Original Old School: ‘Doo the Right Thing
SLAM 24: Bob McAdoo redefined the center position.
Bob McAdoo is an MVP, a three-time scoring champion and a two-time NBA champion, but he still had to wait 14 years after his final NBA game to get into the Hall of Fame. Often overlooked in terms of the greatest players in NBA history, McAdoo discussed his career back in SLAM 24 while he was still waiting for that Hall of Fame call. — Ed.
by Alan Paul
“Bob McAdoo was unstoppable.”
Jack Ramsay is reminiscing about the lanky 6-10, 210-pound center/forward, whom he coached for four years with the Buffalo Braves. In several decades as a coach and TV analyst, Ramsay’s watched thousands of players, none quite like McAdoo.
“He was impossible to guard,” says the ex-coach, now a commentator for ESPN and the Miami Heat. “He’d blow by a center or big forward, and if they put a little guy on him, he’d take him down low and post up all night. He was a scoring machine. That’s a term you hear thrown around, but Bob was the real deal. He could score at will, from anywhere on the floor. He could drive, he could pass, he had great instincts, and he had three-point range.”
From ’73-76, McAdoo led the league in scoring, becoming one of only four centers ever to do for three straight seasons, dropping in 30.6, 34.5 and 31.1 ppg. He was the league MVP in ’75, when he tallied 14.1 rpg while shooting 51 percent from the field. For the first seven years of his career, McAdoo averaged 27.2 points and 12.2 rebounds a game. He was also a great shot blocker and one of the quickest, most agile big men ever to play the game.
“He could run unbelievably well,” Ramsay says. “He would often chase down point guards and pop the ball out from behind, then he’d be on his way to the other end to finish.”
Despite such skills and numbers, McAdoo was left off the NBA’s 50 greatest list, and he’s still waiting for the Hall of Fame call. Apparently, his achievements have been tarnished by the fact that he played for seven teams, bouncing from one bad situation to another in the turbulent NBA of the ’70′s. In ’81, he landed with the Lakers, and played an important role on two championship teams (’82 and ’85) by providing instant offense off the bench and helping key a devastating 1-3-1 halfcourt trap. McAdoo finished his career by playing in Italy from ’86-92 and is currently in his third year as a Miami Heat assistant.
“Mac not only deserves to be in the top 50,” says Ramsay, “he’s probably in the top 10 or 15 players of all time.”
SLAM: Many people think that you changed the way the center position was viewed, since you didn’t like to play with your back to the basket…
BOB McADOO: Wrong! It’s just that I was able to roam. I wasn’t stuck in one spot. Back in the ’60′s and ’70′s, a center was usually stuck in the middle, but I liked to move. I was using what I had. I knew I had to beat people with quickness and by beatin’ them down the court, and it worked. In Buffalo, we led the league in team scoring for a couple of years, because we were fast at every position, from point guard to center. That’s where our advantage was.
SLAM: What do you think was your greatest strength as a player?
McADOO: I would have to say my will. I was just relentless. I never stopped running, never stopped putting pressure on people. They had to guard me all over the court.
SLAM: I recently interviewed Elvin Hayes, and he said that during your four years in Buffalo, you could score at will as well as anyone he’s ever seen. During that period, did you feel like every time you touched the ball, you’d score?
McADOO: Yeah, I really did have that feeling. I just felt every time I got it that it was gonna be good, and I always wanted it when it mattered. As much as I scored, I took good shots, and it showed in my shooting percentage. I think probably my proudest moment was that year that I won the scoring championship and ledt the league in field goal percentage. [In '73-74, McAdoo scored 30.6 ppg while shooting 55 percent from the field.] And they were not all dunks [laughs]. It was a combination of long- and medium-range jumpers, dunks, lay-ins…a little bit of everything.
SLAM: Do you think that your scoring was so good that, in a weird way, your statistics worked against you?
McADOO: I think that may be the case. I was a center, and I had the stats of a center. Nobody ever considered the 15, 14, 13 rebounds a game, the blocked shots that came with the points. I was and am known as a scorer, but that’s simply not all I did. And I was no gunner – look at my shooting percentages.
SLAM: Some of those misperceptions obviously came into play to keep you off the 50 greatest list last year. That must have hurt a lot.
McADOO: To me it was just disgraceful. Because if you research it, you see that there have only been 19 MVPs – Karl Malone was the 20th- and you’re the only one left off of it [the top 50]. Well, how would you feel? And when you see that they’re only been seven or eight repeat scoring champions and you’re one of ‘em, and you’re the only one left off the list, you know that something’s wrong.
SLAM: You did have some pretty good company in being left off, including Alex English and Bernard King.
McADOO: Right. And they both deserve to be on that list. But still, we’re talking about an MVP. Remember: there’ve been thousands of players in this league for 50 years, and there’ve only been 20 MVPs, 19 at the time they made that list. If you’re gonna put together a list of the 50 greatest, that’s where you start from, right there. You pull out your MVP list, and put down your first 19 players. Then you branch out and pick the other 31.
SLAM: Good point. Did you see SLAM‘s 50 greatest list?
McADOO: Yeah, that was great. Thank you. I had some people send me copies. I even bought a couple for my family.
SLAM: Do you think that your reputation was hurt by the fact that you played for so many teams?
McADOO: I don’t know. Probably, but that was the nature of the league then. If you put me in ’97 time, I’d have never left a team because they hold on to their stars today. But at the time, many players moved around. I mean, Kareem played on a couple of teams, and Wilt Chamberlain moved around. Those guys would’ve never left their original teams if they played today. They’d be like Patrick Ewing or Michael Jordan, but that was just the nature of the game then.