Hall of Famer Walt Bellamy, an Olympic gold medalist and four-time National Basketball Association All-Star, has died at the age of 74.
The Atlanta Hawks, one of Bellamy’s former teams, and the NBA “have lost a giant,” the Hawks said yesterday without giving details of his death.
Bellamy averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 rebounds over the 13 seasons and one game he played in the NBA. He was one of seven players to score more than 20,000 points and tally more than 14,000 rebounds, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes, Robert Parish and Karl Malone.
“Walt Bellamy was an enormously gifted Hall of Fame player who had a tremendous impact on our game,” NBA Commissioner David Stern in a statement. “Off the court, he was an even more extraordinary person.”
Bellamy, born in New Bern, North Carolina, was drafted first overall by the Chicago Packers in 1961 after winning Olympic gold in 1960 and being named a second-team All-American at Indiana University. He won NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 1962, All-Star status in his first four seasons, and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Traded to New York in 1965 for Johnny Green, John Egan, Jim Barnes and cash, he later played for Detroit, Atlanta and New Orleans, which waived him at the age of 35 after he recorded six points and five rebounds in 14 minutes of the first game of the season.
Bellamy’s scoring average dropped off for six seasons, giving the impression he wasn’t dedicated to the game.
“Walt wasn’t a highly motivated player, night in and night out,” said Bob Leonard, Bellamy’s first NBA coach, according to the player’s biography on NBA.com. “He’d have some great games and then he’d have one where he didn’t show up. But he was an excellent player.”
When he retired in 1974, he was sixth all-time in NBA scoring with 20,941 points and third all-time in rebounding at 14,241 rebounds. His .516 shooting percentage was third best in the league.