Slater Martin, 86, the defensive-minded Hall of Fame guard who won four NBA titles with the Minneapolis Lakers and one with the St. Louis Hawks, died Thursday at a skilled nursing facility in Houston after a sudden illness, his family said.
Martin was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. He entered the University of Texas' Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1962, and the school retired his No. 15 in 2009.
"I think he's the best defensive guard that ever lived. That includes all the ones right now," said Sid Hartman, the 92-year-old sports columnist for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis who served as the de facto general manager of the Lakers.
"He was quick as a cat," Hartman said. "He wasn't a great shooter or a great scorer, but he was a fantastic point guard."
The 5-foot-10 Martin averaged 9.8 points and 4.2 assists in 745 NBA regular-season games with Minneapolis, New York and St. Louis from 1949-50 to 1959-60. He averaged 10 points and 3.2 assists in 92 playoff games, winning titles with Minneapolis in 1950, '52, '53 and '54 and St. Louis in 1958. He played in seven All-Star games.
Slater Nelson Martin was born Oct. 22, 1925, in Elmira, Texas, and grew up in Houston. He enrolled in college in the fall of 1943 and played four varsity games as a freshman. He went into the military in January 1944, and rejoined the Longhorns for the 1946-47 Final Four run that ended with a third-place finish. In his next-to-last game at Texas, he set a school record with 49 points in an 81-60 victory over Texas Christian University on Feb. 26, 1949.
Martin and five other Hall of Famers from the Minneapolis Lakers — George Mikan, Vern Mikkelsen, Clyde Lovellette, the late Jim Pollard and their coach, John Kundla — were honored in 2002 at Staples Center when a banner was raised to celebrate their achievements, 42 years after the team moved to Los Angeles.
-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reportsCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun