Paul Arizin, a pioneer of the jump shot who led the Philadelphia Warriors to the 1956 NBA championship and was chosen as one of the 50 greatest NBA players, died Tuesday night at his home in suburban Philadelphia. He was 78.
Arizin, who wasn't good enough to make his high school team yet was later named to the basketball Hall of Fame, died in his sleep, according to a statement from Villanova University, where Arizin had an outstanding college basketball career.
Drafted out of Villanova by the Warriors in 1950, Arizin became one of the first players to use the jump shot, earning him the nickname "Pitchin' Paul."
He developed the shot as an intramural player. Because the leagues played in gyms that often doubled as dance floors, the surfaces were slippery and he had a hard time getting his footing. Since he couldn't get his feet set to try a hook shot, he started shooting with his feet off the floor, Arizin said in 1998, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Once he was in the NBA, he led the league in scoring in his second season and was the most valuable player of the All-Star game in 1952.
He missed the next two seasons while serving in the Marines during the Korean War. Arizin returned to lead the Warriors to the NBA championship in 1956, scoring almost 29 points per game in the playoffs.
In 1978, he was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame and in 1996 was selected as one of the NBA's 50 greatest players.
Arizin, who was born in South Philadelphia, was cut from his high school team but played in church and independent leagues. He enrolled in Villanova to study chemistry and played in informal leagues before the school's basketball coach offered him a scholarship.
He went on to become the first 1,000-point scorer in Villanova history, averaging 20 points per game over three seasons. Arizin led all Division I players in scoring as a senior and was named college player of the year by the Sporting News.
By his second season in the NBA, Arizin had captured the scoring title by averaging 25.4 points a game.
When the Warriors moved to San Francisco, he left the NBA at 34 in 1962. He played three seasons with the Camden Bullets of the Eastern Basketball League.
Arizin is survived by his wife, Maureen; four sons; a daughter; and 14 grandchildren.