Warriors great Nate Thurmond, one of the most underrated players in NBA history, passed away Saturday morning at the age of 74 after a short battle with leukemia.
Drafted No. 3 overall out of Bowling Green by the San Francisco Warriors before the 1963-64 season, the 6-foot-11 Thurmond played one season alongside Wilt Chamberlain before competing against him for the rest of his Hall of Fame career.
After 11 seasons with the Warriors, Thurmond remains the franchise leader in rebounds and minutes, averaging 15.0 points and 15.0 rebounds. Thurmond’s No. 42 is one of six jersey numbers retired by the Warriors.
In 1974, Thurmond became the first player to record an official quadruple-double in 1974, along with seven All-Star appearances. Thurmond was named one of the 50 best players in NBA history for the league’s 50th anniversary in 1996.
Al Attles, the Warriors’ community relations ambassador and former player, coach and general manager, said in a statement:
“Although I had prepared for this news for the past several days, I was heartbroken and devastated when I was informed of Nate’s death earlier today. In typical Nate fashion, he did not let many people know about his illness and how serious it was and, unfortunately, it proved to be one of the few things in life tougher than him.”
“Looking back, he was as ferocious as any player in the history of the game on the court, but one of the kindest and nicest souls in his everyday life. He was just a terrific human being who I loved and respected more than words can describe and, fortunately, I was blessed to spend a great deal of time with as a teammate, coach and, most importantly, a friend for a good portion of our adult lives. For that, I am extremely thankful.”
Thurmond was also known for his soulful skills in the kitchen, and went on run “Big Nate’s Barbeque,” on Folsom Street in San Francisco, which closed in 2011 as one of many business to fall casualty of a major economic depression.
His biggest legacy for many Bay Area natives, though, was the brand of chophouse style basketball played in San Francisco. Thurmond culled blocks and rebounds, helped create a modern day coaching template for post defense and is one of the most prolific post scorers in Warriors history.
Rick Barry said:
“Nate was one of the greatest centers to ever play the game and I was privileged to call him a teammate and dear friend. He battled his illness until the very end, like a true Warrior. His legacy is one of passion, fierce competitiveness, a love of basketball and selfless devotion to others. My heartfelt prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.”
Warriors owner Joe Lacob said:
“We’ve lost one of the most iconic figures in the history of not only our organization, but the NBA in general, with the passing of Nate Thurmond. Nate represented this franchise with class, dignity and humility as both a player and community relations ambassador for over 40 years. Without a doubt, he is one of the most beloved figures to ever wear a Warriors uniform and both a Hall of Fame player and Hall of Fame person, hence his No. 42 jersey hanging from the rafters at Oracle Arena. On behalf of the entire Warriors organization, our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family, including his wife, Marci. We’ll miss his presence in his customary seats at our games next season, but his legacy will live forever.”