All-Star basketball player
Walt Bellamy, 74, a Basketball Hall of Fame inductee whose professional career spanned 14 seasons, died Saturday, the day after he attended the season home opener of the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks confirmed the death but did not give further details.
Bellamy, whose nickname in his playing days was Bells, was not one of the major stars of the sport, but he racked up an impressive list of awards and honors: Olympic gold medalist in 1960, NBA Rookie of the Year in 1962, four-time All-Star and then the Hall of Fame in 1993.
Though the start of his pro career was electric — he scored an average of 31.6 points and 19 rebounds in his 1961-1962 debut season for the Chicago Packers — his overall performance was somewhat up and down. “He’d have some great games and then he’d have one where he didn’t show up,” said his first National Basketball Assn. coach, Bob Leonard, quoted on the NBA website.
Bellamy was traded several times, playing for New York, Detroit and then Atlanta, where his playing seemed to again catch fire. Sportswriter Frank Deford wrote in Sports Illustrated in 1970 that since joining the Hawks, Bellamy “has performed with a vengeance. Not only has he given the Hawks what they hoped for — board strength and offense in the middle — but his passing off the high post has been a real bonus, and he has been scrambling and diving for loose balls like a rookie.”
Walter Jones Bellamy was born on July 24, 1939, in New Bern, N.C. He went to Indiana University, where he was an All-American. He still holds the program record for the most rebounds in a season, 649, and most rebounds in a game, 33, according to the Indianapolis Star.
His last pro game was in 1974 for the New Orleans Jazz expansion team. In his career he averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 rebounds.
Bellamy remained active in numerous community and political groups in the Atlanta area after he left the game. He was on the executive committee of the NAACP, twice a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and he participated in Hawks’ alumni events.
Times staff and wire reports