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NBA 75 Series: #34 Rick Barry

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

Ranked at #34 in my NBA 75 Greatest Players of All Time is the brashful, unapologetic, and one of the greatest scorers and passing forwards in NBA history, Rick Barry. Barry was born on March 28, 1944, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. While growing up in Jersey, Barry was a profound baseball player growing up, which was his best sport as a young kid. Barry was a big fan of former New York Giants outfielder Willie Mays growing up, which is the reason he wore number 24 growing up throughout his storied basketball career.

After graduating from Roselle Park High School, Barry would go on to attend the University of Miami to play for the Hurricanes. Barry would blend in well with coach Bruce Hale’s uptempo and pro-style system suited well for Barry, and that's just saying it modestly, as he would go on to be named a three-time All-American, capitalized by leading the NCAA in scoring by averaging 37.4 points per game his senior year.

Despite his efforts, Barry’s team couldn’t participate in the tournament because of his team being on probation at the time. He would go on to be selected second overall in the 1965 NBA Draft by the San Francisco Warriors (now Golden State Warriors) instead of the team closest to his hometown in the New York Knicks, who decided to select Bill Bradley out of Princeton first overall.

Barry would scorch the Knicks in his first game at Madison Square Garden, going off for a masterful 57 points that included 21-of-22 from the foul line while also grabbing 15 rebounds in a 141-137 loss. Barry would continue to make an immediate impact as a rookie, helping the franchise improve their win margins from 17 to 35, and almost being in playoff contention in his first year! He would be named an All-Star, be named first team All-NBA, and win the 1966 NBA Rookie of the Year award with averages of 25.7 points and 10.6 rebounds a game, otherworldly for anyone in their prime yet an NBA rookie.

Ultimately, Barry would continue to show why he would be nicknamed the "Miami Greyhound" by longtime San Francisco Bay Area broadcaster Bill King because of his long and slender physical build, whippet-like quickness and remarkable instincts. He is the only player to ever lead the NCAA, NBA, and ABA in scoring. He scored more than 25,000 points in his professional career and averaged more than 30 points in four different seasons.

Barry was an unstoppable offensive juggernaut who can shoot from deep, was a brilliant passer, passionate competitor, and unwavering desire to win that would grate his rivals and rub teammates the wrong way. He led the Warriors to their first ever championship in 1975 over the Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes-led Washington Bullets as the primary option, averaging 30.6 points per game to capture Finals MVP, good for second in the league. He’s the youngest player to ever score 57 points in a game (21), and has the highest points per game average in Finals history with 36.3.

Aside from his Finals MVP and NBA title, Barry would become an ABA champion (1969), eight-time NBA All-Star, an All-Star MVP (1967), six-time All-NBA selection, four-time ABA All-Star, four-time All-ABA first team, and make All-Rookie first team (1966). He also led the NBA in scoring (1967) and steals (1975). He is one of the best scorers and forwards to ever play the game.

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