Today in Sports History: April 12

On April 12, 1958, Bob Pettit put on one of the most memorable NBA Finals closeout performances in history to lead the St. Louis Hawks to the franchise’s one-and-only NBA title. Pettit finished the clinching Game 6 with 50 points and 19 rebounds as the Hawks defeated the defending world champion Celtics, 110-109. To this day, no player has recorded 50 points in an NBA Finals closeout game. Only five other players, Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, Jerry West, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James, have since recorded 50 + points in any NBA Finals game. This remarkable performance in Game 6 of the 1958 NBA Finals stands as the most talked-about moment in Pettit’s legendary Hall of Fame playing career. Their 1958 title victory provided revenge for the Hawks, who had lost to the Celtics in the 1957 NBA Finals in a heartbreaking double-overtime Game 7.

Pettit will always be considered one of the greatest power forwards of all-time. He was the first-awarded league MVP in 1955-56 and again won the MVP award in 1958-59. Throughout his incredible 11-year playing career, he was voted to play in the All-Star game each of those seasons. Four times, Pettit captured the All-Star Game MVP award – something that only Kobe Bryant has since achieved. In the first ten of his eleven seasons, Pettit was named to the All-NBA First Team. Pettit stands as one of only ten players throughout NBA history with 10 All-NBA First Team selections.

Pettit, one of the all-time great scorers, and a two-time scoring champion, became the first player ever to score 20,000 career regular season points. He retired with a superb career regular season average of 26.4 points per game (no. 8 all-time) and a career playoff average of 25.5 points per game (no. 13 all-time). Pettit was also one of the most efficient rebounders in NBA history with a 16.2 per game career regular season average (no. 3 all-time) and a 14.8 per game career playoff average (no. 4 all-time). He truly dominated at the power forward position during his time and very few at the position have since been as formidable a force as he was. 

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