Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Load up the Pistol and prepare to be blown away...

I'm not a huge sports fan, but some athletes are just impossible not to watch and be enthralled at what they can do. The late Pete Maravich (following in the footsteps of his innovative father, coach Press Maravich) revolutionized basketball, and he did it not only through mental brilliance, but also by hours upon hours of rigorous, disciplined practice.

In the above video montage, you will see footage that just looks fake (but isn't), things that seem to defy the laws of physics (but don't).

About a year ago, I read the Maravich biography called Maravich by Wayne Federman and Marshall Terrill. It was a captivating read about a boy and his father, a family struggling with alcoholism, of innovation and butting heads against all sorts of naysayers, growing up as the coach's son, struggles with fame, injury, depression, and ultimately, redemption through Christianity.

"Pistol" Pete Maravich died of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 40, ironic because he had once quipped: "I don't want to play 10 years and then die of a heart attack when I'm 40." He collapsed during a pickup game with friends (including Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson) in a church gymnasium, less than a minute after his last words: "I feel great."

It turns out that Maravich was born with no left coronary artery, a rare congenital heart defect that went undetected because he was such a great athlete. To have performed at this level of athleticism with a major heart defect of this sort is nothing less than extraordinary. The defect probably would have been detected if he were not a professional athlete.

Basketball aficionados consider Pete Maravich to be years ahead of his time, a player whose effects are still felt in the basketball world today. In fact, his career college scoring record at LSU (3,667 points, an average of 44.2 points per game over a three-year career) not only still stands, it has never even been close to being broken. And this in spite of rule changes, like the fact that players may now have four-year (instead of three-year) varsity careers and the three-point basket (which did not exist when Maravich played in the NCAA).

A lot of experts do not believe this collegiate record (which has stood since 1970) will ever be broken.

There is a family-friendly and inspiring film called The Pistol about Pete Maravich's childhood and his close relationship with his father - more accurately, a single year (1959) in South Carolina that Maravich considered the happiest of his life. The film is not entirely true to life, as his mother's struggles with alcoholism (which would eventually result in her suicide) are nowhere to be found in this movie. Nonetheless, it recounts the tireless hard work and innovation that went into the lives of Press and Pete Maravich (the latter of which makes a cameo appearance).

Maravich was a great athlete but a greater spokesman for the Christian faith, which he (and his father) reconnected with before his untimely death.

1 comment:

ghp said...

Great thing about Pistol was, for all his flamboyance, it was built on a rock-solid foundation of fundamentals excellence. I've seen some of his instructional videos, and all of his "fancy" stuff can be broken down into fundamental core elements that are nothing more than sound, good, basketball.

He was shocking, yes. But he was solid. It's too bad his knees were bad & he was stuck on such bad teams in Atlanta & New Orleans. In a way, he was too far ahead of his time -- he would've been fun to watch in the 80's, if he'd been in his prime during the Magic/Bird/Isiah/Jordan/Nique era...