Ol “Big Blue”….the Hawks captain for 10 seasons and without doubt the most prominent hoopster in Hawks history….Bob Pettit was a three time All-SEC player from LSU drafted in the first round by the then Milwaukee Hawks in 1954. His number 50 worn in college was retired by the LSU Tigers and he is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame….but in St. Louis, for Hawk fans in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the best was yet to come!
Moving with the team to St. Louis for the start of the 1955 NBA season, Pettit became one of the premier forwards in NBA history, and became the first true “power forward” in the league. An NBA All-Star in each of his 11 seasons, he averaged 20.4 ppg and 16.2 rebounds in All-Star competition, winning a record four MVP awards. But it was in the sixth game of the 1958 NBA finals against the Boston Celtics that Hawk fans will remember Pettit at his best. On a balmy Saturday night in mid April at Kiel Auditorium, leading the Celtics three games to two, the Hawks put on a blazing fourth quarter drive that propelled them to their first and only NBA championship in St. Louis. Bob Pettit was the driving force, scoring 19 of the Hawks last 21 points in the game as they topped the Celtics 110-109. No wonder Ben Kerner loved the guy!!
Many say that Pettit was to basketball in our town what Stan the Man was to baseball…a fair assessment to be sure. Bob was a two time MVP of the league, the first player to score 20,000 points in a career, and since his retirement in 1965, has been elected to the All-NBA Team, voted one the NBA’s greatest 50 players of all time, and given his due in the NBA Hall of Fame in 1970. And for St. Louis fans who remember this stalwart, it came full cycle in May of 2009, when Pettit came back to the Gateway City to receive a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in the Delmar Loop! Enjoy these pictures of number 9, the greatest player to wear a St. Louis Hawks uniform!!