May 5, 1987: The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall Of Fame inducts three of the NBA’s most exciting players ever. Entering the Hall were former scoring champions Rick Barry and Pistol Pete Maravich—who averaged, respectively, a league-best 35.6 points for the San Francisco Warriors in 1967 and a league-best 31.1 points for the New Orleans Jazz in 1977—and guard Walt Frazier, who excelled on defense as well as offense for the New York Knicks.
As good as Maravich was in the NBA, his college career from 1967-70 was truly stunning. To this day he is the leading scorer in college basketball history with 3,667 points for LSU, doing it all in just three seasons and 83 games (freshmen weren’t allowed to play on the varsity at that time). Maravich averaged 44.2 points per game. In the NBA, he averaged 24.2 points in a career spent mostly with the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Jazz; he played 17 games for the Utah Jazz after they moved to Salt Lake City in 1979-80. Maravich died of heart failure at the age of 40 during a pickup basketball game in 1988.
Barry was known not only for his scoring prowess, but for shooting free throws underhanded—and having great success at it. His father encouraged him to try it in high school, but Barry was hesitant because that was the way girls shot them back then. But he ended up doing it throughout his pro career, leading the league seven times in free-throw shooting percentage. Barry finished his NBA career at an even 90 percent from the charity stripe. Bay Area broadcasting legend Bill King nicknamed Barry “the Miami Greyhound” after his long and slender physique.
Frazier, known as one of the great perimeter defenders of all time, led the Knicks to their only two NBA championships in 1970 and 1973. He was nicknamed “Clyde,” not because of anything he did on the floor, but because he wore a hat similar to the one sported by Warren Beatty in the film “Bonnie & Clyde,” which was released during his rookie season. Maravich, Barry and Frazier were all named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team last October.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)