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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 662

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This is the grave of Walt Bellamy.

Born in 1939 in New Bern, North Carolina, Bellmay was a star basketball player from the time he was a child and went to Indiana University in 1958 to play. The reason he chose Indiana is that it was the closest team to the South that accepted Black players. This was still the Adolph Rupp era of college sports after all. He was absolutely dominant for the Hoosiers, with a career average of 20 points and 15 rebounds a game. He averaged nearly 18 boards a game his senior year and set the all time Big 10 record with a ridiculous 33 rebounds against Michigan. He also was the starting center on the 1960 Olympic team, which also included Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. Yeah, they took home the gold.

Surprising no one, Bellamy was the first pick in the 1961 NBA draft, by the Chicago Packers, which eventually became the Baltimore Bullets and then the Washington Bullets and now Wizards. He won Rookie of the Year in 1962 after averaging a mere 31.6 points a game. That’s the second highest scoring average by a rookie in NBA history, only behind Wilt Chamberlain. He still holds the all time record for field goals by a rookie. That was also his best season. For some reason, Bellamy started slowly declining after that. He was still an outstanding player, no question. But after his nearly 32 points and 19 rebounds a game as a rookie, he slipped to 28 and 16 in his second year, 27 and 17 in his third, 25 and 15 in his third, etc. That still made him one of the best players in the league, but left him out of the discussion of best centers of all time–Wilt, Kareem, Russell, Olajuwon, Shaq, etc. By the late 60s, he was more in the 15 point 13 board range. He was traded to the Knicks in 1965 and played there until 1968. He then went to the Pistons from 68-70, the Hawks from 70-74, and then he closed his career after one game with the New Orleans Jazz in 74. Incidentally, when the Knicks traded him to the Pistons, because he played in every game and because of the vagaries of the schedule, he managed to play 88 games in an 82 game season, which must be a record.

Bellamy lived in Atlanta after retirement. He was involved in local civil rights organizations, particularly the NAACP. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993, as well as again in 2010 when the entire 1960 Olympics team was inducted. He was also inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. He died in 2013 at the age of 74.

Walt Bellamy is buried in South View Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia.

This grave visit was funded by LGM readers. As always, I am very thankful! If you would like this series to visit other members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Moses Malone is in Houston (Slater Martin who was a star in the 50s is in the same cemetery) and Wes Unseld is in Baltimore. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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