*According to a news release from the Atlanta Hawks, legendary basketball player Walt Bellamy died Saturday morning.
“The Atlanta Hawks family is saddened to learn of the death of Walt Bellamy at the age of 74 earlier today,” the Hawks said in a statement. “The Hawks and the National Basketball Association have lost a giant. As an Olympic gold medalist, the first overall pick in 1961, Rookie of the Year in 1962, a four-time All-Star and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, his on-court accomplishments were overwhelming. Off the court, he was equally impactful as a family man, leader in the community, mentor and friend to many.”
Unfortunately, the Hawks’ statement didn’t address the cause of Bellamy’s death. Although nhe did attend the the team’s home opener Friday night.
Bellamy had a stellar 14-year career in the NBA, and was the NBA first overall draft pick in 1961. Bellamy was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1962 after having arguably one of the three greatest rookie seasons in NBA history (along with Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson). His 31.6 points per game average that season is second all-time for a rookie to Wilt Chamberlain’s 37.6, and the 19 rebounds per game he averaged that season is third best all-time for a rookie (to Chamberlain’s 27 and Bill Russell‘s 19.6). Bellamy also led the NBA in field goal percentage in his rookie season, and had a 23-point, 17-rebound performance in the 1962 NBA All-Star Game. Bellamy played with the Chicago Packers, which became the Baltimore Bullets, for his first four seasons before he was traded to the New York Knicks a few games into the 1965-66 season.
Due to trades to teams with offset game schedules during the 1968-69 season when he was traded from the Knicks to the Detroit Pistons for Dave DeBusschere, Bellamy set a still-standing record for NBA games played in a single season with 88 (He played 35 games with the Knicks, 53 with the Pistons). He later played for several seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, and finished his career with the New Orleans Jazz.
Bellamy ended his NBA career with 20,941 points and 14,241 rebounds, and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. Despite being one of the league’s top rebounders, Bellamy never made an All-NBA team.
“Walt Bellamy was an enormously gifted Hall of Fame player who had a tremendous impact on our game,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement released by the league. “Off the court, he was an even more extraordinary person. Walt is going to be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. On behalf of the entire NBA family, our condolences and thoughts go out to Walt’s family.”