The Golden State Warriors lost a treasured member of the family when Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond died Saturday. He lost his battle with leukemia and was 74.
Thurmond was one of the NBA’s premier centers in the late 1960s and early ’70s during the age of the big man, along with Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Willis Reed and others. A seven-time All-Star, he was voted one of the league’s 50 Greatest Players and was the franchise’s bedrock when the Warriors moved to the Bay Area.
Thurmond is the Warriors’ all-time rebounder and second only to Chris Mullin in games played. He averaged 15 points and 15 rebounds for his career, but he played 11 of his 14 seasons with the Warriors, where he enjoyed his greatest success. With Golden State, those averages are 17.4 and 16.9.
Thumond was very athletic and crafty and a punishing inside player, especially around the rim, where he consistently ranked among the game’s better rebounders during his time. He was a five-time All-Defensive team member. Chamberlain once said Thurmond “was the best to play against me” which is high praise considering the many clashes Chamberlain had with Russell.
Thurmond backed up Chamberlain as a rookie after being selected third overall in 1963, but the next season, Chamberlain was traded to Philadelphia and Thurmond was elevated to starter. In 1967-68, he averaged 20.5 points and 22 rebounds. For 10 straight seasons he averaged at least 13 points and 13 rebounds. During one quarter in February of 1965, he grabbed 18 rebounds, breaking the record shared by Chamberlain and Russell.
He next played in Chicago with the Bulls, where he posted the league’s first recorded quadruple double (22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists, 12 blocks) in October 1974. He ended his career with the Cavaliers and his jersey was the first to be retired by the club. His No. 42 is also retired by the Warriors, only one of seven.
In retirement, “Big Nate” operated a barbeque restaurant in San Francisco and also served the team as a community ambassador.
Former Warriors coach Al Attles, the longest tenured employee of the Warriors, said: “I was heartbroken when I was informed of his death. In typical Nate fashion, he did not let many people know about his illness and how serious it was and unfortunately it proved to be one of the few things in life tougher than him.”