Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ruminations on Maravich and a father-son bond for the ages

April 16, 2009
Posted by Jonathan

(I’ve written several times before about the numerous good writers here at Heritage, and I still stand by the claim. There are simply a lot of men and women here who know how to turn a phrase with considerable skill. Jonathan Scheier, a Consignment Director and Cataloger in Sports, is one of those people. I’ve highlighted his catalog work before, and it gives me great pleasure to introduce his first blog post for the Heritage Blog. His is a moving missive on Pete and Press Maravich, and an amazing Maravich archive in the upcoming April 24 Sports Auction. Pete Maravich was one of the great NBA players of all time, and his relationship with his father was monumental. Jonathan does a beauty of a job giving some insight into this important partnership, one without which we all would have been denied one of the greatest basketball talents to ever hit the court. Read on, and enjoy! – Noah Fleisher)

From about age six to maybe 11 or 12, I was one of the very best soccer players in my county. Seriously, whenever sides were picked before a game I was the number one draft choice every time. If this sounds like arrogance, it’s actually quite the opposite. From age 13 to present day, I’ve been – at best – thoroughly mediocre in any athletic endeavor, and I wouldn’t call hitting one’s peak before hitting puberty the most ideal of situations. I guess, though, it’s a common enough story.

During all those years of recreation league, club league and school soccer, I don’t think my father ever missed a single game. He had grown up on the upper west side of Manhattan under the close, careful watch of an overprotective Jewish mother (Are there any other kind? – Noah), so I think he was thrilled, and probably a bit baffled, to have fathered a young sports star. My father’s one of the smartest guys you’d ever want to meet, but athletic? Not quite. He’s one of the only people I’ve ever met who doesn’t know how to ride a bicycle. I only wish I could have kept my own glory days going for him, but I suppose it was still better than nothing.

I couldn’t help but think of my own father when I came across the basketball that a 19-year old “Pistol Pete” Maravich gave to his dad at the close of his sophomore season at LSU after he scored point number 1,138 to lead the nation in scoring. It must have been an incredibly special, incredibly proud moment for the both of them. For those of you unfamiliar with the historic partnership between Press and Pete Maravich, I’ll provide a brief retrospective:

From the earliest days, father and son shared a love of the sport of basketball, and it was all but preordained that Pete would be a future star. Press was a widely respected basketball coach and, from the youngest age, Pete showed both a natural gift for the sport and an unyielding drive to perfect his game. Together they would shoot hundreds of thousands of free throws until it became as natural as breathing. For weeks Press would allow Pete to dribble only left-handed, until his ambidextrousness was ingrained. By the time Pete graduated high school he was one of the top recruits in the nation, and Press just happened to be the coach of the Louisiana State University varsity basketball team.

Pete would leave the collegiate game following his senior season at LSU as the owner of the most prestigious individual record in NCAA basketball: Career Points Leader. It’s a record that stands to this day, claimed from the great Oscar Robertson with another basketball, likewise presented in the Heritage Sports April 2009 Signature Auction. The ball used in the final game of his sophomore season, however, is my personal favorite.

Along with a boldly applied “1138,” denoting Pete’s record-setting points total for the season, he inscribed on the ball: “I present this ball to you, Dad. Without your guidance and assistance this would have never been made possible.”

For anyone who has ever been a boy on the field of play, or a father on the sidelines, it’s a real heart warmer.

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