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Bob Pettit Shares Thoughts About Ambassadorship For NBA’s 75th Anniversary Season

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at October 15, 2021

Seventy years after entering LSU as a heralded freshman Bob Pettit is still representing his generation (1954-1965), his state (Louisiana), and his game (basketball). As part of the NBA 75 celebration, the NBA has selected highly-respected 14 time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki to join Hall of Famers Bob Pettit, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, and Oscar Robertson as the leading ambassadors for the season. These ambassadors represent various eras of the league’s history and will be featured during the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

Having avoided the worst of Hurricane Ida, Pettit was kind enough to answer a few questions about his ambassadorship not only for the league but for his generation. Pettit explained of being chosen, “I’m honored at being an ambassador. I’m very excited to have an opportunity to represent the NBA. You know, this is a pretty significant meeting, a very significant time being the 75th anniversary, and five of us were selected to be ambassadors and I’m extremely pleased. I’m looking forward to it.”

This is Pettit’s second-anniversary celebration in Cleveland, having been a part of the NBA’s 50th Season ceremonies in 1997. Pettit remembers the city fondly and hopes the feelings are mutual. Pettit said during our chat, “Well I hope it is a big thing for (Cleveland). I remember going there…we went there 25 years ago, fortunately enough to go on the 50th anniversary, and Cleveland put on a really nice show and seemed to be enjoying it. They were very supportive and I hope it’s the same thing (this year).”

Though anticipating another warm welcome, Pettit acknowledges the game, much like the whole NBA experience now, is not the same. He explained, “When I played it was in many ways a different game. We had no three-point shot. When I started there were only eight teams in the league and about 80 players. At certain times we would be down to eight players just to save money. Some of the owners were, it was different. You know the owners were all, that was their life. About three or four of them, this was everything they did. They lived and died with basketball.”

The money came with the media, which increased astronomically but just a few decades after Pettit retired. Still, Pettit is proud knowing the game of today was built on a foundation laid by his generation. He also believes the greats of his time could have been stars today.

Pettit said of his generation’s grind and the changes that came, “The game has progressed so much now as far as the media and all the excitement…the expanding number of players and number of teams in the league. I think that basketball has continued to grow and in a good way. I think that we had a little something to do with that. I came into the league in 1954 and it was an interesting time for me. The travel was totally different. We went with cars, we went with busses or trains. It was just a much more difficult schedule but still most so enjoyable. I wouldn’t take anything for the 11 years I spent in the NBA.”

Though the game has changed, the respect for his peers remains steadfast. Greatness just translates, same as you get goosebumps when talking to a Hall of Famer. Pettit knows “It’s a different time and a different game and in many ways has continued to improve…” but still he thinks “there are still some things that went on in the early days that could still, some of the players I played against, would be great players in the league today. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlin, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor. These guys were wonderful basketball players. They could play anytime, anywhere, and still be a superstar today. It was a different game but we still had, I thought, really great players. And I didn’t mention Bob Cousy and some of the others that still I believe could have been really great players today.”

Pettit practically laughed he “knows to take things day by day and week to week.” Still, he is in great spirits and looking months ahead, towards another NBA All-Star Weekend. He said, “We don’t know who the players are obviously, they haven’t been announced yet, but I hope I get there. A lot of players are looking forward to congregating and getting selected on that (75th anniversary) team hopefully. I know Cleveland will do an excellent job supporting it, same as the NBA. They should be excited. I think they will be.”

The NBA’s 75 Greatest Players will be released on TNT’s NBA Tip-Off and ESPN’s NBA Today from October 19-21, with 25 players named to the team each day. The 75 players will represent a cross-section of positions and eras from throughout the NBA’s rich history. The team was being selected by a renowned panel of media members along with current and former players, coaches, general managers, and team executives.


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