Basketball player Pete Maravich’s showmanship and style earned him the nickname “Pistol Pete.” In the first of his four seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, he was named to the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) All-Rookie Team. He gained a reputation as an accurate long-range shooter, and his ball handling and flair pleased crowds.
Born in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, Pete Press Maravich was the son of Helen and Press Maravich, a former National Basketball League and Basketball Association of America guard and college coach. After a successful career at Needham-Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, Maravich enrolled at Louisiana State University, where his father coached. While at LSU he led the nation in scoring. A three-time First Team All-American, he set eleven National Collegiate Athletic Association records and twenty-six Southeastern Conference records. In his senior year he won the Sporting News’s College Player of the Year and the Naismith awards. Maravich also completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration. LSU’s overall record was only 49-35 during Maravich’s career, despite his remarkable shooting percentage.
During the 1970 NBA draft the Atlanta Hawks were the third team to select, and Maravich was their top choice. The veteran Hawks, many of whom were said to resent Maravich’s reported $1.9 million contract over five years, an enormous sum at the time, received him coolly. Maravich, however, continued to excel, making an impact during his rookie season. He was one of the top ten scorers in the league. Atlanta, however, maintained a poor overall record.
Maravich suffered a number of injuries his second season and missed sixteen games. During his third season he remained healthy and adjusted to professional play. He continued to accumulate individual honors his third year, landing spots on the All-Star Team and the All-NBA Second Team. The cycle of losing seasons continued, however, and the Hawks traded him to an expansion team, the New Orleans Jazz.
Back in Louisiana, Maravich peaked, making the All-NBA First Team twice and the All-NBA Second Team twice. He also led the NBA in scoring, with 31.1 points per game during the 1976-77 season. The Jazz moved to Utah in 1979. On January 17, 1980, Maravich left the team in midseason and just five days later signed with the Boston Celtics, after five and a half seasons with the Jazz. During the 1979-80 season the NBA initiated the three-point shot; Maravich scored ten out of fifteen from three-point range that season.
At the end of his season with the Celtics, Maravich realized his knees were unable to withstand the physical stress of playing basketball, and he retired. He ended his ten-year career with a scoring average of 24.2 points per game. Maravich and his family moved to rural Louisiana, where he held basketball clinics, made instructional basketball videos, and worked occasionally as a commentator. In 1987 he was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Shortly after his induction, on January 5, 1988, Maravich died of a heart attack while playing in a pickup game; he was forty years old.