Robinson. For once Pete was in awe of himself. "Les," he whispered,
"I think it's the greatest game I've ever played."
Soon after Pete
Maravich collapsed during that pickup game in Pasadena in 1988, the phone rang
in Covington, La. Joshua Maravich, then five years old, heard the maid let out
a piercing howl. Then he was quickly ushered into another room. He closed the
door behind him and considered himself in the mirror. He had his father's eyes.
That's what everyone said. The boy looked through himself, and he knew: My
Pete's older son,
eight-year-old Jaeson, knew something was amiss when a teacher found him in the
school cafeteria. "You need to go home now," she said. The living room
was crowded with grown-ups by the time Jaeson arrived. His mother, who had been
crying in the corner, got up as he came through the door. She hugged him tight.
"I knew it was going to be real bad," he says.
She told him;
then he went to his room. He felt nothing. He pulled up the blinds and stared
out the window. Five minutes passed. Or was it 10? He does not know. "When
I finally figured out that he wasn't coming back, I started to cry," he
The next day, in
an act that stretched the limits of an eight-year-old's capacity for bravery
and observance, Jaeson practiced with his rec league team, the Little
In 1996, to
celebrate its first 50 years, the NBA enlisted a panel to name the 50 greatest
players in its history. A half century had passed since Press Maravich played
for the Pittsburgh Ironmen. The NBA, under commissioner David Stern, was now
held up as the ideal professional sports enterprise. Stern's model, as he often
stated, wasn't another league but rather the savagely synergistic Disney Corp.
Instead of selling Mickey, Minnie and Snow White, the NBA was marketing the
greatest athletes in team sports, most of them Americans of African
It was Pete
Maravich, however, who had anticipated what the game would become: a hip-hop
ballet, a rapper's delight, and a cause for great celebration in the corporate
suite. Pistol Pete anticipated the high-concept ballplayer. This was the star
identifiable merely as Magic or Charles or, most of all, Michael, an athlete
who could be reconstituted in a variety of media, who could play as easily with
animated characters as he could on the street.
Of those 50
greatest, Pete was the only one who would have fared better in the contemporary
game than when he actually played. This much was now accepted as gospel: Pete
had been well ahead of his time. "If he was playing today," said Walt
Frazier, one of the chosen 50, "he'd be the most popular player in the
He was also the
only one of the 50 not still alive. In his place Jaeson and Josh attended the
1997 All-Star game in Cleveland, where they accepted the honor on their
father's behalf. As they awaited their introductions in the tunnel at Gund
Arena, the game's greatest fawned over the brothers Maravich. Isiah Thomas told
them how much he had learned from watching their father. Magic Johnson, whose
championship Los Angeles Lakers teams had appropriated the term Showtime, felt
a need to correct the record.
pops," he gushed, "he was the original. He was the real