Bob Pettit is one of the greatest NBA players, who stood above basically everyone else in the early days of the NBA. He holds numerous league records that still stand today.
Pettit wasn’t an instant success in his early days, as he was cut from the varsity basketball team as a sophomore in Baton Rouge High School. Future NBA star however, didn’t give up.
“I just refused to give up,” he recalled in an interview with NBRPA. “My dad put up a hoop for me in our backyard, and after practicing for 2-3 hours/day I was good enough to become the starting center on my varsity team as a junior. It was amazing when I started to receive college scholarship offers: my only ambition as a sophomore was to get a varsity letter.”
In the NBA, Pettit had to adjust, as the Milwaukee Hawks coach Red Holzman decided to switch Pettit to play forward – while he was playing center in college.
“Coach Holzman told me to get outside the paint because he wanted me to play forward. I had a nice outside shot and some good coordination, so it was not a huge adjustment for me. I would occasionally play center when subbing in for our starter, but much preferred playing outside,” Pettit recalled.
Pettit won 2 MVP awards in his first 5 years in the NBA, and to him it means more and more as the time goes on.
“Back then I was pleased, but looking back on it I think it was outstanding. It stands the test of time and means more to me after I had the chance to reflect on my career,” he said.
Back in his day, Pettit set another outstanding record: he was named an All-Star 11 times – in his 11 seasons of playing in the league.
“I played my very 1st All Star Game as a rookie in Madison Square Garden,” Pettit recalled. “I think my mindset had something to do with being a 4-time MVP. Some players see the All-Star break as a time to relax and have fun, but I wanted to prove that I belonged among the best in the world so I played pretty well.”
Having won two NBA scoring titles, Pettit has his own vision on what it takes to become a great scorer.
“It involves a lot of things,” Pettit said. “You have to be on a team with teammates who are willing to get you the ball and let you do a lot of the shooting: they will only do that if you are a pretty good shooter! I was a very good offensive rebounder, which helped me add several points to my scoring average. You need to have a lot of confidence: even if you miss your 1st few shots you have to continue shooting, and the coach must have confidence in you as well.”
Pettit, aside from being a great scorer, was a great rebounder as well. In 1961 he became one of only five players to average 20+ rebounds per game, and career wise he holds the average of 16.2 rpg. Meanwhile, Pettit’s secret to great rebounding sounds very simple.
“I went after every rebound I could, on both offense and defense, which paid off over time,” he said. “I would eventually wear my opponents down and if they could not get the rebound then they would foul me.”
Pettit further said that he is proud of playing as hard as he could “every single minute of every single game”.
“That does not mean I had great games every night, but I do not think that I could have grabbed even 1 more rebound because I busted my back on every shot. We won some games and lost some games, but I have no regrets,” he said.
Pettit played 11 seasons in the NBA, for Milwaukee Hawks (later St. Louis Hawks). He appeared in total 792 games, averaging 26.4 ppg, 16.2 rpg in 38.8 mpg.
Pettit’s list of accomplishments include 11 All-Star games, an NBA championship (1958). Pettit led the NBa in games played in a season (once), field goals made (3 times), total rebounds (once), points scored and points per game (twice). He is also in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
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