Hall of Fame center Walt Bellamy, a four-time All-Star during 14 NBA seasons who played for the Bullets during their first two years in Baltimore, died Saturday, according to the Atlanta Hawks. He was 74. No cause of death was announced.
Bellamy was an All-American at Indiana and won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics before being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1961 draft by the Chicago Packers.
He averaged 31.6 points and 19 rebounds for the Packers in 1961-62, making the All-Star team and earning the Rookie of the Year award.
Bellamy appeared in 168 regular-season games for the Bullets from 1963 to 1965, averaging 25.5 points and 15.6 rebounds per game and twice being selected to the All-Star team. He helped lead the Bullets to the Western Division finals in 1965, but was traded to the New York Knicks that November.
Despite his accomplishments, Bellamy acquired a reputation for not always giving a full effort.
“Walt was talented, for sure, but he wasn’t all that excited about playing every night,” Bob Leonard, who coached the Bullets during their first season in Baltimore, told The Baltimore Sun recently. “You had to get on him.”
Bellamy, who was 6 feet 11, averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 rebounds in 14 seasons with the Packers, Chicago Zephyrs, Bullets, Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Hawks and New Orleans Jazz. He retired in 1975 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
“The Washington Wizards would like to extend their deepest condolences to the family, friends and fans of Walt Bellamy, an original member of our franchise and the first player drafted in our team’s history,” the team said in a statement. “His All-Star play, scoring ability and dominance on the glass established us in the league during our two seasons in Chicago and in the region for our first three seasons in Baltimore. Walt’s on-court feats will live forever in the record books, while his legacy as a leader in the community will live forever in the lives of those he touched.
“The Atlanta Hawks family is saddened to learn of the death of Walt Bellamy at the age of 74 earlier today,” the team said in a statement. “The Hawks and the National Basketball Association have lost a giant. As an Olympic gold medalist, the first overall pick in 1961, Rookie of the Year in 1962, a four-time All-Star and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, his on-court accomplishments were overwhelming. Off the court, he was equally impactful as a family man, leader in the community, mentor and friend to many.”