SI Vault
Pete Maravich
December 01, 1969
I guess I love the game of basketball more than anything else in the world. From the beginning it was like an addiction with me, I played it so much. Forty-seven weeks out of the year. Four to five hours a day. I never really was interested in other sports or in anything else, either. For a while I ran some track. But I could never see running around in a circle for a long time and just getting tired. Really it was all basketball. The fact that my father, Press, was coaching the game probably had the most to do with it. I mean, if he had put a football in my hand I would have wanted to be a football player, or if he had been a plumber, maybe I would have been tough with a wrench. I don't know.
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December 01, 1969

I Want To Put On A Show

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At the end of my sophomore year I played in the East-West All-Star Game in Indianapolis and won the Star of Stars award. It certainly wasn't for my shooting. I only scored 16 points, but I had 11 or 12 assists that were right out of the show. From the coaches' and writers' standpoint, these seemed to be the highlight of the game. I know that's what the fans liked best. That award meant much more to me than either of the national scoring championships I won. Any time you win over guys that are all All-Americas, it has to be the best. And it was all passing.

I like the word "show time" when describing my style, simply because it sometimes keeps people from using another word—"hot dog." I hate that, hot dog. The word has bad connotations, so, of course, that is what people always yell at me on the road. I guess when a person has all that ham in him, he is a hot dog. But I don't like it.

Anyway, people who criticize my hot-dogging—showmanship—are just way behind in the game. Anybody who calls a guy a hot dog just because he puts the ball behind his back or between his legs is a complete dummy. People who yell that are so far behind in basketball it's pitiful. Basketball is almost in the 21st century, it's moving so fast. All that common stuff—dribbling down straight, chest pass, bounce pass, fundamental stuff like that—that's going out of basketball. It's getting better, faster. Pretty soon you'll see 6'8" guards and 7'5" centers. They're going to have to raise the basket soon, change the backboards. My dad always has had this idea to make the backboards angular, concave, so that when you shot the ball, it wouldn't necessarily come straight off the board. This would take some of the advantage away from the big man.

Anyway, these people who razz me for my style are behind the times. It's like anything else, I guess. They're giving me the business—the oooooos and the whistles and handkerchiefs and things—because I'm doing something that they can't do. Actually, I love the whistles and all the rest. That kind of stuff is great for the game.

But all this is beside the point. I play the way I do because that is the way I've always played. It's my style. I do it for the benefit of the team, for our fans and for myself. I don't throw a behind-the-back pass just to hot dog it. I throw it to meet a situation. I throw it to excite the crowd. I bet at least 90% of the people want to see my show. You can't tell me just 10% want it. Like I say, if I have a choice whether to do the show or throw the straight pass, and we're going to get the basket either way, I'm going to do the show.

I still practice all those drills that I worked on alone in the gym back in Clemson. When I visit sports clinics and camps in the summer, some of the older kids think I'm crazy, doing all my stuff. But the younger ones are fascinated. The drills are more that just for show. They stimulate my quickness and reaction, and they have made it possible to develop my passing skills. All of these drills are on a movie my dad made. It was called Homework Basketball, and it was a funny movie.

I guess the first thing I learned to do as a kid was spin the basketball on my fingertips. I start with my index finger, then go down my hand, spinning the ball on each finger. I do a quick change in one variation where it looks like I'm spinning it on all five fingers at once. That's really sharp. When I started spinning, I'd spin the ball for as long as anybody wanted me to. I'd make bets on how long. I had it spinning one time for about 50 minutes straight. I had a full nail, a half-inch nail, all worn down, and the whole thing was bleeding.

Now I can spin the ball down under my arm, go inside out and come all the way around keeping it going. Outside-in is even harder. Another variation is spinning the ball, then flicking it behind my back and catching it on one finger, still maintaining the spin. I used to use this drill in our team warmups before games, just to get loose. I stopped that. If we lost, people would say, why don't you stick to your spinning? I don't need that baloney.

Another drill is the ricochet. To do this one, I stand with my feet spread shoulder-width apart, take the ball with both hands, throw it between my legs at a 45� angle and catch it behind my back. Then I throw it from back to front the same way. I keep going back and forth, back and forth—for reaction, not quickness.

My variation for this is the bullet ricochet. I slam the ball as hard as I can from way above my head and try to catch it behind me. You really can't see my hands move on this one, they're going so fast. People have sat there and said, honestly, truthfully, that they had no vision of my hands moving. They were a blur. It is that terrific WHAM when I bring the ball down that makes the whole thing so fast. This is a very dangerous drill, actually. I don't think I have to elaborate on how much it hurts if you catch yourself in the crotch off the bounce. I knew one kid who did the bullet ricochet once and ended up in the hospital.

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