SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Nate Thurmond, a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the “Miracle at Richfield” season, passed away Saturday in San Francisco after a short bout with leukemia. He was 74.
Thurmond was born July 25, 1941, in Akron, Ohio. He played at Central Hower High School and continued his basketball career in Ohio at Bowling Green State University. He was drafted by the then San Francisco Warriors as the third overall pick of the 1963 NBA draft.
Thurmond played for the Warriors until he was traded to the Chicago Bulls in 1974. The next year he was traded to Cleveland and according to his biography on NBA.com, is largely credited for revitalizing the team. The Cavs went 43-22 after he joined the team and, in “the Miracle of Richfield” season, won the Central Division and made it to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The team then eliminated Washington in a seven-game conference semifinal series before falling to Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.
His #42 jersey was retired by both the Warriors and the Cavaliers. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985. In 1996, he was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
The Cavs released the following statement:
“We are very saddened by the loss of Nate Thurmond. Nate’s jersey hangs in the rafters at The Q because of the unselfish way the Akron native and Hall of Famer approached the game we all love, the teammate that he was, his profound impact on one of the most special seasons in Cavaliers history, and the way that all translated on and off the court to reflect the ‘All for One. One for All.’ code. Just as Nate always held the Miracle team, the Coliseum crowds and his local roots dear to him, the Cavaliers franchise will always love and respect him as a true Cavalier legend. We extend our deepest condolences to Nate’s wife, Marci, and their family during this difficult time.”