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Robert E. Lee "Bob" Pettit (born December 12, 1932, in Baton Rouge, Louisianamarker, U.S.) is a retired American professional basketball player. He played 11 seasons in the NBA, all with the Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks (1954-1965). He was the first recipient of the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Famemarker in 1970. He also went by the nickname "Dutch" in college.

Humble beginnings

Pettit's basketball career had humble beginnings. At Baton Rouge High Schoolmarker, he was cut from the varsity basketball team as both a freshman and sophomore. His father, Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parishmarker (1932-1936), pushed him to practice in the backyard of the Kemmerly house until he improved his skills. It worked: Pettit became a starter as a junior, and led Baton Rouge High to its first State Championship in over 20 years in his senior year.

Louisiana State University

After high school, Pettit accepted a scholarship to play at Louisiana State Universitymarker. He was a three-time All-Southeastern Conference selection and a two-time All American as a member of the LSU men's basketball team. (Freshmen were not allowed to play varsity basketball in those days.) During those three years, Pettit averaged 27.8 points per game. He was also a member of the Zeta Zeta Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon at LSU.

Pettit made his varsity debut at LSU in 1952. He led the SEC in scoring for his first of three consecutive seasons, averaging 25.5 points per game. He also averaged 13.1 rebounds per game, helped his team to a second-place finish in the league, and was selected to the All-SEC team.

During his junior year, Pettit led the Tigers to their second SEC Title (their first came in 1935) and their first NCAA Final Four. He averaged 24.9 points and 13.9 rebounds per game for the 1953 season. He was honored with selections to both the All-SEC and All-American teams.

Petit averaged 31.4 points and 17.3 rebounds per game during his senior year and once again led LSU to an SEC Championship and garnered All-SEC and All-American honors.

In 1954, his number 50 was retired at LSU. He was the first Tiger athlete in any sport to receive this distinction. In 1999, he was named Living Legend for LSU at the SEC Basketball Tournament. He is a member of the LSU Hall of Fame. Bob Pettit Boulevard in Baton Rouge, LA is named after him.

Professional career

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 this season, the Hawks moved to St. Louismarker.

Pettit was moved to forward as a pro. "In college I played the standing pivot," he said in a 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 rpg barrier. In the following season, he scored a career best 31.1 points per game.

Pettit ended his career in 1965, becoming the first NBA player to eclipse the 20,000 points mark (20,880 for a 26.4 average). 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 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 Basketball Hall of Famemarker.

Revolutionizing the “power forward”

Pettit is often credited as revolutionizing the power forward position in the NBA. Because of his scoring and rebounding ability, he is considered the predecessor to Elgin Baylor, Jerry Lucas, Elvin Hayes, Bob McAdoo, Kevin McHale, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

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