A relentless athlete on and off court.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 1954 draft, Pettit didn't take long to become a star in the NBA. He averaged 20.4 ppg and 13.8 rpg as a rookie to claim Rookie of the Year honors while also being an All-NBA First Team selection alongside then-NBA stars Dolph Schayes, Bob Cousy, Neil Johnston and Larry Foust.
Pettit became the first Most Valuable Player award winner in NBA history when he claimed the trophy in 1955-56. That season he averaged 25.7 ppg, 16.2 rpg and 2.6 apg as the Hawks improved to 33-39 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1950.
The All-Star Game was where Pettit also excelled, winning four All-Star Game MVP awards (1956, '58, '59, '62), becoming the first player to win back-to-back All-Star Game MVPs in 1959. In that game, Pettit shared the MVP honors with Los Angeles Lakers star Elgin Baylor. In his career, Pettit averaged 20.4 ppg, 16.2 rpg and shot 42% in All-Star Games.
In the 1957 playoffs, Pettit powered the underdog St. Louis Hawks in The Finals, where they lost a heartbreaking Game 7 in overtime to the Boston Celtics. Pettit was big throughout that run and averaged 29.8 ppg and 16.8 rpg.
The 1958 playoffs were when Pettit and the Hawks shined. They earned a Finals rematch with the Celtics and ousted them in Game 6 (a series Boston played mostly without Bill Russell). Pettit was at his best in the Game 6 title-clincher, netting a then-playoff record 50 points in a 110-109 win.
When Pettit retired in 1965, he had amassed 20,880 points (the most ever scored in the NBA at the time) and 12,849 rebounds (which ranked him second all-time then). His career rebounding average of 16.2 rpg was third-best in NBA history at the time of his retirement as well.