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NBA 75 Series: #67 Nate Thurmond

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

Ranked #67 in my 75 Greatest NBA Players of All Time is Nate Thurmond. Nathaniel Thurmond was born on July 25, 1941 in Akron, Ohio and passed away July 16, 2016 in San Francisco, California. Thurmond would play his high school ball at Akron Central high with another future NBA star in Gus Johnson. He would then go on to attend college at Bowling Green, passing up a scholarship offer from Ohio State to avoid backing up another future NBA Hall of Famer as well in Jerry Lucas.

In college, Thurmond would become a first-team All-American by the Sporting News in 1963. He would also lead the Mid-American Conference in rebounds during all three of his varsity seasons (with a college career average of 17.0 rebounds per game). In his first two years with Bowling Green, he helped lead the team into the NCAA Tournament and he set a school record with 31 rebounds in his final college game.

He would then go on to become the third overall pick in the 1963 NBA Draft by the San Francisco Warriors (now the Golden State Warriors) where he played the backup role behind the great Wilt Chamberlain. He would average 7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in his rookie season and be named to the 1964 All-Rookie Team.

After Chamberlain was traded away the next season, Thurmond would blossom into a double-double machine in his career as the starting center for the Warriors, having an 18 rebound quarter, and even averaging 21.3 points and 22 rebounds per game in the 1966-67 and 1967-68 seasons. He would finish second in MVP voting in 1967 behind Chamberlain and average over 20 points per game for five straight seasons (1967-72).

Overall, Thurmond was an elite big who dominated defensively and was one hell of a rebounder and shot blocker, Nate Thurmond is literally the most underrated great big in NBA history. Yes, I’ve said Moses and others are, but Thurmond by far takes the cake in terms of most underrated because he played in a time where Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem roamed the NBA Earth. He’s the first player to ever log a quadruple-double in NBA history with 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocks on opening night against the Atlanta Hawks in the 1974-75 season in his Bulls debut!

Thurmond had a solid mid-range game as well and had a rugged, intimidating factor to his game at 6-foot-11 that gave problems to Kareem and Wilt. He’s had multiple 30-plus rebound games and sits 10th on the all-time rebounds list with 14,464. He holds career averages of 15 points and 15 rebounds per game. Some basketball observers even went as far to say he had better defense then Wilt and was better offensively then Russell.

He helped revitalize the Cavaliers in the twilight of his career and helped them earn their first ever playoff berth. Thurmond is a seven-time All-Star, five-time All-Defensive team member, and a member of the 50th and 75th anniversary team. He also has his No.42 retired by the Cavaliers and Warriors. Thurmond's quickness, long hands, smooth outside touch, ferocious rebounding, swarming defense, shot-blocking ability, and being a team player made Thurmond the full package you would want in an elite center.

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