‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich was an exceptional performer at Louisiana State University in the ’60’s before he ever joined the Atlanta Hawks. What made him an exceptional performer?
In a previous article I highlighted Joe Namath and his stellar performance as quarterback of the New York Jets in the 1960’s.
In this article, I going to focus on ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich, an exceptional performer at Louisiana State University in the ’60s before joining the Atlanta Hawks as a pro in 1970.
Incidentally, my two favorite books on sports celebrities center on Namath and Pistol, and both were written by Mark Kriegel, former sports columnist for the New York Daily News.
Interesting similarities: Both Namath and Maravich were born in Pennsylvania—Namath in Beaver Fall and Maravich in Aliquippa—roughly 12 miles apart. The two sports giants had familiar experiences that shaped them. Both men were good at other sports. Both had strong mentors who guided and sculpted their natural talent. Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant mentored Namath while Press Maravich tutored his son, Pete Maravich.
Both men entered the professional sports arena as top-dollar talents. Both were stadium favorites—quintessential crowd pleasers. Finally, both men were independent and non-conformists to varying degrees.
If you’ve never seen Pete in action, head over to YouTube. Pete’s father, Press, told his son at the age of seven that if he would heed his advice, he might score a basketball scholarship. Press knew that he couldn’t cover Pete’s tuition on his own. He told Pete that if he got in with a scholarship, he may play for a league team, and that he might earn millions of dollars. Throughout his formative years, Pete considered his father’s words. He rose to the challenge.
Press was known as “Mr. Basketball” in Aliquippa because he would ‘eat, drink, speak and sing basketball.’ He was a former roommate of John Wooden, the most successful coach in basketball history with 10 national championships under his belt. It’s reported that Wooden said, “One should never underestimate Press’s knowledge of the game. Over the years, he was the one I would go to for analysis of several aspects of basketball.”
While Press didn’t ascend to Wooden’s level, he worked with Pete to help him become one of the best. At age 9, Pete demonstrated to John Wooden the 40 exercises his father had taught him. Wood-en had this to say: “I saw him do things I didn’t think anybody could do. Pete could do more with a basketball than anybody I have ever seen.” According to many, Pete dribbled better than noted Celtics player, Bob Cousy.
In our struggle to become better traders, we’re told that practice is imperative. Yet, most traders don’t practice consistently. For Pete, practice—first guided by his father and later self-directed—was key. Let’s look at how that played out:
The distance from his home to his town’s drug store was two miles. He went there often, and he dribbled all the way there and back.
When he rode his bike, he would dribble, alternating hands as he went.
When he went to the movies, he sat in an aisle seat and dribble on the carpet. His goal was to keep time with the music.
Press sometimes had Pete dribble with gloves on to increase Pete’s sensitivity to the bounce of the ball.
On other occasions, Press had him dribble blindfolded to increase his awareness of the ball’s movement.
Press would take Pete out in the family car while Pete dribbled with the door open. Press would increase and decrease the speed of the car to allow Pete to practice dribbling at various speeds.
It’s said that Pete later practiced ball-handling and shooting four to five hours a day, seven days a week.
Consider the following quote from Pete:
“Lighting illuminated the puddles on our muddy basketball court. I forced open the my bed-room window and crawled out into the downpour. In my bare feet, I ran to the muddied ground and began to dribble. After several minutes, I stopped dribbling and lifted the ball to the sky. A huge smile curled across my lips, for I knew that if I could dribble under these conditions, I would have no problem on a basketball court.”
As with all top performers, various elements conspired to help Pete rise to the top. I think these three elements played a large role:
The support of his friends and family, especially his father.
His unconditional love and passion for the game of basketball.
His commitment to self-improvement through practice.
In future articles, I plan to cover other exceptional performers and hope the articles provide inspiration and insight into what it takes to become an exceptional performer.
The choice is yours, and no one else’s.
Until next time . . .