Another legend in his own right and a pioneer that led the way for guys like Maravich).
The final read on Peter “Pistol” Press Maravich concludes like this; Maravich was a two time All-NBA First Team in 1976 and ‘77, All-NBA Second Team in 1973 and ‘78, NBA Scoring Champion in the 1976-77 season, five time NBA All-Star, one of the 50 greatest players of all-time, and his jersey number 7 is retired to the rafters of the Utah Jazz organization. These accolades here, plus all the other history in this article, are why Pistol Pete is this installment of Historical Glimpses, but there is something else all true hoop fans should know about Pistol that makes his legend that much more magical…
After Pete died back in 1988 of a heart attack while playing in a pick-up game, it was revealed that he only had one coronary artery complex. People without this condition have two coronary artery complexes. That means that Pistol Pete Maravich played his entire ten year NBA career with only half a fully functional heart. Most people that are born with this condition rarely live past their adolescence. This just proves that Pistol Pete was born to do one thing and one thing only and that was to play basketball. He was truly an inspirational figure for the future of the game. He was a showman that put people in the stands while this great league was developing. He was a commodity to be seen when his teams came to town and he rarely disappointed. As one of the 50 greatest players of All-Time Pistol Pete can be remembered as truly a gift to the game of basketball forever.