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'Pistol' Draws a Bead on Pete Maravich

Mar 17, 2007 (Weekend Edition Saturday)

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Even if you grew up watching Michael Jordan, have been dazzled by Kobe Bryant and floored by LeBron James, you'll still want to see the moves of "Pistol" Pete Maravich, one of the great ball players of all time.

With white socks flopping over the ankles of his skinny legs, and a mop top of brown hair, Maravich was a sports star befitting the Age of Aquarius.

Sure, Julius Erving, Walt Frazier and Rick Barry were of the same era. But with moves such as the "no look" pass and Harlem Globetrotter-inspired dribbling, nobody put on a show like Pete Maravich.

Mark Kriegel, a former columnist for the New York Daily News, chronicles the basketball legend's life and career in his new book, Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich.

Kriegel speaks with Scott Simon about the basketball icon's record-breaking career, his relationship with his father and how he inspired fans with his uncanny charisma.

The son of Serbian immigrants, Maravich was born on June 22, 1947, in Aliquippa, Penn. His father, Press Maravich, was a college basketball coach who taught his son the game early on. As a college athlete, Maravich set scoring records at Louisiana State University, where he averaged about 44 points a game.

Maravich began his pro career with the Atlanta Hawks, before moving on to the New Orleans Jazz (he played for the team briefly after it moved to Utah in 1979). He ended his career with the Boston Celtics; injuries pushed him into retirement in 1980.

In his later years, Maravich battled depression and drank heavily. He eventually played basketball only for fun. Maravich became a seeker, Kriegel says, dabbling in karate and pursuing a fascination with UFOs.

In 1988, Maravich collapsed on a basketball court while playing a pickup game. He was 40.

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