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Former Clippers draft pick and baseball great Tony Gwynn dies at 54

Jun 16, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT

File Photo of Tony Gwynn File Photo of Tony Gwynn

Since moving to California, the Clippers have had more than their share of bad drafting. But between their years in San Diego and Los Angeles, they’ve drafted one Hall of Famer.

He just happened to excel at the wrong sport.

The San Diego Clippers drafted Tony Gwynn in the 10th and final round of the 1981 draft. The San Diego State product never joined the NBA, instead becoming an all-time great baseball player.

Gwynn died today at 54, and though he resonates more for his hitting, the basketball world is losing a link to its colorful past and a college star.

The NBA draft used to go many more rounds than it did today, and by the end, teams were starving for viable options. Maybe the Clippers knew Gwynn was destined for baseball stardom, but just four players picked in the final five rounds of the 1981 draft ever played in the NBA. Why not take a chance on someone with as impressive hands as Gwynn? (Gwynn once said dribbling strengthened his wrists and made him a better hitter.)

Jim Brown, Carl Lewis and Dave Winfield are among other players teams drafted late just to try someone who excelled in another sport.

In the NBA, Gwynn is a trivia question. But he played both baseball and basketball in college, and he thrived on the hardwood. He still holds San Diego State records for assists in a game, season and career.

So, no, Gwynn never played professional basketball. But baseball got a heck of a player, and San Diego State – a place Gwynn treasured – has never held higher prominence in the NBA.

  1. loubearkane - Jun 16, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    Rest In Peace to Tony Gwynn the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen. 54 is too young for anyone.

  2. kb2408 - Jun 16, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    Man, this sucks. I hadn’t heard he was even ill. It’s amazing he still holds records in basketball at SD State!

    • asimonetti88 - Jun 16, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      He chewed tobacco throughout his great career, and had cancer in his mouth. Terrible news- a SoCal legend!

  3. realfootballfan - Jun 16, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    I saw that this morning and was surprised. I thought they said he was getting better. Kirby Puckett a few years ago and now Gwynn, two of the best hitters of my childhood gone.

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