Pete Maravich

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Pistol Pete .jpg
"Pistol" Peter Maravich (1947 - 1988) was a phenomenal college basketball player. Pat Riley, long-time head coach of the Miami Heat who observed nearly every NBA star, said: "Pete was the original. He was the best ball handler I ever saw. Ever."

His college record of an average of 44.2 points per game is considered one of the unbreakable records in all of sports, which was even more remarkable because he achieved it prior to the 3-point line and the shot clock. While in his 30s he became as passionate a Christian and expert on the Bible as he had been about basketball,[1] and his statements on a radio show converted Mickey Mantle as he listened. Maravich tragically died of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect while warming up for pickup game one morning in a church gym.

His NCAA 3,667 career points (over only three years) is a record that has stood since 1970, and was only recently challenged in 2023 by a player who competed for five years.[2]


Pete was the son of Helen and Press Maravich, born in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, on June 22, 1947. Growing up, he had a strong urge to win. Depending on your point of view, he was a sore loser, or he had an unreasonable desire to excel. Just as unreasonable, was his father's expectations for him to perform. Consequently, Pete quickly became a competent basketball player. Because he was always pushing himself; and his father - the college coach - was always encouraging, guiding, criticizing him; by the time he was 13 years old he was practicing 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Even more on Saturdays. And on Sundays, when the gym was closed, he would crawl in through a window and practice for a few hours. He hardly ever did homework: he would wake up early to practice before school. The school and gym were a couple miles from his house in Woodland Heights, so he learned to dribble on his bicycle. He brought his basketball with him everywhere, when he walked to school, the ball was part of him; dribbling became unconscious as he did it for 2 miles, twice a day, everyday. He made sure to use his right hand as much as his left. One time at a drug store, Pete was spinning a ball on his finger when a local kid bet him he couldn't spin it for one hour. Pete got $5 after he did it. He became a town sensation; everyone knew him for his ball skills.


Pete Maravich went to school at Louisiana State University from fall 1967 to spring 1970. The years before, football was an obsession. Everyone seemed to know the Tiger's team history; fans of basketball were uncommon. Then the new coach, Press Maravich, came with his son.

In only three years playing on the varsity team (and under his father's coaching) at LSU, Maravich scored 3,667 points—1,138 of those in 1968, 1,148 in 1969, and 1,381 in 1970—while averaging 43.8, 44.2, and 44.5 points per game. For his collegiate career, the 6'5" (1.96 m) guard averaged 44.2 points per game in 83 contests and led the NCAA in scoring for each of his three seasons.[3]

Maravich's long-standing collegiate scoring record is particularly notable when three factors are taken into account:

  • First, because of the NCAA rules that prohibited him from taking part in varsity competition during his first year as a student, Maravich was prevented from adding to his career record for a full quarter of his time at LSU. During this first year, Maravich scored 741 points in freshman competition.
  • Second, Maravich played before the advent of the three-point line. This significant difference has raised speculation regarding just how much higher his records would be, given his long-range shooting ability and how such a component might have altered his play. Writing for, Bob Carter stated, "Though Maravich played before [...] the 3-point shot was established, he loved gunning from long range."[4] It has been reported that former LSU coach Dale Brown charted every shot Maravich scored and concluded that, if his shots from three-point range had been counted as three points, Maravich's average would have totaled 57 points per game.[5]
  • Third, the shot clock had also not yet been instituted in NCAA play during Maravich's college career. (A time limit on ball possession speeds up play, mandates an additional number of field goal attempts, eliminates stalling, and increases the number of possessions throughout the game, all resulting in higher overall scoring.)


AtlantaHe was first drafted onto the Hawks, where he played for

New Orleans


Born Again

After leaving the NBA, Maravich isolated himself from his trophies and awards, his friends, and even playing basketball. His wife saw his moods swing between confusion, resignation and despair. He had a very strict diet, mostly vegan, and he would sometimes fast to "test himself". He bought hundreds of dollars worth of vitamins to extend his life, and invested money in numerous assets.

Then one night he was thinking about the effect of alcohol on his family: it drove his mother to suicide, his brother Ronnie was now addicted to it, and one night he had been drunk, and he totaled his car into a parked vehicle going 55 miles an hour. Ever since his first taste of beer at age 14, on the steps of a Methodist church, it had had a negative effect on his life. When the police officer pulled Pete out of his wrecked car, he said "Pete, you're the luckiest man I've ever seen." A drunk Pete didn't have a scratch on him. "You don't understand," he replied dismissively, "I've got to play pro ball." He recalled a weekend a long time ago when he taught at a basketball clinic for the Campus Crusade for Christ. There he heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ but he said "I don't have time for you, Christ, my goals are set." For practically the whole night he was tortured by his memories of ugly things he'd done to people or himself. He remembered the word "sin", and saw all these painful deeds for what they were. In tears, he prayed, "God, I've punched you. I've kicked you. I've cursed you. I've used your name in vain. I've mocked you. I've embarrassed you. I've done all those things. Will you really forgive the things I've done?" Then he heard a voice.

"Be strong lift up thine own heart." He woke his wife frantically, asking her if she had heard the Lord. She told him to go to sleep, thinking he was crazy. Pete, not a bit put off, went back to the foot of the bed, knelt and prayed, "Jesus, I know you're real because I've tried everything else, I've got nowhere to go. If you don't save me I won't last two more days." "From that moment on," Maravich later recalled, "my life was never to be the same again. When I took God into my heart, it was the first true happiness I ever had."

For the first couple of days, his wife Jackie thought it was "just another phase", like the yoga, or UFOs, or Hinduism. "But it wasn't. It was for real."

The Legacy

The Pistol changed the way basketball was played. Modern players are still inspired by him; he set a precedent and changed the whole style of the game.

Source material: Maravich - Wayne Federman and Marshall Terrill- Sport Classic books -c. 2006