While, basketball fans of today are marveling over the next 14 year old phenoms, they forget about a forgotten star from the past. Bob Pettit had humble beginnings after being cut from the varsity basketball team at Baton Rouge High School during both his Freshman and Sophomore year. However, during his senior year he led his team to its first state championship in more than 20 years. This would be the start of a Hall of Fame basketball career.
Bob Pettit took his basketball game to Louisiana State University after high school. In his Sophomore year (Freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity team in those years), Pettit led the SEC in scoring at 25.5 points per game. He also pulled down 13.1 rebounds per game and was named to the All-SEC team. The following season he averaged 24.9 points per game and 13.9 rebounds. Most importantly however, Pettit led LSU to their first Final Four. For his heroics, he was named to the All-SEC and All-American teams.
In his last year at LSU, he averaged 31.4 points and 17.3 rebounds per game and led LSU to an SEC Championship and took home honors of being selected to the All-SEC and All-American team again. In 1954, Pettit’s number 50 was retired by LSU. He became the first athlete from the school to receive this distinction.
The Milwaukee Hawks selected Bob Pettit in the first round of the 1954 NBA draft. Pettit would start his NBA career just as he finished his college career by winning Rookie of the Year honors after putting up 20.4 points and grabbing 13.8 rebounds per game. In his second season, he led the league in both scoring at 25.7 points per game and rebounding at 16.2 rebounds per game. He was also named the MVP of the All-Star game and MVP of the regular NBA season.
During the 1957-58, Pettit and the Hawks stopped the Celtics championship streak and took home the title. In Game 6 of the series he scored a then-playoff record of 50 points in the game. The 1958-59 season would win Pettit another regular season MVP award and another scoring crown with a 29.2 points per game average (which was a NBA record at the time). Pettit pulled down 20.3 rebounds per game the following season and became one of only five players to ever average over 20 rebounds per game. Outdoing himself the next season he put up a career high of 31.1 points per game.
When Pettit retired in 1965, he became the first NBA player to score over 20,000 points and his 12,849 rebounds were second most ever at the time. Pettit was an All-Star in every year he played (11 times) and was honored on the All-NBA First Team 10 times. He also averaged at least 20 points per game and at least 12 rebounds per game in each of his 11 NBA seasons.
In 1971, Pettit was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and in 1996 was named one of the 50 Greatest Players ever in the NBA.
While today’s fans rave about great power forwards like Tim Duncan and Karl Malone, they fail to even mention arguably the greatest, Bob Pettit.