Happy 80th Birthday, Bob Pettit!
by Cliff Lummus
One of the greatest players in Hawks history, Bob Pettit passes another landmark in his ever-impressive life by celebrating his 80th birthday today.
A star player in college at LSU (much like a later Hawks great, Pete Maravich) Pettit was drafted by the Hawks in 1954. Over the course of his 11-year career, he tallied an incredible list of records and firsts for both the franchise and the league. As a rookie in 1954-55, Pettit averaged 20.8 ppg and 13.8 rpg and became the first Hawks player ever named Rookie of the Year. That same season, Pettit made both the All-NBA First Team and the All-Star team (the first of 11 consecutive appearances) — a feat nearly unheard of in today’s NBA.
The next year, in 1956, the league honored Pettit by naming him the first-ever NBA Most Valuable Player, a title he would go on to win again in 1959.
By his retirement in 1965 at the young age of 32, Pettit had become the first player in Hawks history to reach 20,000 career points and had amassed 12,851 rebounds, which remains the franchise record to this day.
Pettit was inducted into the 1970 class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 1996 was selected as one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players.
Almost 50 years after hanging up his sneakers, Pettit’s name still commands respect, and his number 9, the first jersey retired by the Hawks, proudly hangs in the Philips Arena rafters.
From all of us here at the Hawks, happy 80th birthday to Bob Pettit, a living legend of Hawks basketball.