NBA 75 Series: #72 Bill Sharman by DJ Hamilton


    Ranked #72 in my 75 greatest NBA players of all time is legendary Celtics shooting guard, Bill Sharman. Born William Walton Sharman on May 25, 1926, and passed away on October 25, 2013, Sharman would complete high school in Central California at Narbonne High School. He served during World War II in 1944 to 1946 in the U.S. Navy and would also become a graduate from the University of Southern California (USC).

Sharman was an elite two sport athlete, being great at both baseball and basketball where he would play first baseman on the 1948 USC Trojans College World Series championship team and was a basketball All-American after his senior year in 1950. After graduating from USC, Sharman played both professional baseball and basketball. 

    He first signed a minor league baseball contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950. Later that year the Washington Capitals drafted him in the second round of the NBA Draft, and for the next five years he played both sports. Unable to break into the majors, he left baseball altogether in 1955. Sharman was traded to the Celtics before the 1951-52 season where he would team up with star point guard Bob Cousy for a decade to form one of the most formidable backcourts ever.

    Overall, few have had the success Bill Sharman has had as a player and a coach. But, as a player he was one of the best shooters and an All-NBA performer in his playing days with the Boston Celtics. Arguably the greatest shooter of his era, Sharman was one of the first NBA guards to push his field-goal percentage above 40% for a season, which he did from 1952-61, and still ranks among the top free-throw shooters of all time with a spectacular 88% career mark.

    Sharman helped the Celtics win four championships (1957,1959-61), averaging 18.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg and 2.6 apg in the playoffs from 1952-61. He also is a four-time champion, eight-time All-Star, All-Star MVP (1955), seven-time All-NBA selection, and has his No.21 retired by the Celtics. 

    After his retirement as a player, he would become a coach, directing the Cleveland Pipers to the American Basketball League (ABL) title in 1961-62, the Utah Stars to the American Basketball Association (ABA) title in 1971, and the Los Angeles Lakers led by Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain to the 1972 NBA championship. He was named NBA coach of the year in 1972. In that 1971–72 season, the Lakers won an NBA-record 33 straight games. He would retire as a coach in 1976 to become a general manager of the Lakers, a position he held until 1982, making moves such as drafting Magic Johnson and trading for the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    It doesn’t stop there for Sharman, as he also served as the Lakers’ club president from 1982 to 1986 and subsequently was a special adviser to the franchise. Sharman was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (1975) and a coach (2004), becoming only the third person in basketball history to be honored. He also is a member of the 50th and 75th Anniversary teams.