Pistol Pete Maravich lived and breathed basketball from an early age. It was only natural. His father, Press Maravich, had devoted his life to the game as a coach and intended to pass that devotion to his son.
Pete fit the part.
From a young age, Maravich showed a natural ability for basketball. He practiced for hours on end to improve his game under demanding coaching from his father. Pete soaked it in. He wanted to be the best basketball player ever.
His grueling dedication paid off in high school. He attended three different schools in North Carolina and South Carolina due to his father changing coaching jobs, but wherever he went, he torched opposing teams. It was in high school where he established the unorthodox release that dawned him the nickname “Pistol.”
Pistol’s legend truly began in 1966 when Press accepted the head coaching job at Louisiana State University of the Southeastern Conference, and his son followed.
Pete Maravich’s LSU Career
Due to NCAA rules at the time, Pete wasn’t allowed to play varsity competition during his first year in Baton Rouge. Instead, he was relegated to the freshman team. His first game was a causal 50-point, 14-rebound, and 11-assist triple-double against Southeastern Louisiana College. In 19 games on the freshmen team, Maravich averaged 43.6 points per game.
The Pistol joined the varsity team the next season and brought his dynamic scoring to the big boys of the SEC. As a sophomore, he averaged 43.8 points and grabbed 7.5 rebounds per game over a 26-game season, per Sports Reference. Maravich’s play helped the LSU Tigers improve to a 14-12 record after going 3-23 the previous season.
Pete didn’t slow down as a junior. He upped his scoring average to 44.2 points while snatching 6.5 rebounds and dishing 4.9 assists per game. Despite his remarkable stats, the Tigers downgraded one loss in the win column, going 13-13.
The First-Team All-American’s senior year was his best. He improved to 44.5 points and 6.2 assists per game, the most of his career. Although, his rebounding dipped to 5.3 per game. He scored his career-high 69 points against Alabama, along with a 64-point performance against Kentucky. He broke the NCAA Division I single-game record for most free throws in a game, making 30-of-31 attempts against Oregon State.
Maravich’s best individual year coincided with the team’s best year during his time in Baton Rogue. The Tigers went 22-10 and finished fourth in the National Invitational Tournament in 1970. He was named Sporting News College Player of the Year and won the Naismith Award honoring the best college basketball player in the country.
Maravich required at least 35 shots per game to reach his average. He hit 43.8% of his attempts over the course of his career. The LSU basketball team never reached the NCAA Tournament during Maravich’s tenure, but they did jump 19 wins from his freshman to senior year.
Pete left college as the all-time leading scorer in college basketball history, totaling 3,667 points with a scoring record of 44.2 points per game. He owns multiple NCAA records, including field goals made and attempted and 50 point games in a single season and career, all of which still stand and don’t project to be broken anytime soon.
Pete Maravich’s NBA Career
After college, Pete entered the NBA draft and was selected third overall in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks. He enjoyed a 10-year career—averaging 24.2 points per game—with the Hawks, New Orleans Jazz (later Utah Jazz), and Boston Celtics. Pistol Pete was a five-time NBA All-Star and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the league.
Unfortunately, his professional career was cut short due to knee problems. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987 after his untimely death caused by a heart attack during a pick-up game
Pistol Pete Maravich’s LSU Legacy
Pete Maravich’s college career was nothing short of incredible. Perhaps the most astounding factor of his time at LSU is the 3-point shot had yet to be introduced in college basketball. Pistol’s game was unique for his time because he loved shooting from outside and a lot of his shots would’ve been worth more had the arc been in play.
It’s estimated Maravich would’ve averaged 57 points per game with the 3-point line. Absurd.
Since freshmen were forbidden to play at the varsity level during Pete’s time, his freshmen year scoring totals didn’t count towards his career numbers. Had they counted the 741 points he scored on the freshmen team, he would’ve scored 4,408 points in his four-year career. Additionally, the shot clock had yet to be invented, allowing teams to stall and restrict opposing possessions.
Pete Maravich is the greatest scorer college basketball has seen. His ball-handling wizardry, shooting ability, and baggy socks are cemented in the sport’s lore. Pistol was always locked, loaded, and ready to fire from anywhere on the court.
He was a gunslinger ready to duel anyone who stood in between him and the basket. The Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge now bears his name as a reminder of how incredible he truly was.
This article was originally published February 21, 2020.