Superior shot blocker dominated defense.
After an All-American senior season and 17.0 ppg and 17.8 rpg average at Bowling Green, Thurmond was drafted third overall by the Warriors, where he would serve as an apprentice to Chamberlain during his rookie season. The duo would lead the Warriors all the way to the 1964 Finals, which they lost 4-1 to the Boston Celtics.
Chamberlain was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers the following season, paving the way for Thurmond to average a double-double for 10 straight seasons. In five of the next six seasons, Thurmond was an All-Star and averaged 18.9 ppg and 19.4 rpg as San Francisco reached the 1967 Finals (where it lost 4-2 to the Chamberlain-led 76ers).
From 1965-68 he averaged at least 18 rpg, including a ridiculous 42-rebound effort against the Detroit Pistons early in the 1965-66 season. From 1965-70, he had at least one game every season with 30 or more rebounds, with multiple games in each of those seasons with 30-plus rebounds.
During his 11-year run with the Warriors, Thurmond would face Chamberlain, Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar often. He lacked the flair and accolades of the other elite centers, but he earned the respect of his peers with his no-nonsense style and efficient all-around game.
Thurmond was traded to Chicago prior to the 1974-75 season. He debuted with the Bulls in incredible fashion, posting the first quadruple-double in NBA history with 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocks on opening night against the Atlanta Hawks.
Thurmond was dealt to his native Ohio just 13 games into the 1975-76 season. Thurmond’s presence would revitalize the Cavaliers in what would become known as the “Miracle of Richfield”, helping the team earn its first-ever playoff berth. His No. 42 jersey was the first number retired by the Cavs.