Not So Trivial Pursuit

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

Who holds the N.C.A.A. Basketball record for the highest scoring average over an entire college career?


Pete Maravich - The Pistol (hd highlights mix)


From 1967 to 1970, during the three seasons he electrified crowds while playing for the L.S.U. Tiger's Varsity Basketball Team, "Pistol" Pete Maravich averaged 44.2 points per game shattering the record of 33.8 points per game set a decade earlier by "The Big O," the great Oscar Robertson of Cincinatti. As a matter of fact, Maravich also holds the top three spots on the list for highest all-time single season scoring averages, posting averages of 43.8, 44.2, and 44.5 points per game in each of his respective years at L.S.U. After all these years, Oscar Robertson still holds the second highest career scoring average. Not surprisingly, Pistol also leads all college players in total scoring with 3677 points.


Pistol Pete accomplished all this in an era when college basketball lacked a shot clock and a three point line, and when freshman were not allowed to compete on the varsity squads. Therefore, Maravich garnered the highest point total in just three seasons, whereas after 1972, all players enjoyed four years of eligibility. Among the top 25 scorers in the history of N.C.A.A. Mens Basketball, only four players have cracked the list with only three seasons of scoring to their credit: Maravich, Oscar Robertson, Elvin Hayes, and Larry Bird, all NBA Hall of Famers. Furthermore, Coach Dale Murphy, who replaced Press Maravich as L.S.U.'s Varsity Coach in 1972, charted all of Maravich's shots and calculated that with a three point line, The Pistol would have averaged 13 three point shots made per game, increasing his average to 57.2 points per game.


Additionally, Pete Maravich was a three-time College All-American and two-time College Player of the Year. Drafted third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 1970, Pete played 10 years in the N.B.A. before a knee injury finally sidelined him for good. During his professional career, Maravich made the All-Star Team five times, earned first team All-NBA honors twice, and won the scoring title in 1977. In 1987, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, one of the youngest players ever to receive the honor, and in 1996 he was acknowledged as one of the top 50 players in the first 50 years of the N.B.A.


Despite his prolific scoring, his shooting was not even the most impressive part of his game; with his dribbling behind the back and between the legs and his wrist and no-look passes, he was a magician with the basketball. Fans and players were constantly on edge, wondering what sleight of hand Maravich would marvel them with next. The legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach called him "the best playmaker in the game." The Hall of Fame cited Maravich as "perhaps the greatest creative offensive talent in history." In an interview in 2009, fellow Hall of Famer John Havlicek declared him "the best ballhandler of all time." Lakers' legend Magic Johnson credits Pete with creating the original "Showtime" and attributes much of his own playmaking creativity to studying Maravich's game.


Red on Roundball: Dribbling Drills


There is a treasure trove of Pistol Pete videos online, so you can judge for yourself. At the top of the page is a highlight film of Pete's greatest plays. Above is an instructional video featuring Red Auerbach and Maravich in an epsode of "Roundball," a weekly series hosted by Auerbach back in the 1970's. Below is another, lengthier film documenting his entire career; it is fun to hear his contemporaries recount their experiences with The Pistol.


"Pistol" Pete Maravich (Showtime B4 Showtime) NBA Legends


In addition to securing his place in the history books with his play, Maravich shared the secret of his success with a series of comprehensive instructional videos which still form the foundation of any respectable ball handling video today. Steve Nash, who made a popular basketball instructional video series, admitted to borrowing heavily from Pistol Pete. With a little effort, most of his instructional videos can still be found online. Unlike most magicians who lose some of their luster when their secrets are revealed, the creativity, intricacy, and thoroughness of Maravich's drills only add to his legendary status. Pete shows viewers exactly how to perform all his patented moves, and with about 20,000 hours of practice, they too might be able to play like The Pistol. Whether you are a kid just learning how to dribble, a competitive athlete, a coach, or a basketball junkie, you owe it to yourself to check out Pistol Pete's instructional videos. Below is a video featuring a sample of Maravich's ball handling drills.


Pete Maravich Basketball Drills