Posts Tagged ‘Zelmo Beaty’

Shaq, Iverson, Yao lead 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class


VIDEO: A closer look at the careers of Yao, Iverson & O’Neal

HOUSTON — For so many years they were the long and short of excellence in the NBA, so it was only fitting that Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson led the way together for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

The 7-foot-1 O’Neal played 19 seasons in the NBA, averaging 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds. He was MVP in 2000 and a three-time MVP of the NBA Finals.

The 6-foot Iverson played 14 seasons, averaging 26.7 points and 6.2 assists. He was named MVP in 2001.

O’Neal and Iverson are among 10 new inductees for 2016. They were joined by”

  • Yao Ming, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2002 NBA draft and spent his entire career with the Houston Rockets before it as cut short by injuries in 2010.
  •  Jerry Reinsdorf, long-time owner of the Chicago Bulls, whose team dominated the NBA by winning six championships in the 1990s.
  • Sheryl Swoopes, three-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist, four-time WNBA champion and three-time WNBA MVP.
  • Tom Izzo, head coach at Michigan State, where he has led the Spartans to the 2000 NCAA title and seven trips to the Final Four.

There are four posthumous inductees:

  • Zelmo Beatty, who spent most of his career in the ABA, averaging 17.1 points and 10.9 rebounds.
  • Darell Garretson, former referee.
  • John McLendon, former coach who won three NAIA championships.
  • Cumberland Posey, a star in the early 1900s, who is also in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Recalling Zelmo Beaty (1939-2013)

 

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Let’s be honest. It was the name first and foremost.

Zelmo Beaty.

It wasn’t just unique, it was fun to say. So for a kid growing up in the Chicago suburbs in the late 1960s and ’70s – with the Bulls constantly seeking a star big man to plug into Tom Boerwinkle’s spot to help out against the likes of Chamberlain, Russell, Reed, Unseld, Lanier and others – the allure of this exotic-sounding center playing in an alternative league (ABA), in an unfamiliar place (Salt Lake City), was profound.

So I wrote Beaty a fan letter without ever seeing him play a game. And Beaty – who died Saturday at age 73 – wrote back. A couple of times, sending along his autograph each time.

By then Beaty was into the second half of a career split between the NBA and the ABA. He had joined the Utah Stars in 1970-71, sitting out the 1969-70 season in making his jump to the upstart league while the Stars jumped themselves from Los Angeles to the future home of the Jazz.

Beaty’s impact was immediate: The Stars improved from 43-41 to 57-27 and went from fourth place in the ABA’s Western Division in 1970 to beating Texas, Indiana and Kentucky for the ABA championship a year later.

The 6-foot-9 Beaty, at age 31 and despite his layoff, had his best season to that point: 22.9 ppg, 15.7 rpg and 55.5 percent shooting. He made the first of three ABA All-Star appearances, after being similarly honored twice in the NBA with the St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks, earned a second-team all-ABA berth and was considered the biggest and best star on a squad featuring Donnie Freeman, Willie Wise, Glen Combs and Ron Boone.

In a piece written 15 years ago for the RememberTheABA.com Web site, sportswriter Dan Pattison recalled highlights of Beaty’s career and talked with admirers:

“I want to make this clear. . . Zelmo could flat play!” says former rival coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard, ex-coach of the Indiana Pacers. “If you went to war against him, you better pack a lunch, because you knew your team was always going to be in a battle with him. And you knew you were going to be there awhile. He wasn’t going to hide.

“He was always up for the challenge. I know our guy (Mel Daniels), who was about four years younger, learned an awful lot from him. But leave those textbooks home! You had to learn on the job against him. When he jumped from the NBA to the ABA (1970-71), Zelmo brought a sense of toughness with him.

“He was a banger! He was not only physically tough, but mentally tough, too,” added Leonard. “But at the same time, he played the game with dignity and grace. His play demanded respect.”

In Beaty’s four ABA seasons, Utah went 223-113, won at least 51 games each year and made it back to the championship round I 1974. But he was no junior-league wonder. He spent his first seven seasons in the NBA from 1963-69, averaging 17.4 ppg and 11.2 rpg. Those are Kevin Love numbers these days, worthy of an eight- or nine-figure deal, but Beaty never made more than $30,000 in a season with the Hawks.

St. Louis had drafted Beaty third overall, a pick made by legendary NBA scout and then-GM Marty Blake, and reaped immediate dividends: the Hawks improved from 29-51 to 48-32 and Beaty was named to the first NBA All-Rookie team. After Hall of Fame forward Bob Pettit retired in 1965, Beaty’s contributions shot up from 13.4 ppg and 10.3 rpg to 20.5 and 11.9.

The native of Hillister, Texas, and product of Prairie View A&M played a final season in the NBA at age 35 and, on a 36-minute basis, still averaged 11.3 points and 9.7 rebounds for the 1974-75 Lakers. He rarely gets mentioned in regards to the Hall of Fame but on enshrinement weekend in Springfield, Mass., it’s worth noting that Beaty still ranks 41st in career rebounds (9,655, more than Larry Bird, Shawn Kemp, Terry Cummings and Willis Reed). His combined NBA/ABA player-efficiency rating of 18.7 is better than Reed’s, Scottie Pippen’s and Elvin Hayes‘.

And if there were a wing for Hall of Fame names, Zelmo Beaty would have been a first ballot shoo-in. R.I.P.