Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Petit Scores 20,000

On Nov. 13, 1964, two-time NBA MVP Bob Pettit became the first player in NBA history to score 20,000 points in his career. Pettit spent his entire career with the St. Louis Hawks franchise. The 1964-65 season was the final one of his career. He would wind up scoring 20,880 points when all was said and done. He had a career average of 26.4 points per game.

In 1954, the Milwaukee Hawks selected Pettit in the first round of the NBA Draft. Many were skeptical about Pettit making the transition from college to the rough-and-tumble NBA. Rookies often struggle adjusting to the pro game, but not Pettit — in 1955 he won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award after averaging 20.4 points and 13.8 rebounds per game.

After the 1954-1955 season, the Hawks moved to St. Louis.

Pettit was moved to forward as a pro. "In college I played the standing pivot," he said in an April 1957 issue of SPORT magazine interview. "My back was to the basket. In the pros, I'm always outside. Everything I do is facing the basket now. That was my chief difficulty in adjusting, the fact that I had never played forward before."

In his second season, Pettit won his first scoring title with a 25.7 average, and led the league in rebounding (1164 for a 16.2 average). He was also named MVP of the 1956 NBA All-Star Game after scoring 20 points with 24 rebounds; he would win subsequent MVP All-Star Game honors in 1958, 1959, and 1962. He also won his first of two NBA regular season MVP awards (the other was in 1959).

In 1958, Pettit, Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan led the Hawks to an NBA Championship, defeating the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals (the Hawks had acquired Macauley and Hagan from Boston for the draft rights to Russell). Pettit put an exclamation point on the Hawks' 110-109 game 6 victory by scoring a then-playoff record of 50 points. Both teams would also meet in the 1957, 1960 and 1961 Finals, with Boston winning each time.

Pettit's league leading scoring average of 29.2 points per game in the 1958-59 season was an NBA record at the time, and he was named the Sporting News NBA MVP. In the 1960-61 season, Pettit pulled down 20.3 rebounds per game, making him one of only five players to ever break the 20 rebounds per game barrier. In the following season, he scored a career best 31.1 points per game.

His 12,849 rebounds were second most in league history at the time he retired, and his 16.2 rebounds per game career average remains third only to Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

Pettit was an NBA All-Star in each of his 11 seasons, was named to the All-NBA First Team ten times, and was name to the All-NBA Second Team once. Pettit still holds the top two NBA All-Star Game rebounding performances with 26 in 1958 and 27 in 1962, and has the second highest All-Star Game points per game average with 20.4 (behind only Oscar Robertson).

Pettit averaged at least 20 points per game and at least 12 rebounds per game in each of his 11 NBA seasons. No other retired player in NBA history other than Pettit and Alex Groza (who played only two seasons) has averaged more than 20 points per game in every season they've played (note: Michael Jordan averaged exactly 20 points per game in his final season).

In 1970, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Atlanta Hawks retired his no. 9 jersey.