Walter Belllamy, the Hall of Fame center who blasted into the NBA like a storm as the No. 1 pick of the Chicago Packers in 1961 averaging 31.6 points and 19 rebounds a game as a rookie and went on to a 14-year NBA career, has passed away at the age of 74.
“Walt Bellamy was an enormously gifted Hall of Fame player who had a tremendous impact on our game,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a released statement. “Off the court, he was an even more extraordinary person. Walt is going to be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. On behalf of the entire NBA family, our condolences and thoughts go out to Walt’s family.”
At 6’11” “Bells” was known as a physical, bruising center right out of the old school we don’t see much in the NBA anymore. His size and athleticism earned the respect of guys like Bill Russell who had to bring their best to beat him, despite him being on lesser teams.
Bellamy bounced around the NBA on those good but not great teams (the 1965 Washington Bullets went to the conference finals) and was never really paired with guys who could get him a title. He was with the Knicks in 1966-67 for three seasons as the team improved from some down years, but in the end they traded Bellamy (for Dave DeBusschere) and kept Willis Reed (then went on to win a couple rings).
Still, over the course of his career he averaged 19.4 points and 13.2 rebounds shooting 51.6 percent, he had a career PER of 19.8. He was a contemporary of Wilt Chamberlain and Russell but he was overshadowed by those guys, who were on teams that won rings.
He played five solid years with the Atlanta Hawks at the end of his career.
“The Atlanta Hawks family is saddened to learn of the death of Walt Bellamy at the age of 74 earlier today,” the Hawks said in a statement. “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.”
Our thoughts go out to his family.