The NBA world has lost another legend. Hall-of-Famer Nate Thurmond passed away on Saturday morning in San Francisco following a brief battle with Leukemia. He was 74.
The San Francisco Warriors made the 6’11, 235-pounder the No. 3 pick of the 1963 draft. Over his stellar 14-year career, Thurmond was named a seven-time All-Star and five-time All-Defense selection. He was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985 and was honored as one of the league’s 50 greatest players of all time in 1996.
Thurmond’s addition to the Warriors facilitated Wilt Chamberlain’s trade to the Philadelphia 76ers midway through the 1964-65 season. Though he couldn’t quite match his predecessor’s unparalleled production in the middle, Thurmond quickly established himself as one of the game’s premier big men nonetheless. He averaged at least 16 points and 17 rebounds per game from 1964-65 to 1972-73, and became the first player to ever record a quadruple-double – blocks weren’t an official statistic until 1973-74 – during his first game as a member of the Chicago Bulls in 1974.
The Warriors fell to Chamberlain and the juggernaut 76ers in the 1967 NBA Finals, a series Thurmond recently said San Francisco should have won.
If I may say this years after, we were cheated out of a game up in Philadelphia that turned the series in their favor. We were right there, there’s no question about it. This is not sour grapes; it’s just something that happened. It was a pick and roll with me and Rick, and Wilt goaltended. Rick [Barry] has never forgiven me because I didn’t do a lot of dunking, but if I would have dunked that one, I think we would have been champions that year. That’s history, but it definitely was a goaltend.
It was Thurmond’s only trip to the Finals.
His playing peers remember the Akron, OH native as much for his ferocious competitive nature as his kindness off the floor. In response to Thurmond’s passing, Warriors executive Jerry West had this to say about his longtime basketball nemesis:
“This is an extremely difficult day for me. 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.”
Our thoughts are with Thurmond’s family, friends, and the league at large during this difficult time. Rest in peace, Big Nate.