Hall-of-Famer on both sides of Celtics-Lakers rivalry
By Greg Beacham October 25, 2013 4:14PM
FILE - In this April 6, 2012, file photo, Bill Sharman gesturing as he is honored along with other members of the 1974 Los Angeles Lakers Championship team, in Los Angeles. Sharman, the Hall of Famer who won NBA titles as a player for the Boston Celtics and a coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, has died. He was 87. Sharman died Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, at his home in Redondo Beach, the Lakers announced. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas, File)
Updated: October 26, 2013 5:38PM
LOS ANGELES — Bill Sharman, the Hall of Famer who won NBA titles as a player for the Boston Celtics and a coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, has died. He was 87.
Mr. Sharman died Friday at his home in Redondo Beach, the Lakers announced.
Mr. Sharman’s unique basketball career spanned both sides of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry over a half-century in the sport as a smooth shooting guard, a championship-winning coach and a successful executive.
“Bill Sharman was, without a doubt, one of the greatest human beings I have ever met, and one of my all-time favorite individuals, both as a competitor and as a friend,” said Jerry West, who played for Mr. Sharman and worked alongside him in the Lakers’ front office. “He was the epitome of class and dignity and, I can assure you, we find few men of his character in this world.”
Mr. Sharman won four NBA titles during an 11-season career as a shooting guard in Boston, teaming with Bob Cousy in one of the most potent backcourts in league history. He was widely considered one of the greatest shooters of his era, and he’s still ranked as one of the NBA’s best free-throw shooters.
Mr. Sharman then spent the past four decades with Los Angeles as a coach and executive. In his first season in charge, he coached the 1971-72 Lakers to a championship with 69 victories — then an NBA record — and a 33-game winning streak, the longest in pro sports history.
“His knowledge and passion for the game were unsurpassed, and the Lakers and our fans were beneficiaries of that,” Lakers President Jeanie Buss said. “Despite his greatness as a player, coach and executive, Bill was one of the sweetest, nicest and most humble people I’ve ever known. He was truly one of a kind.”
Mr. Sharman was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1976 and a coach in 2004, joining only John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens with that double distinction. In 1996, he was selected as one of the NBA’s 50 best players of its first 50 years.
“Bill Sharman was a great man, and I loved him dearly,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “From the time I signed with the team as a free agent in 1981 when Bill was general manager, he’s been a mentor, a work collaborator, and most importantly, a friend. He’s meant a great deal to the success of the Lakers and to me personally, and he will be missed terribly.”
William Walton Sharman was born May 25, 1926, in Abilene, Texas. He grew up in the Los Angeles area and in the San Joaquin Valley before becoming a star guard at Southern California, where his jersey is retired.
Mr. Sharman also excelled in baseball, getting drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950. A year later, the minor leaguer was called up to the Dodgers in time to be in the dugout at the Polo Grounds when the Giants’ Bobby Thomson hit his famed “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” the homer that beat Brooklyn for the 1951 NL pennant.
He played his first NBA season with the Washington Capitols in 1950-51, but Red Auerbach landed him for Boston after the Capitols folded. Mr. Sharman became an eight-time NBA All-Star with the Celtics, averaging 17.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in his 11-year career.
The outside shooting specialist excelled after the NBA introduced the shot clock in 1954, and the arrival of Bill Russell and Tom Heinsohn in 1956 propelled the Celtics to the franchise’s first title — the first of four NBA crowns in the next five years for Sharman.
Mr. Sharman also played baseball during the NBA offseason for five straight years, but never made it as a major leaguer.