Shooting The Pistol

Review by Willard Manus

Pete Maravich was one of the greatest basketball players ever to play the game. Tall and skinny, with floppy hair and equally floppy socks, he was not only a deadeye shooter, but a dazzling ballhandler and one of the most competitive players ever to hit the boards. On Jan. 31, 1970, the LSU star scored 53 points against Ole Miss, breaking the NCAA scoring record set by Oscar Robertson (2,973 points). "Pistol Pete" rang up all those points without benefit of the three-point rule, averaging 44.2 points a game for LSU.

Maravich went on to play professionally and, in 1987, was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. A few years later he was named one of the fifty greatest NBA players in history by a committee comprised of NBA players, historians and coaches. Maravich, who died in 1988 while playing in a pickup game in California (cause of death was a congenital heart defect, which meant he had competed all those years with only half a functioning organ), has been the subject of many books and documentaries.

SHOOTING THE PISTOL: COURTSIDE PHOTOS OF PETE MARAVICH AT LSU (LSU Press) manages, though, to shed new light on Maravich. The 120-page book contains dozens of black and white photographs of him, shot by Danny Brown, who was a fellow student at LSU and a journalism major. Assigned by the college paper to cover basketball, Brown shot hundreds of photographs during Maravich's LSU games, the best of which are contained in the book, along with his personal comments.

"Pete and I were friends, but certainly not bosom buddies," Brown admits. "If you hear anyone say they were intimate friends with Pete Maravich, be skeptical. In my experience, Pete was not close to anyone, with the possible exception of his father (who coached him at LSU), a few teammates, and Assistant Coach Jay McCreary."

There was a mystique about Pistol Pete and Brown's book manages to capture it along with his astonishing gifts as a player.