By MIKE VINSON
"Best ball-handler of all time" (reference: Boston Celtics' (guard John Havlicek: 8-time National Basketball Association/NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, 13-time NBA All-Star).
"Best showman and ball-handler ever" (reference: Detroit Pistons' guard Isaiah Thomas: 2-time NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, 12-time NBA All-Star).
"He was the original showtime" (reference: Los Angeles Lakers' guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson: 5-time NBA champion, 3-time NBA Finals MVP, 12-time NBA All-Star).
If you recall, in my last column I wrote about Frank "Pistol Pete" Eaton, an Oklahoma-based gunslinger, who by the age of 17 was considered one of the quickest draws (reportedly faster than "Buffalo Bill Cody") anywhere there was any pistol-totin'-gunslingin' action going down. Too, at the age of 17 Eaton became a U.S. Marshal in 1877, possibly the youngest in American History. Frank "Pistol Pete" Eaton sealed his legacy when he, still at age 17, walked into a saloon in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and shot it out with the remnants of the notorious Ferber-Campsey gang, who had cold-bloodedly murdered Frank Eaton's father when Frank was a mere 8-years-old.
That said let's trade the dusty plains of Oklahoma for the "hardwoods" of men's Collegiate Division 1 and NBA basketball, more specifically a "gunman" named Peter Press "Pistol Pete" Maravich. Born June 22, 1947, in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, Peter developed an interest in basketball at a very young age near-obsessively spending hours practicing ball- control tricks, passes, head fakes, and long-range shots. Maravich's ball-handling skills reached such a degree that, reportedly, "neighbors remember seeing Pete dribbling a basketball outside the passenger window of a moving car driving at 20 miles per hour" (reference: "Sixty Cool Pistol Pete Facts").
Peter Maravich entered Louisiana State University/LSU the fall of 1966 on a basketball scholarship. Back in 1966, freshmen did not play with the varsity, and, instead, were confined to playing with the freshman team against freshmen teams from other universities. However, when Peter Maravich took to the hardwood floor his sophomore year, fall of 1967, the world of basketball would never be the same. Playing for his father Press Maravich, LSU's head coach, Peter would average 43.8 points per game for the 1967-1968 season, 44.2 per game for the 1968-1969 season, and 44.5 points per game for the 1969-1970 season, averaging 44.2 points per game for his 3-year varsity collegiate career, an all-time record that still stands. Expectedly, Peter Maravich made First Team All-American in men's Division 1 collegiate basketball all three varsity seasons at LSU.
Maravich joined the NBA during the 1970-1971 Season, drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, for whom he played 1970-1974, then playing for the New Orleans Jazz 1974-1980, retiring, due to injuries, from the Boston Celtics after the 1980 season (traded from Jazz to Celtics mid-season 1980). During his 10-year NBA career, Peter Press "Pistol Pete" Maravich accomplished the following:
*NBA All-Rookie First Team (1971)
*5-time NBA All-Star (1973-1974, 1977-1979) *All-NBA First Team (1976-1977) *2-time All-NBA Second Team (1973, 1978) *NBA scoring champion (1977) *NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team *Elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1987)
But just how did Maravich come about the nickname "Pistol Pete"? So goes the legend of "Pistol Pete: Part 2"...
The Maravich family had moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, during teenage Peter's high school years. At first, Peter attended Needham B. Broughton High School in Raleigh. It was during his high school basketball years that the still-famous nickname was born: Given his style of shooting the ball from his side, as if he were holding a revolver, a more benign-sounding "Peter Maravich" became known--with considerable help from the sports media--as a much more catchy "Pistol Pete" Maravich"!
The moniker "Pistol Pete" would follow (continues to follow) Peter Press Maravich until January 5, 1988, when, sadly enough, he collapsed and died at age 40 of heart failure while playing in a pickup basketball game in the gym at a church in Pasadena, California.
Pistol Pete Maravich, shootin' from the hip 'til the very end.
A great American story!