Center Nate Thurmond, voted one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history, passed away this morning in San Francisco at the age of 74 after a short battle with leukemia.
“This is an extremely difficult day for me," said NBA legend Jerry West. "We have lost an incredible person and someone whom I admired as much as any player I ever went to battle against on any level. Nate Thurmond was, without a doubt, one of the fiercest competitors that I played against during my entire career. He played with unbelievable intensity and was simply a man among boys on most nights, especially on the defensive end. On the other hand, off the court, Nate was about as caring and loving as they come, extremely kind and gentle. He was the total package as an athlete and as a man and someone we should all aspire to emulate. I’ll miss him dearly.”
Considered one of the best centers to ever play the game of basketball, Thurmond was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985. A seven-time NBA All-Star, he earned NBA All-Defensive First or Second Team accolades five times.
“Nate was one of the greatest centers to ever play the game and I was privileged to call him a teammate and dear friend," said Rick Barry, former Warriors player and Hall of Famer. "He battled his illness until the very end, like a true Warrior. His legacy is one of passion, fierce competitiveness, a love of basketball and selfless devotion to others. My heartfelt prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.”
Thurmond's Warriors jersey #42 was retired on March 8, 1978, one of six players to have his number retired by the Warriors along with Alvin Attles (#16), Rick Barry (#24), Wilt Chamberlain (#13), Tom Meschery (#14) and Chris Mullin (#17). Thurmond was a member of the Warriors organization for more than four decades as both a player and a Community Relations Ambassador.
Over a 14 year NBA career – the first 11 of which were played with the San Francisco and Golden State Warriors – Thurmond held averages of 15.0 points and 15.0 rebounds per game, including averaging 20.5 points and 22.0 rebounds during the 1967-68 campaign to join Wilt Chamberlain as the only Warriors to post at least 20 points and 20 boards in a single season.
“Big Nate,” who was selected third overall by the San Francisco Warriors in the 1963 NBA Draft following his collegiate career at Bowling Green, remains the franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds (12,771) and minutes played (30,735).
Thurmond became the first player to record an official quadruple-double as a member of the Chicago Bulls, tallying 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocks against the Atlanta Hawks on October 18, 1974.
"Although I had prepared for this news for the past several days, I was heartbroken and devastated when I was informed of Nate’s death earlier today," said Al Attles, former Warriors player, coach, General Manager and current Community Relations Ambassador. "In typical Nate fashion, he did not let many people know about his illness and how serious it was and, unfortunately, it proved to be one of the few things in life tougher than him. Looking back, he was as ferocious as any player in the history of the game on the court, but one of the kindest and nicest souls in his everyday life. He was just a terrific human being who I loved and respected more than words can describe and, fortunately, I was blessed to spend a great deal of time with as a teammate, coach and, most importantly, a friend for a good portion of our adult lives. For that, I am extremely thankful.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released the following statement regarding the passing of Nate Thurmond:
“Nate Thurmond was a giant of his era and one of the greatest players in the history of our game. A fierce competitor with an incredible array of skills, Nate had a remarkable Hall of Fame career that included the first quadruple-double in NBA history. Nate brought the same passion to his longtime community-relations role with the Golden State Warriors, who benefited from his deep knowledge of the game and warmth and kindness to everyone he encountered for more than 30 years. We are deeply saddened by his loss.”
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services