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Am I Hating on Pete Maravich's College Career?

Pete Maravich played for LSU in the late '60s and achieved the collegiate basketball record of 3,667 points while averaging 44.2 points a game. Well, there's a women's player on Iowa who's about to achieve that record -- as of 2/20/24, Caitlin Clark is only 99 points behind the record. Caitlin is a phenomenon in women's NCAA basketball with a range that may rival Pete's. She's bringing interest to the women's game like Pete did at LSU many years ago. Because many sports broadcasters mention Pete's name when another younger player has a tremendous game, year, or career, it's helpful to look more closely at Pete's career at LSU.


Indeed, he was a gifted player who tragically died at 40 playing a game he truly loved. The nickname "Pistol Pete" started when Maravich was relatively young when he appeared to fire the basketball one-handed from the hip, which gave him that nickname. You can see many clips of how well he handled the basketball many years ago. Some said he was a magician with the round ball; some said he could do it all on the hard court. One must also realize his accomplishments were achieved before the three-point line and shot clock were adopted in the college game. Said differently, Maravich loved to shoot from the outside, so his average in college would have been more substantial if he had a three-point line.


Mr. Maravich played his last game in 1970, where the team made it to the NIT tournament and placed fourth (inferior tournament to the NCAA). That was his only appearance in post-season play. Perhaps some knowledgeable basketball followers would say it's still a team game, yet his team struggled to succeed post-season. He was healthy, suffered no significant injury, and played all 83 collegiate games. His shooting accuracy was 43.8% and 77.5% from the charity stripe. So he averaged a ton of points per game but shot under 45%; logic points to the fact that he took many shots (he attempted 3,166 shots and made 1,387). For perspective, he averaged 38 shots a game at LSU – because the collegiate game is 40 minutes --- and for his three-year career on the varsity squad, he nearly averaged a shot per minute for those 83 games. However, Even though some might say he had the green light to shoot whenever he wanted, he averaged 5.1 assists per game, so he enjoyed getting his teammates involved, too.


Pistol pete

However, over the last several years, when someone has challenged his record or brought up the greatest shooters in NCAA history, several podcasters have brought up the idea that Pistol Pete had an incredible college career in Baton Rouge. This includes Dan Patrick (The Dan Patrick Show) and Tony Korneiser (Tony Kornheiser Show). Dan and Tony recognize Pete as perhaps on the Mt. Rushmore of greatest players ever in college. I get it; he averaged 44.2 points per game, so this average is remarkable – but when Pete's name is mentioned, they forget to provide context.


Tony Kornheiser is 75 years old, and I believe Dan (Patrick) is 67, which means they were familiar with the "Pistol Pete" phenomenon in their youth. This indicates they were more impressionable and perhaps exaggerated this feat, and maybe neglecting the whole picture. When Tony gushes over Pete’s career, he never mentions that Pete shot 43.8% at LSU and doesn't mention that NCAA basketball at the time wasn't as competitive as today. When Dan gushes over Pete’s career, he never mentions that Pete almost averaged a shot per 60 seconds of play. Tony and Dan also don’t mention that at LSU, Pete only made the post-season tournament once, which was in the inferior NIT. One last thing: Pete played collegiate basketball in the late 1960s, and fewer African Americans were part of the game then. Perhaps their opinion of Pete's college career involves his 44.2 points per game average and Pete's ability to handle the basketball like it was on a string. The listening audience must receive the complete picture, whether you're talking about Maravich or another all-time great.


Am I Hating on Pete Maravich's College Career? Certainly not, certainly not as a human being. I'm merely critiquing his college career with a more objective perspective. He played hard and wanted to put his team in the best position to win. He was an entertainer on the court and sometimes appeared like a magician with how he could manipulate the basketball. He was a prolific scorer at LSU and eventually had a successful playing career in the NBA for nearly ten years. I'm not hating or talking crap when I say he had a successful career in college, although some might measure success on how many championships they won. Others may look at how many points he scored, regardless of the number of shots taken. However, when famous sports personalities gush over “Pistol Pete,” it’s essential that they give the listening audience the whole picture of Mr. Maravich's career at LSU.




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