The late Pete Maravich was one of the flashiest ball handlers who ever graced a basketball court. His nickname – “Pistol Pete” – came about for two reasons. First, as a high school player, he had a habit of shooting the ball from his side, as if he was holding a revolver. And once he became a household name, after being selected third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1970 NBA Draft, the handle stuck by virtue of his uncanny shooting skills. Through 10 NBA seasons, Pistol Pete averaged 24.2 points per game.
Maravich’s backstory is a good one, so it’s worth revisiting his high school and college years. As the son of Press Maravich, a reputable college basketball coach and former National Basketball League player, Pete’s introduction to hoops came early. Born in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, he was raised in the Carolinas as his dad taught him the fundamentals of basketball. He was a relentless student of the game and practiced ball control often, even dribbling basketballs up and down the family’s staircase without missing a beat. His father’s jobs dictated where they lived and when Press accepted a coaching position at N.C. State, the Maravich clan moved to Raleigh.
After graduating from nearby Needham B. Broughton High School 1965, Pete attended Edwards Military Institute where he averaged 33 points per game. It was during this time that Press was offered a coaching gig at Louisiana State University and shortly thereafter the Maravich men were reunited at LSU. NCAA rules prohibited Pete, as a freshman, from playing varsity ball in his first year, but in the ensuing three years the 6’ 5” phenom became the most-talked-about player in the country. He averaged 43.8, 42.2 and 44.5 points per game, respectively. For his collegiate career, Pete averaged 44.2 points per game and led the NCAA in scoring in each season. His scoring average remains an all-time NCAA record.
Although he wasn’t quite as prolific in the pros – nagging knee injuries derailed parts of six NBA seasons – he was named to five NBA All-Star teams, led the league in scoring (31.1 ppg) in 1976-77, and finished his career wearing Celtics green in 1980. His short, 26-game stint in Boston was preceded by four seasons (1971 to ’74) with the Hawks and another five-plus years (1975 to ’79) competing for the New Orleans/Utah Jazz.
What’s probably most impressive about Maravich’s NBA scoring totals (15,948 points) is that the three-point shot wasn’t introduced until his final season in which he played just 43 games between Utah and Boston.
Let’s revisit Pistol Pete’s mastery of the hardwood by looking at four key cards from his 11-card Basic Set checklist:
This is Maravich’s official rookie card. It’s considered a key card in the 1970 Topps Basketball release, which included 175 cards, each one 2-1/2” wide by 4-11/16” tall. The card fronts bear a colorful backdrop with a basketball logo at the lower right corner bearing the player’s name, position and team. Maravich’s #123 shows him set against a green backdrop with his mop-top hair. The card features a white border, which can wreak havoc as it causes many examples to grade off-center.
The card has a PSA Population Report of 2,192, of which only two examples have ever been graded PSA Gem Mint 10 (APR average: $130,054). When it comes to trading card value, this is the Maravich to have in your collection. A total of 82 other submissions have been labelled as PSA Mint 9 versions (APR average: $6,268.51).
In trying to put together Pistol Pete’s 11-card Basic Set checklist on the PSA Set Registry, this is the most heavily weighted card (10.00) of them all. Weights are determined by the card’s secondary market value using a scale from 1.00 to 10.00 with 10.00 being the most expensive. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $108.89
PSA Excellent 5: $206.99
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $947.74
The 1971 Topps set took on a different look from the company’s two previous releases. Sporting smaller-sized cards (2.-1/2” wide by 3-1/2” tall), the set consisted of 175 players with each card front featuring a mod motif with bright colors and snazzy lettering. The white-colored borders identify team cities in large letters at the top with the player’s name and position noted at the bottom. Maravich, with an orange background, appears sun-drenched in his close-up on card #55.
Pistol Pete’s second-year card has a PSA Population Report of 1,539 with seven submissions being graded PSA Gem Mint 10 with another 136 being earning PSA Mint 9 status. It’s the second most heavily weighted (4.00) card in his basic set checklist and is difficult to find with 50/50 centering. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Very Good-Excellent 4: $34.98
PSA Excellent-Mint 6: $28.60
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $91.40
The 1972 Topps set consists of 264 cards, each 2-1/2” wide by 3-1/2” tall. The card fronts bear a posed color image of the featured player set against another colorful backdrop outlined in black. The otherwise white-bordered card identifies the team name below the player image in incrementally larger letters, just above the player’s name and position across the bottom. Centering issues and occasional black print marks on its white borders provide grading obstacles.
Once again, Maravich (#5) – along with Wilt Chamberlain (#1), Oscar Robertson (#25) and Lew Alcindor (#100) – is one of the set’s anchors. Pete’s third-year card, showing the lanky guard dribbling the ball between his legs, has a PSA Population Report of 861 with just six examples having earned PSA Gem Mint 10 status (APR average: $2,025.00). It’s tied for second most heavily weighted (4.00) card in his Basic Set checklist and it’s not the easiest card to find with perfect (50/50) centering. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Excellent 5: $23.33
PSA Near Mint 7: $49.48
PSA Mint 9: $202.15
The 1973 Topps set consists of 264 cards, each 2-1/2” wide by 3-1/2” tall. The card fronts bear an action image of the featured player along with a posed head shot encircled in white. In the case of Maravich’s fourth-year card, let’s just say the floating head shot looks downright spooky. The otherwise white-bordered card identifies Maravich as a one of the “NBA All-Stars” with his “1972-73 / Second Team” honor called out with his name and position at the bottom.
Pete’s card (#130) has a small PSA Population Report of 522, of which only two have been graded as PSA Gem Mint 10. Another 64 submissions have been graded PSA Mint 9, while 248 others have been graded Near Mint – Mint 8. This card is tied as the fourth most heavily weighted (3.00) one within his Basic Set checklist. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Excellent 5: $8.09
PSA Near Mint 7: $23.36
PSA Mint 9: $104.77
Pete Maravich Cards Required to Complete the Set
(with PSA Weights included)
- 1970 Topps Pete Maravich #123 (10.00)
- 1971 Topps Pete Maravich #55 (4.00)
- 1972 Topps Pete Maravich #5 (4.00)
- 1973 Topps Pete Maravich #130 (3.00)
- 1974 Topps Pete Maravich #10 (2.50)
- 1975 Topps Pete Maravich #75 (2.00)
- 1976 Topps Pete Maravich #60 (3.00)
- 1977 Topps Pete Maravich #20 (1.00)
- 1978 Topps Pete Maravich #80 (1.00)
- 1979 Topps Pete Maravich #60 (1.00)
- 1980 Topps Maravich/Free/Johnson (1.00)
Browse through images of the entire set within the image gallery section of the Set Registry.
Knee injuries effectively ended Pistol Pete’s playing career in 1980. His last hurrah in Boston also marked the start of another Hall of Famer’s career in Beantown: Larry Bird. Maravich’s last season saw him help the Celtics to a 61-21 regular-season record and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987 and nine years later was posthumously named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.
Maravich’s life was cut short at the age of 40. Almost poetically, he was playing in a pickup basketball game in Pasadena, California on January 5, 1988, and suddenly collapsed during a break in the action. Unbeknownst to him or anyone else, Maravich had been playing at such a high level all those years with a congenital heart defect. He was missing a left coronary artery in his heart and as a result his right coronary artery had grown severely enlarged. On the day he died doing what he loved the most, his heart finally gave out.
For someone looking to piece together a basic set of one of the league’s all-time icons, the Pete Maravich card lineup is a great place to start. Go ahead and give it a try on the PSA Set Registry.
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