Nathaniel “Nate” Thurmond (1941–2016)

Nate Thurmond, 1969
Public Domain Image

Nathaniel “Nate” Thurmond was an American basketball player who played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for fourteen years (1963–1977) as a power forward and center with the Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, and Cleveland Cavaliers. Thurmond was a seven-time All-Star and was selected for the NBA All-defensive first team two times and second All-defensive second team three times. He was the first player in NBA history to record a quadruple-double.

Thurmond was born on July 25, 1941, in Akron, Ohio. He starred at Akron’s Central Hower High School basketball team and played college basketball at Bowling Green State University where he averaged 17.8 points and 17.0 rebounds over three varsity seasons. He earned All-American honors as a senior in 1963.

The San Francisco Warriors (now Golden State Warriors) selected Thurmond as their third overall pick in the 1963 NBA Draft. Thurmond spend his rookie season play behind Wilt Chamberlain who averaged 36.9 points and 22.3 rebounds during the 1963–64 NBA season.  Thurmond’s limited playing time and more modest numbers, 7.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest, were still good enough to earn him a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Team.

The Warriors advanced to the 1964 NBA Finals where they lost to the Boston Celtics in five games. The Warriors traded Chamberlain to the Philadelphia 76ers midway through the 1964–1965 NBA season, giving Thurmond center position by himself for the first time. With more playing time, Thurmond’s numbers increased to 16.5 points and 18.1 rebounds per game. On February 28, 1965, Thurmond set an NBA record where he grabbed eighteen rebounds in one quarter against the Baltimore Bullets.

Thurmond averaged 21.3 and 22.0 rebounds per game in the 1966–67 and 1967–1968 NBA seasons. He placed second to Chamberlain in the MVP balloting in the 1966–67 NBA season and helped the Warriors reach the 1967 NBA Finals with fellow player Rick Berry. The Warriors lost to the Chamberlain-led Philadelphia 76ers in six games. Thurmond scored twenty points per game each season from 1967–68 through 1971–72 and was selected for seven All-Star games while with the Warriors.

From 1974 to 1976, Thurmond played for the Chicago Bulls. On October 18, 1974, against the Atlanta Hawks, his debut game as a Bull, Thurmond recorded twenty-two points, fourteen points, twelve assists, and twelve blocked shots, which made him the first player in NBA history to record a quadruple-double. Thurmond was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1975–1976 NBA season where he and his teammates made it to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost to the Boston Celtics in six games.

Thurmond retired from the NBA after the 1976–1977 season. Both Golden State and Cleveland retired his number forty-two. In 1984 he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 1996 he was part of the NBA Anniversary All-Time team. Nate Thurmond died on July 16, 2016, at age seventy-four after a short battle with leukemia.

Thurmond had one son, Adam, from a previous relationship and was married to Marci Thurmond from 1993 until his death in 2016.