Bill Sharman - #21 - Boston Celtics
Guard | 6'1" | 190 lbs. | Born: May 25, 1926
- Four-Time NBA Champion
- Eight-Time NBA All-Star
- 1955 All-Star Game MVP
- Four-Time All-NBA First Team
- No. 21 Jersey Retired by Celtics
- NBA Hall of Famer
Traded by the Fort Wayne Pistons with Bob Brannum to the Celtics for the rights to Charlie Share in 1951... retired in 1961.
Bill Sharman - Biography
No one knew both sides of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry like Bill Sharman.
As a player during the C’s glory days, he experienced Boston’s first NBA championship. Years later, he became a renowned coach and guided the Lakers to their first title in Los Angeles.
Sharman is one of four people to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, having been enshrined representing both sides of the most storied rivalry in NBA history.
Sharman was an innovator, particularly pertaining to the shooting game. He was one of the founding fathers of the modern day jump shot, he popularized the morning shootaround and he played a major role in the NBA’s adoption of the 3-point shot.
The 6-foot-1 shooting guard attended the University of Southern California and was originally selected in the second round of the 1950 NBA Draft by the Washington Capitols, though he only played 31 games in D.C. The next year, he was drafted by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the dispersal draft, and was later sent to Boston in exchange for center Chuck Share.
Sharman, donning No. 21, teamed up with Celtics legend Bob Cousy to form one of the NBA’s first great backcourt tandems. The pair played together for five years before the arrivals of Celtic greats Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn.
During his early years as a Celtic, Sharman was also a professional baseball player. He had been a star first baseman at USC, where he won a College World Series in 1948.
He had a successful five-year career in the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league system, hitting .281 over a 638-game span. He was called up to the majors in late September of 1951, but did not appear in a game. However, Sharman does own one MLB distinction: He is the only player to ever be ejected from a major league game, yet never actually play in a game.
But his calling was clearly in the NBA, where he wound up playing in 680 games for the C’s over his 10-year tenure with the organization.
He averaged 18.1 points per game during that decade of play, while feeding off the magical playmaking skills of Cousy. Defenders would regularly collapse around Cousy, who would often then look for his reliable backcourt mate. The sharpshooting Sharman would then receive a trademark flashy pass from the Hardwood Houdini, before sinking a wide-open, one-handed jumper.
Sharman became distinguished for those one-handed set shots, and was one of the first great jump shooters in the NBA.
He was also known for his outstanding free throw shooting ability, as he boasted an 88.3 percent clip from the charity stripe, which ranks him 13th all time.
Bull’s-eye Bill claimed the free throw title a record seven times, including five-straight seasons from 1952-57. During the 1958-59 campaign, he made 342-of-367 free throw attempts, establishing an NBA record 93.2 percent clip from the line. That record stood for nearly 20 years and remains the highest single season mark for a player with at least 350 free throw attempts. He also holds the career playoff free throw percentage record among players who have attempted at least 250 shots, with a 91.1 percent mark (370-of-406).
Sharman’s shooting ability from the line, coupled with his prowess from the field, enabled him to lead the C’s in scoring from 1955-59. That time period also marked the beginning of the most dominating dynasty in the history of American sports.
In 1956, Russell and Heinsohn arrived and the C’s won their first championship the following April. They then won eight straight titles from 1959 to 1966, though Sharman retired following the 1960-61 campaign at 34 years old with four rings to his name.
After his playing career was over, Sharman went into coaching, making stops all along the California coastline. He began at Los Angeles State, then coached the San Francisco Warriors and eventually moved on to the Los Angeles Stars of the American Basketball Association.
In 1971, Sharman returned to the NBA to coach the Los Angeles Lakers. During that season, L.A. set a still-standing NBA record of 33 straight wins. The Lakers went 69-13 overall and won their first title in the city of Los Angeles, having previously won five in Minneapolis. Sharman, in his inaugural season with the Lakers, was named Coach of the Year.
Sharman’s coaching techniques not only impacted the Lakers, but the entire NBA. Back during his playing days in Boston, Sharman would regularly go to a local gym on game-day mornings and go through a light practice to loosen his nerves. He later implemented this regimen among his players while coaching the Lakers, and eventually all NBA teams adopted the morning shootaround routine.
He also played a major role in in the NBA’s implementation of the 3-point shot. Former Harlem Globetrotters owner Abe Saperstein was the original founder of the 3-pointer, which he nearly named the “25-foot home run.” Sharman convinced Saperstein to call it the “3-point shot” and also persuaded that the distance be 23-feet-9 inches at the top of the circle and 22 feet at the corners.
Sharman was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1976. He was inducted as a coach 28 years later, after compiling a 466-353 record during 10 seasons of coaching in the ABA and NBA. At the time, he was just the third person to ever earn a spot in the Hall as a player and coach. On Sept. 11, 2015, fellow Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn joined him as the fourth. He and Heinsohn also share the bond of having had their Celtics jersey numbers retired on the same day, Oct. 15, 1966.
Sharman passed away on Oct. 25, 2013 at his home in Redondo Beach, Calif. He was 87 years old.
But his impact on the early success of the Boston Celtics and his innovative nature as a coach will live on in Boston and within the NBA forever.