Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich

Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich

by Mark Kriegel


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743284981
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 02/05/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 108,513
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Mark Kriegel is the author of the critically acclaimed bestseller Namath: A Biography.

Lloyd James has been narrating since 1996, has recorded over six hundred books in almost every genre, has earned six AudioFile Earphones Awards, and is a two-time nominee for the prestigious Audie Award.

Read an Excerpt


January 5, 1988.

They cannot see him, this slouched, ashen-faced man in their midst. To their oblivious eyes, he remains what he had been, unblemished by the years, much as he appeared on his first bubblegum card: a Beatlesque halo of hair, the fresh-faced, sad-eyed wizard cradling a grainy, leather orb.

One of the regulars, a certified public accountant, had retrieved this very artifact the night before. He found it in a shoebox, tucked away with an old train set and a wooden fort in a crawlspace in his parents' basement. He brought it to the gym this morning to have it signed, or perhaps, in some way, sanctified. The 1970 rookie card of Pete Maravich, to whom the Atlanta Hawks had just awarded the richest contract in professional sport, notes the outstanding facts: that Maravich had been coached by his father, under whose tutelage he became "the most prolific scorer in the history of college basketball."

Other salient statistics are provided in agate type: an average of 44.2 points a game, a total of 3,667 (this when nobody had scored 3,000). The records will never be broken. Still, they are woefully inadequate in measuring the contours of the Maravich myth.

Even the CPA, for whom arithmetic is a vocation, understands the limitation in mere numbers. There is no integer denoting magic or memory. "He was important to us," the accountant would say.

Maravich wasn't an archetype; he was several: child prodigy, prodigal son, his father's ransom in a Faustian bargain. He was a creature of contradictions, ever alone: the white hope of a black sport, a virtuoso stuck in an ensemble, an exuberant showman who couldn't look you in the eye, a vegetarian boozer, the athlete who lived like a rock star, a profligate, suicidal genius saved by Jesus Christ.

Still, it's his caricature that evokes unqualified affection in men of a certain age. Pistol Pete, they called him. The Pistol is another relic of the seventies, not unlike bongs or Bruce Lee flicks: the skinny kid who mesmerized the basketball world with Globetrotter moves, floppy socks, and great hair.

Pistol Pete was, in fact, his father's vision, built to the old man's exacting specifications. Press Maravich was a Serb. Ideas and language occurred to him in the mother tongue, and so one imagines him speaking to Pistol (yes, that's what he called him, too) as a father addressing his son in an old Serbian song: Cuj me sine oci moje, Cuvaj ono sto je tvoje...Listen to me, eyes of mine, guard that which is thine...

The game in progress is a dance in deference to this patrimony. The Pistol is an inheritance, not just for the Maraviches, but for all the American sons who play this American game. The squeak of sneakers against the floor produces an oddly chirping melody. Then there's another rhythm, the respiration of men well past their prime, an assortment of white guys: the accountant, insurance salesmen, financial planners, even a preacher or two. "Just a bunch of duffers," recalls one. "Fat old men," smirks another.

But they play as if Pistol Pete, or what's left of him, could summon the boys they once were. They acknowledge him with a superfluous flourish, vestigial teenage vanity — an extra behind-the-back pass or an unnecessary between-the-legs dribble. The preacher, a gentle-voiced man of great renown in evangelical circles, reveals a feverishly competitive nature. After hitting a shot, he is heard to bellow, "You get that on camera?"

The Parker Gymnasium at Pasadena's First Church of the Nazarene could pass for a good high school gym — a clean, cavernous space with arching wooden rafters and large windows. At dawn, fully energized halogen lamps give off a glow to the outside world, a beacon to spirits searching for a game. As a boy, Maravich would have considered this a kind of heaven. Now, it's a way station of sorts.

Pete begins wearily. He hasn't played in a long time and moves at one-quarter speed, if that. He does not jump; he shuffles. The ball seems like a shotput in his hands, his second attempt at the basket barely touching the front of the rim.

But gradually, as the pace of his breath melds with the others' and he starts to sweat, Pete Maravich recovers something in himself. "The glimpse of greatness was in his ballhandling," recalls the accountant. "Every once in a while the hands would flicker. There would just be some kind of dribble or something. You could see a little of it in his hands, the greatness. Just the quickness of the beat."

There was genius in that odd beat, the unexpected cadence, a measure of music. The Pistol's talent, now as then, was musical. He was as fluent as Mozart — his game rising to the level of language — but he was sold like Elvis, the white guy performing in a black idiom. And for a time, he was mad like Elvis, too.

Once, in an attempt to establish contact with extraterrestrial life, he painted a message on his roof: "Take me."

Deliver me, he meant.

Now the accountant tries to blow past Pete with a nifty spin move. Pete tells him not to believe his own hype.

The Pistol wears an easy grin. The men in this game are avid readers of the Bible. But perhaps the truth of this morning is to be found in the Koran: "Remember that the life of this world is but a sport and a pastime."

Pete banks one in.

That smile again. What a goof.

The game ends. Guys trudge off to the water fountain. Pete continues to shoot around.

And now, you wonder what he sees. Was it as he used to imagine? "The space will open up," he once said. "Beyond that will be heaven and when you go inside, then the space closes again and you are there...definitely a wonderful place...everyone you ever knew will be there."

Back on earth, the preacher asks Pete Maravich how he feels.

"I feel great," he says.

Soon the phone will ring in Covington, Louisiana. A five-year-old boy hears the maid let out a sharp piercing howl. Then big old Irma quickly ushers the boy and his brother into another room. The boy closes the door behind him and considers himself in the mirror. He has his father's eyes. That's what everyone says. Eyes of mine, guard that which is thine. Guard that which fathers give to their sons to give to their sons.

The boy looks through himself, and he knows:

"My daddy's dead."

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Kriegel

Table of Contents



One: Special Opportunity

Two: Mr. Basketball

Three: Pro Ball

Four: The Cult of Press

Five: Country Gentlemen

Six: The Basketball Gene

Seven: The Devil in Ronnie Montini

Eight: "Pistol Pete"

Nine: Changing the Game

Ten: The Deep End

Eleven: King of the Cow Palace

Twelve: Showtime

Thirteen: One of Us

Fourteen: Marked Man

Fifteen: The Blackhawks

Sixteen: The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Pete

Seventeen: Take Me

Eighteen: Smothered

Nineteen: All That Jazz

Twenty: The Loser

Twenty-One: Take Me, Part 2

Twenty-Two: Amazing Grace

Twenty-Three: Patrimony




What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A delightfully written biography…. Highly recommended" —-Library Journal

Customer Reviews

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Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mark Kriegel has done it again. First, it was 'Namath' and now 'Pistol.' He may be the best sports biographer of his time. Pistol is a fantastic book. I've read it twice already.
Evadsllim More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this bio very much! From his fathers childhood to his own children and their beginnings, this book covers all of the influences that made Pete Maravich who he was, one of the most gifted basketball players ever!
ricme More than 1 year ago
If you watch hoop you have heard of Pistol Pete Maravich. This is as much a story of his father's life as it is his since the two were so intertwined. Watching our sports heros is so less complicated than learning of their lives and the struggles they endured. Pistol Pete's true motivation was so wrapped up in his father's expectations that the two cannot be separated and quantified individually. The way he played changed the game forever. When we watch Magic Johnson, Chris Paul or Rickey Rubio we know that all their moves have been done before, bigger, better and faster by the Pistol. Great story, well told.
nonnoDF More than 1 year ago
I was Pistol Pete's age and followed his career in the media. i had very little knowledge of his troubled youth and career. it's surprising how little we know about these icons during their heydays. it was sad for me to read about Pistol's troubles in college and in the NBA. I highly recommend this book for sport fans and especially for the fan who is interested in the man aside from his deeds reported in the box scores.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great biography of the troubled times of Pistol Pete. A behind the scenes look at both the legend and painful life of the Pistol. Pete fights the demons of alcohol, a pushy dad and an alcoholic mom to have a Hall of Fame career. This is a sports bio you must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a fabulous read. It was very easy to read and very easy to get in to. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes reading sports biographies. This biography doesn't even compare to other sports biographies that I have read. I have read many great books but "Pistol" is the best. Kriegel is an incredible author. I highly recommend this book to anyone of all ages!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mark Kriegel have written a book about one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Pistol Pete Maravich, a troubled star who wanted to be the best basketball player who ever lived but one who put so much pressure on himself that his game often suffered. Kriegel meticulously documents the father-son relationship of love and conflict that made the 'Pistol' what he became - one of the most flamboyant players of all time. This is a great sports book and Kriegel is to be commended. Frank Scoblete: author of Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution! and Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution!
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Enjoyed this book very much and learned quite a bit more than I ever knew about the Pistol....the author at times spent too much time on Petes father than he did Pete himself but it was well written and insightful nonetheless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best andmost honest sports stories that I have ever read. The detail of Pete's family (dad) was brilliantly portrayed in this book.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I Loved this book, cover to cover. I wish I wasn't finished. I am the ultimate Pete Maravich Fan....this told me stuff I don't know. Wow, what a life Press had. After Namath I thought Kriegel couldn't get any better. 'Pistol' is a great read. LOVED IT!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kriegel's 'Pistol' is extremely well written and concise. He doesn't miss a detail. Great exploration and research. Press finally is made real, not a caricature. I cannot say enough about this book. I read it compulsively for two days.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿¿ like Elvis, he paid a terrible price, becoming a prisoner of his own fame.¿ Pistol is a book about Pete Maravich and how his father, Press, pushed his son into becoming an outstanding basketball player. This biography is about Press¿s life and how he grew up, about his high school and college and coaching days. Then as the book goes on, it starts talking about his son, Pete¿s life and how Press affected it. Pete was Press¿s pride and joy. He didn¿t care about anything besides Pete and his basketball career. Pete was a varsity player in eighth grade. Everyone came just to see Pete and his amazing moves on the court. After his father convinces him to go to LSU, (he would buy him a car) he becomes even more like a god. No one ever saw passes between the legs, and behind the back and it was very rare when they saw someone dunk it. His college years finally came to an end and he met the love of his life, Jackie, and he got drafted into the NBA. He was always on the run. Going everywhere with the team, but he never forgot about his family. Pete had two kids, Jaeson and Joshua. Pete was never going to force his kids to play ball, unless they wanted to. Pete¿s death had a massive effect on everyone, from his kids to his wife and everyone that knew him. His second son, Josh felt as though he had to walk on to LSU for his dad, and just like his dad, he played basketball there. Their last name had a lot of effect on their lives. They thought that just because he was Pete Maravich¿s son, people looked at them as good basketball players too. Jaeson and Josh did put up with a lot before and after their dad¿s death, because that last name `Maravich¿ got them everywhere, and they weren¿t proud of being their dad¿s sons. They wanted to be known as Jaeson Maravich, and Josh Maravich. They didn¿t want to be known as Pete Maravich¿s kids.