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Hoosiers great Walt Bellamy, 74, dies

Bellamy

Indiana legend and Hall of Fame center Walt Bellamy, who played for the Hoosiers from 1958-61, died Saturday in Atlanta at age 74.

The Atlanta Hawks confirmed the death but didn’t provide details. The Hawks said Bellamy attended the team’s home opener Friday night.

In 1961, the former Hoosier became the first player in program history to be picked No. 1 overall in the NBA draft.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Walt Bellamy,” IU coach Tom Crean said.

“He was one of the most honored individuals that has ever been a part of the Hoosier basketball program. Our team had the privilege to meet him in 2008 at the Wheeler-Dowe Boys and Girls Club in Indianapolis and you realized what a special man he was. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Bellamy averaged 20.5 points and 15.5 rebounds during his Hoosiers career, the latter being an IU record. The North Carolina native, who played for Hall of Fame coach Branch McCracken, also has the single-season record for rebounds (649), single-game rebounds (33) and double-doubles (59).

“If you are naming the all-time best player at Indiana University, Walt Bellamy has to be in the conversation,” said Bob Hammel, IU Hall of Famer and former sports editor of the Bloomington Herald Times, in a statement from the athletic department. “He was so powerful and very agile and was always appreciative of the recognition he received from IU.”

A year before beginning his pro career, Bellamy joined Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas in earning the U.S. an Olympic gold medal in 1960.

The Chicago Packers took Bellamy with the first pick, and he became the first IU player to earn rookie-of-the-year honors from the NBA. He was inducted in the IU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982 and named a member of the Hoosiers’ All-Century team in 2000.

Bellamy played in the NBA for 14 years and was a four-time All-Star. He averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 rebounds during his career. He was the rookie of the year with Chicago, averaging 31.6 points and 19.0 rebounds, and also played for the Baltimore Bullets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta and New Orleans Jazz. He played in four All-Star games and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

“Walt Bellamy was an enormously gifted Hall of Fame player who had a tremendous impact on our game,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement released by the league. “Off the court, he was an even more extraordinary person. Walt is going to be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. On behalf of the entire NBA family, our condolences and thoughts go out to Walt’s family.”

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