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Category Archives: Center

Dick Cunningham – 1972-’73 Topps #134

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Dick Cunningham (born July 11, 1946 in Canton, Ohio) is a retired American professional basketball player. A 6’10″ center, Cunningham led NCAA Division I in rebounding as a junior at Murray State University with a school-record 21.8 rebounds per game in the 1966-67 season. He was selected to the All-Ohio Valley Conference basketball team in 1967 and 1968. In three seasons with the Murray State varsity, Cunningham scored 981 points and grabbed 1,292 rebounds in 71 games. His 479 rebounds in 1966-67 and his career rebounding average of 18.2 rebounds per game still stand as Murray State records. He was inducted into the Murray State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1986. Cunningham was the 21st overall selection in the 1968 National Basketball Association draft by the Phoenix Suns and also was picked by the New York Nets in the American Basketball Association draft. Traded by the Suns to the Milwaukee Bucks before the 1968-69 season, Cunningham played seven seasons in the NBA as a member of the Bucks and Houston Rockets. He averaged 2.8 points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game in his career and won an NBA championship with Milwaukee in 1971

Wilt Chamberlain – 1972-’73 Topps #80

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Image  Wilton Norman “Wilt” Chamberlain (August 21, 1936 – October 12, 1999) was an American professional NBA basketball player for the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers; he also played for the Harlem Globetrotters prior to playing in the NBA. The 7 foot 1 inch Chamberlain weighed 250 pounds as a rookie before bulking up to 275 and eventually to over 300 pounds with the Lakers. He played the center position and is considered by his contemporaries as one of the greatest and most dominant players in NBA history.
Chamberlain holds numerous official NBA all-time records, setting records in many scoring, rebounding and durability categories. He is the only player in NBA history to score 100 points in a single NBA game or average more than 40 and 50 points in a season. He also won seven scoring, nine field goal percentage, and eleven rebounding titles, and once even led the league in assists. Although he suffered a long string of professional losses, Chamberlain had a successful career, winning two NBA championships, earning four regular-season Most Valuable Player awards, the Rookie of the Year award, one NBA Finals MVP award, and being selected to 13 All-Star Games and ten All-NBA First and Second teams. Chamberlain was subsequently enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978, elected into the NBA’s 35th Anniversary Team of 1980, and chosen as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History of 1996
After his basketball career ended, Chamberlain played volleyball in the short-lived International Volleyball Association, was president of this organization, and is enshrined in the IVA Hall of Fame for his contributions. Chamberlain also was a successful businessman, authored several books, and appeared in the movie Conan the Destroyer. He was a lifelong bachelor, and became notorious for his claim to having had sex with over 20,000 women.
Even far beyond his playing days, Chamberlain was a very fit person. In his mid-forties, he was able to humble rookie Magic Johnson in practice, and even in the 1980s, he flirted with making a comeback in the NBA. In the 1980–81 NBA season, coach Larry ImageBrown recalled that the 45-year-old Chamberlain had received an offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers. When Chamberlain was 50, the New Jersey Nets had the same idea, and Chamberlain declined again. However, he would continue to epitomize physical fitness for years to come, including participating in several marathons. In 1992, Chamberlain was briefly hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat. According to those close to him, he eventually began taking medication for his heart troubles. On October 12, 1999, rescuers found him dead upon being summoned to his Bel Air, California, home. His agent reported, after speaking with Chamberlain’s cardiologist, that Chamberlain died of congestive heart failure, his health having deteriorated rapidly during the month preceding his death.

Willis Reed – 1972 -’73 Topps #105

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   Willis Reed, Jr. (born June 25, 1942) is a retired American basketball player, coach and general manager. He spent his entire professional playing career (1964–1974) with the New York Knicks. In 1982, his outstanding record and achievements were recognized by his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1997, he was voted one of the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History.” After retiring as a player, Reed served as assistant and head coach with several teams for nearly a decade, then was promoted to General Manager & Vice President of Basketball Operations (1989 to 1996) for the New Jersey Nets. As Senior Vice President of Basketball, he led them to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. 1982, Reed was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. He is widely considered as one of the greatest Knicks players ever, with the likes of Walt Frazier and Patrick Ewing.
In 1964 Reed was drafted 10th overall by the Knicks, where he quickly made a name as a fierce, dominating and physical force on both ends of the floor. Reed made an immediate impact with the Knicks. In March 1965 he scored 46 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, the second highest single-game total ever by a Knicks rookie. For the season, he ranked seventh in the NBA in scoring (19.5 points per game) and fifth in rebounding (14.7 rebounds per game). He also began his string of All-Star appearances and was named the NBA Rookie of the Year. In his first seasons with the Knicks, he played power forward and later gained fame as the starting center. Despite his relatively average stature for a basketball player, he made up for his lack of height by playing a physical game, often ending seasons with respectable averages in blocking and rebounding. (He stood 6-foot-10 when contemporaries such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stood 7-1 and 7–2, respectively.)
Reed’s most famous performance took place on May 8, 1970, during Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in Madison Square Garden. Due to a severe thigh injury, a torn muscle that had previously kept him out of Game 6, he was considered unlikely to play in Game 7. Yet Reed surprised the fans by walking onto the court during warmups, prompting widespread applause. Starting the game, he scored the Knicks’ first two field goals on his first two shot attempts, his only points of the game. Reed’s performance inspired the Knicks, as teammate Walt “Clyde” Frazier went on to score 36 points with 18 assists. The Knicks won the game 113–99, giving New York City its first NBA title. The moment Reed walked onto the court was voted the greatest moment in the history of Madison Square Garden.

Steve Patterson – 1972-’73 Topps #73

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   Steven J. Patterson (June 24, 1948 – July 28, 2004), of Santa Maria, California, was an American professional basketball player who played in the National Basketball Association for five seasons. A 6’9″/2.06 m center from UCLA, Patterson spent his first year of athletic eligibility (1968-69, the third of the Bruins’ unprecedented string of seven consecutive national titles) as the backup to Lew Alcindor, later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He then was the starting center for the Bruins’ 1970 and 1971 championship teams. Patterson was the UCLA center between Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton, and so was part of a string of seven straight NCAA championships the college won. Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe were the forwards on the star-studded team, and Patterson had his biggest game, 29 points, against Villanova in the 1971 NCAA Final. Passing up a chance to play for the Phoenix Suns, who drafted him early in 1970, Patterson re-entered the draft. Patterson was the second rookie, after Austin Carr, selected by the expansion Cleveland Cavaliers. He was also drafted by the Texas Chaparrals of the American Basketball Association in the 1970 ABA Draft. Patterson showed ability as an inside defender and rebounder, but also battled knee problems and never reached his potential as a NBA player. He played five years in Cleveland and then one year as a Chicago Bull.
Patterson then went into coaching, eventually becoming the head men’s basketball coach at Arizona State from 1985 through 1989. He was also the chairman of Phoenix’s organizing committee for Super Bowl XXX (1996) and commissioner of the Continental Basketball Association in 1997. Patterson spent the last years of his life organizing youth and community sports programs in Arizona until his death from lung cancer. A life-long Christian, Patterson made faith the core of his post-NBA activities. He died in 2004 and is remembered at TheGoal.com. The Goal had been his central organization to church-sports activities.

Jim Chones – 1972-’73 Topps #259


James Bernett Chones (born November 30, 1949 in Racine, Wisconsin) is an American former professional basketball player. A 6’11″ forward/center, Chones starred at Marquette University, where he earned All-America honors as a junior in 1972 after averaging 20.5 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. When he left Marquette to pursue an NBA career, he was only the second player in NCAA history to leave school for the NBA, before his graduating year. Professionally, he first played in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and later in the National Basketball Association. Chones won an NBA Championship as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1980, and he retired from basketball in 1982 with combined ABA/NBA totals of 9,821 points and 6,427 rebounds. After retiring from the NBA, Chones spent eleven seasons as the television color analyst for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and in 2007, returned as a radio postgame analyst. Thirty-five years after leaving Marquette, Chones returned to earn his degree in Philosophy. He was inducted into the Marquette University Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Cleveland Sports Commission Hall of Fame in 2006. In addition to his broadcasting duties with the Cavaliers, Chones has been an occasional color analyst for the Milwaukee Bucks. For the 2010-2011 season, usual Cavs radio voice Joe Tait has missed much of the season as he recovers from surgery/illness. During this time, Chones and WTAM morning co-host/sports director and Cavs pregame/postgame host Mike Snyder have formed the interim radio play by play team.

Jerry Lucas – 1972 -’ 73 Topps #125


Jerry Ray Lucas(born March 30, 1940) was a basketball player from the 1950s to the 1970s, and is now a memory education expert. In 1996, the NBA’s 50th anniversary, he was named one of the 50 greatest players in National Basketball Association history. He was named to Sports Illustrated’s five-man College All-Century Team in 1999. Lucas was born in Middletown, Ohio, then a community of 30,000+ halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati, that in the 1940s and 1950s boasted one of the most respected high school basketball programs in the United States. Greatly encouraged, Lucas began pouring hours each day into the town’s game during his early teens. Lucas had become a local playground legend by age 15, in Sunset Park. Sunset Park was then a regional summer hotbed for high school, college and even some pro players. Future Cincinnati Royals teammates Wayne Embry and Oscar Robertson were visitors there. Lucas was already at almost his full-grown height of 6 ft 8 in by age 15, out-playing college players with his advanced game. With no real model to look up to for his game, Lucas simply utilized his rare 20-10 eyesight and remarkable hands to train his shooting and rebounding to remarkable degrees. He created his own drills, showing a gift for inventing games he would utilize later as well.

Bob Lanier – 1972-’73 Topps #110


Robert Jerry “Bob” Lanier(born September 10, 1948) is a retired American professional basketball player who played for the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA. Lanier was drafted number one overall by the National Basketball Association’s Detroit Pistons and was named to the All-Rookie Team following the 1970-71 season. He starred for Detroit until being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1980. In his five seasons with the Bucks, they won the division championship each year. The same year he retired, in 1984, he was awarded the Oscar Robertson Leadership Award. In his 14 NBA seasons, Lanier averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while shooting a respectable 51.4 percent from the field. He played in eight NBA All-Star Games, and was named Most Valuable Player of the 1974 game. Lanier was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 and had his #16 jersey retired by both the Pistons and the Bucks.

ABA All Stars – Artis Gilmore – 1972 – ’73 Topps #250


Artis Gilmore(born September 21, 1949) is a former American Hall of Fame basketball player who played in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and National Basketball Association (NBA). Artis was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on August 12, 2011. A star center during his two collegiate years at Jacksonville University, in Jacksonville, Florida, Gilmore led the Dolphins to the NCAA Division I championship game in 1970, where his team was beaten 80-69 by the University of California at Los Angeles Bruins. Gilmore remains the top player in rebounds per game in the history of NCAA Division I basketball. In the minds of many, Gilmore was surpassed as an ABA star only by Julius Erving. Gilmore followed five All-Star seasons with the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA by becoming the first overall pick of the 1976 NBA dispersal draft, which was held after the ABA was disbanded, as four teams transferred to the NBA. In Gilmore’s complete pro basketball career, he was an eleven-time All-Star, the ABA Rookie of the Year, and an ABA MVP, and he remains the NBA career leader for field goal percentage. Nicknamed “The A-Train”, the 7′ 2″  Gilmore once played in 670 consecutive games.

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