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Hall of Fame center Walt Bellamy dies at age 74

Nov 3, 2013, 10:59 AM EDT

Walt Bellamy Getty Images

Walter Belllamy, the Hall of Fame center who blasted into the NBA like a storm as the No. 1 pick of the Chicago Packers in 1961 averaging 31.6 points and 19 rebounds a game as a rookie and went on to a 14-year NBA career, has passed away at the age of 74.

“Walt Bellamy was an enormously gifted Hall of Fame player who had a tremendous impact on our game,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a released statement. “Off the court, he was an even more extraordinary person. Walt is going to be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. On behalf of the entire NBA family, our condolences and thoughts go out to Walt’s family.”

At 6’11” “Bells” was known as a physical, bruising center right out of the old school we don’t see much in the NBA anymore. His size and athleticism earned the respect of guys like Bill Russell who had to bring their best to beat him, despite him being on lesser teams.

Bellamy bounced around the NBA on those good but not great teams (the 1965 Washington Bullets went to the conference finals) and was never really paired with guys who could get him a title. He was with the Knicks in 1966-67 for three seasons as the team improved from some down years, but in the end they traded Bellamy (for Dave DeBusschere) and kept Willis Reed (then went on to win a couple rings).

Still, over the course of his career he averaged 19.4 points and 13.2 rebounds shooting 51.6 percent, he had a career PER of 19.8. He was a contemporary of Wilt Chamberlain and Russell but he was overshadowed by those guys, who were on teams that won rings.

He played five solid years with the Atlanta Hawks at the end of his career.

“The Atlanta Hawks family is saddened to learn of the death of Walt Bellamy at the age of 74 earlier today,” the Hawks said in a statement. “The Hawks and the National Basketball Association have lost a giant. As an Olympic gold medalist, the first overall pick in 1961, Rookie of the Year in 1962, a four-time All-Star and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, his on-court accomplishments were overwhelming. Off the court, he was equally impactful as a family man, leader in the community, mentor and friend to many.”

Our thoughts go out to his family.

  1. jimsjam33 - Nov 3, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    One of the best centers in the history of the NBA ; however , timing is everything . He came in during a time when Wilt Chamberlain , Bill Russell , Artis Gilmore , Bob Lanier , Lew Alcindor , Moses Malone , and Bill Walton stole all the headlines .

  2. davidly - Nov 3, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Was part of the original dream team in ’60 with the Jerry West, Jerry Lucas, and Oscar Robertson, before he went on to beat out both the Big O and Wilt Chamberlain for Rookie of the Year. RIP

  3. ulaanbaatarscot - Nov 3, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    @davidly not that it really matters but Wilt was a rookie in 1959 so Walt did not beat him to ROY

    • davidly - Nov 3, 2013 at 1:16 PM

      Serious brain lapse on my part. Chamberlain and Robertson won it in ’60 and ’61 respectively. My sentence didn’t even make sense anyway. Here’s to the Sixties!

  4. ulaanbaatarscot - Nov 3, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    @davidly not that it really matters but Wilt was a rookie in 1959 so Walt did not beat him to ROY. RIP to Walt and best wishes to his family though.

  5. xli2006 - Nov 3, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    He also had a legendary college career at IU… somehow that got left out of the article. A gold medal, twice an All-American, and still holds several school records despite so many key players over the yrs since then. An absolute beast of a player and a very respectable man off the court. A big loss to the IU and NBA family. RIP Walt.

  6. DJ MC - Nov 3, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    1965 Baltimore Bullets.

    Hey, we have to claim what’s ours here in Charm City, since Washington took it away.

  7. 6stn - Nov 3, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    In Bellamy’s peak years, there were many outstanding centers in the NBA: Russell, Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond, Zelmo Beaty, Willis Reed. Reed moved to forward for a couple of years when the Knicks acquired Walt. RIP.

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