A Coveted Asset
"Pistol" Pete Maravich was not only widely regarded as the most skilled collegiate player in 1970, but his box office appeal was undeniable.

"Maybe I'm a little kookie, but I'm always going to be out to entertain," said Maravich. "There's nothing that says you can't win and be entertaining."

It was that approach to the game that had everyone from executives to current players recognizing his potential to bring fans to the arenas.

"Let me say right now that Pete Maravich can make our whole league," commented Gardner to The Dispatch in Lexington, NC. "He is more than a basketball player. This man is personality...he could be the next Arnold Palmer or Joe Namath."

Bill Bridges, the Atlanta Hawks team captain, was just as bold with his statements to the Beaver County Times.

"Let's face it," said Bridges, "a white player of his ability is what Atlanta and the NBA need. He may be the greatest gate attraction to come into the league."

It's Nice to Have Options
In the end, Maravich chose to sign a five-year contract with the Hawks, reportedly worth $1.9 million dollars. The contract was the largest professional deal ever given to an athlete right out of college, but it was also reported that the Cougars had an offer on the table worth $2 million.

While the ABA offered a wide-open, high-scoring style of play that may have suited Maravich's game better, the level of competition in the NBA was almost universally accepted as being higher. The desire to match up against the world's best was the likely motivating factor that made Pete sign his deal with the Hawks. That and Tom Cousins recruitment alongside the elder Maravich's old friend Bob Kent.

The Results
While the Hawks had mixed results as a team during Pete's four years in Atlanta, the young star established himself as one of the top guards in the league. The team made it to the playoffs each of Maravich's first three seasons, but each time they were defeated in the opening round.

G
REB
AST
PTS
1970-71
81
3.7
4.4
23.2
1971-72
66
3.9
6
19.3
1972-73
79
4.4
6.9
26.1
1973-74
76
4.9
5.2
27.7
Atlanta Hawks Attendance
1968-69:
178,979
1969-70:
197,990
1970-71:
245,910
1971-72:
230,784
1972-73:
304,802 (The Omni Opens)
1973-74:
312,128
1974-75:
205,341
Additional Links for Pistol Pete
- Photos of Pete as a Hawk
- Career Statistics
(from basketball-reference.com)
- Merger, Madness and Maravich
(from the SI.com archives)

As an individual Pete finished second in the NBA in scoring average (27.7 ppg) in 1974, was twice named to the All-Star team and was named to the All-NBA second team in 1973.

Looking at the bigger picture, Pete did wonders for the Atlanta franchise. As noted before, the team had not done well at the box office prior to Pete's arrival in 1970. They had averaged 188,484 fans the first two seasons in Atlanta with a winning record in each campaign. Then, despite a losing season, the attendance rose to 245,910 for the 1970-71 season, and shot over 304,000 when the new arena (The Omni) opened in 1972. After Maravich was traded following the 1974 season the attendance fell back to 205,341.

Pete Maravich's Career
"Pistol" Pete finished his 10-year NBA career with a 24.2 ppg scoring average, five trips to the All-Star game, and one scoring title (1976-77, 31.1 ppg). In 1987 he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 1996 he was recognized as one of the Top-50 NBA players of all-time as part of the league's 50 th anniversary celebration.