NBA 75

Before Showtime, there was Pete Maravich ... an NBA trailblazer

"That's where I saw it all, from Pistol Pete. That's where I got it from."

Magic Johnson, the leading act in perhaps the most entertaining brand of basketball, the Showtime Lakers of the '80s brought his own style to flair to the game, but as is the case with all generational stars, they are an advancement of the era before them.

What we see in today's game, between the flashy dribble moves of Kyrie Irving, the long-range 3-point bombs from Steph Curry to the Ja Morant ball-fakes, can all be traced back to Pistol Pete.

Many others before him brought a sense of flash to the game, but Maravich's consistent audacity to ooze style on the court was at the time out of place in the 1970s.

The internet frequently debates which players from different eras could have excelled in different times. Could LeBron thrive in the physicality of the '90's, would Michael Jordan still dominate today like he did back then? While often the debate works backwards in time, fast forward Maravich to today's game and you would have had an absolute monster.

Maravich was ahead of his time in every sense of the phrase, with his flamboyant style of play and commitment to putting on a show, second to none.

The 6-foot-5 guard played 10 seasons in the NBA and was named an All-Star five times and while he didn't win an NBA championship, his imprint on the game goes well beyond any accolades.

After averaging 43.8, 44.2, and 44.5 points per game in three seasons at LSU, he was selected with the third overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft, signing a $1.9 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks, the biggest contract in professional basketball at the time.

He lit up the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks for four seasons, establishing himself as one of the league's premier guards, earning two All-Star selections, an All-NBA second team berth in 1973 and finished second in scoring in 1974 at 27.7 points per game.

Following a trade to the New Orleans Jazz, he took his game to another level and by his third season in NOLA he averaged 31.1 points per game, scoring 40 points or more 13 times. That season he poured in his career-high of 68 points against the New York Knicks, the most points ever scored by a guard and at the time only Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor had scored more points in a single game.

HIs 68 points came on 26-of-43 from the field and 16-of-19 from the free-throw line to this day is tied for the 13th highest single-game points total. Keep in mind this was before the 3-point line was introduced, although Maravich still had a knack for letting it fly from long-range.

Knee injuries slowed his final seasons, before he retired at the end of the 1979-80 season - the first year the NBA brought in the 3-point line and he went 10-for-15 from deep.

You could only imagine what he would be doing in today's game.

"Maybe I'm a little kookie, but I'm always going to be out to entertain," Maravich said. "There's nothing that says you can't win and be entertaining."

One man who has personified that more than most in recent seasons is Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry. Maravich was the Curry of his time, doing the unthinkable with the ball, shooting from beyond the realms of imagination and getting a whole lot of buckets in the process.

"I think he was one of the first ones that showed creativity with ball-handling and being able to balance that part of the game with just pure scoring," Curry said in 2018 of the comparisons with Pistol Pete.

"The game has obviously changed dramatically, and a lot of people have adopted Pistol Pete's flair for the game, but him being an innovator, that's what I call him, an innovator because he pushed the envelope."

Last season, Curry became the first player since Maravich in 1976-77 to be an MVP finalist and fail to make the playoffs. Maravich, as Curry did, led the NBA in scoring that year at 31.1 points per game.

Maravich, who was named as one of the Top 50 NBA players of all time as part of the league's 50th-anniversary in 1996 and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987, is just one of 13 players in NBA history to have his jersey retired by multiple franchises,

He and Wilt Chamberlain are the only ones to have their numbers in the rafters of three different teams (Pelicans, Jazz, Hawks).

While 'Pistol Pete's' legend is set in stone as one of the game's greats, perhaps his biggest legacy is what you see on the court today and the impact he had on the game as we know it.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

Myles Turner, Nikola Jokic, Lonzo Ball
Friday's best game, highlight, performance
NBA.com Staff
Anthony Davis dives for a loose ball during the Lakers loss to Phoenix
Frustrated Lakers drop another one
Kane Pitman
Jayson Tatum reacts during the Celtics big loss to Toronto
Udoka on Celtics loss: 'as ugly as it can get'
Kane Pitman
kyrie-irving-102220-ftr-getty
On This Date: Irving's record-breaking Nets debut
Scott Rafferty
Doc Rivers and Kevin Durant
76ers collapse late in home opener vs. Nets
Yash Matange
Chris Paul
CP3 becomes 1st player with 20k points & 10k assists
Jordan Greer
More News