Maravich Reflects on Pro Career
1983-84 Boston Celtics
January 28, 1984
His eyes are still big and brown with a trace of sadness at the corners. His game was glitter, gold and greatness with the same strands of sadness around the edges. Pete Maravich played in the NBA All-Star game in Detroit in 1979. He was 30 years old and he would average 22.6 points for the New Orleans Jazz that season. Today, Pistol Pete will be an old-timer. He will be running alongside 57- year-old Dick McGuire and 57-year-old Bill Sharman in the NBA's All-Star weekend Old-Timers classic. It won't seem right. Maravich, who finished his career with the Celtics in 1980, looks as if he could still play. Why not? Bob Lanier and Dan Issel, who came in with Maravich, are still playing in the NBA.
The Pistol hung up his Green sneakers two days before the start of the Celtics' 1980-81 exhibition season. "M.L. Carr told me to stick around because they were going to win a championship," he recalls. "I said, I know, but you'll have to win it without me.'" They did. Maravich admits he regrets not being part of an NBA championship, and sadly adds, "My pro career wasn't much fun at all."
His college career was fun. Playing for his father, Press Maravich, Pistol Pete led the NCAA in scoring for three consecutive seasons. Rick Mount was wowing 'em at Purdue and Calvin Murphy was a diminutive dandy for Niagara, but Maravich was the one who scored the most points and generated the most publicity. Floppy hair, floppy socks and the ability to score from anywhere were his trademarks. He scored 50 or more points 10 times in 1970. He set records that still stand. He was Atlanta's first-round pick in 1970 and played four years for the Hawks before they shipped him to his New Orleans motherland. In 1976-77 he led the NBA with a 31.1 scoring average, but the Jazz rarely won, and the highly paid Pistol was waived on Jan. 17, 1980. He was signed by Red Auerbach five days later.
"We didn't get him to Boston until the tail end of his career," says Auerbach, who will be Maravich's coach today. "But he was one of the great passers, shooters and ballhandlers who ever played." With Larry Bird, Dave Cowens & Co., Maravich played nine games in the 1980 playoffs and averaged six points. Bill Fitch's 1980 fall camp was Maravich's last. "You have your time," he says. "When you're a professional athlete you have your time, and then you go on and do other things. My time was too short. I missed about 180 games with injuries while I was playing, and I was done when I was 31. Longevity is important, and that's something I didn't have. I could have continued to play, no doubt about that, but I figured 10 years was enough."
He was a gunner at every level, and his teams rarely finished over .500, but he says, "What people don't understand is that basketball is a team game. One individual is never going to make or break a team. Ralph Sampson is a good example. I heard about how he was going to turn it around for Houston, but he hasn't. One guy just can't do it." Maravich's life is different now. He spends a lot of time with his wife and two sons. He dabbles in real estate and has business activities in Florida and New Orleans. He says he doesn't miss the game. He says the only reason he's here this weekend is because his good friend, Mike Cole (formerly a marketing executive with the Celtics), asked him to participate.
Like John Havlicek and Rick Barry, Maravich looks young and fit enough to keep up with tomorrow's All-Stars. He's been a strict vegetarian for four years and runs a summer basketball camp in Clearwater, Fla. "I've been able to adapt," he says. "Since I was 12 years old, I've lived in a fishbowl, but I haven't missed all the attention since I retired. I knew it wasn't going to be forever."
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