Back in the days when Behemoths ruled the NBA hardwood, center Walt Bellamy was a player considered one of the elite big men in the Association by his peers and opposing coaches alike. He would be a member of the Team USA Olympic basketball squad that brought back the gold to the USA. He would be the first player selected in the 1961 NBA Draft, as the former Chicago Packers saw a player they hoped would be a man they could build a franchise around and the center would be named the NBA Rookie Of The Year in 1962.
The Atlanta Hawks announced that the 74-year old big man passed away on Saturday, cause of death has yet to be announced. Bellamy would play a total of 14 campaigns in the Association, making the NBA All-Star Team four times in his career. The North Carolina native averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 boards during his stint in the Association. Perhaps even more importantly, he earned the respect of two of the greatest big men to ever lace them up in the Association; Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
The Hawks issued the following statement on Saturday: “The Atlanta Hawks family is saddened to learn of the death of Walt Bellamy at the age of 74 earlier today. The Hawks and the National Basketball Association have lost a giant. As an Olympic gold medalist, the first overall pick in 1961, Rookie of the Year in 1962, a four-time All-Star and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, his on-court accomplishments were overwhelming. Off the court, he was equally impactful as a family man, leader in the community, mentor and friend to many.”