Monday, February 19, 2007

Wayne Federman at Harrah's during All-Star Week

A look at Pistol Pete and more
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Kevin Hench / Special to
Feb. 18, 2007

Hanging out at the free carbs media brunch at the MGM Grand on Sunday morning, I caught up with Wayne Federman, the world's foremost Pete Maravich biographer/comedian.

After a week of slaying 'em at Harrah's, Federman, co-author of Maravich, fielded questions about Vegas, All-Star weekend and his favorite NBA subject, Pistol Pete.

1. The big question surrounding this weekend's festivities is should the NBA make a permanent home in Las Vegas. What do you think?

I don't know if this is such a great idea. Every time a guy goes 3-for-17 you'll wonder if he's shaving points. They'll be surrounded by strippers, hookers, pimps, gamblers and gangsters — and that's just at the buffet line at Treasure Island — but the players will still have a dress code. No jeans! And now that they all have at least a semester of college under their belt, the NBA doesn't have to worry if they're mature enough to handle Vegas. I mean, how could a 19-year-old millionaire get into trouble here? Impossible.

If the NBA has a team in Vegas, the so-called "fifth quarter" will be extended to three overtimes. And there will be a whole bunch of new proposition bets. You'll be able to bet the over-under on positive paternity tests or get odds on Tim Hardaway and Elton John co-hosting a charity event.

2. If Bird and Magic through Jordan was basketball's Golden Age, where do you see the league right now?

I think the league is in great shape. The globalization of the game is incredible. I mean, just 10 years ago could you imagine that the two best players in the league would be Canadian and German? Not after the Leo Rautins and Uwe Blab flameouts. Like any era, there are only about eight teams you care about, but that's to be expected. I mean, does anybody really want to watch the Milwaukee Bucks? Or did they fold? Are they still in the league?

3. It's the 30th anniversary of Pete Maravich leading the NBA in scoring and the 10th anniversary of his being named to the Top 50 all-time team. Where do you see the Pistol's influence?

Well, Pete only had the moustache for a couple of years, the ancient mariner look, but it's great to see young Adam Morrison picking up the mantle. It just gives you that moment of hesitation, is that a basketball player or an arms dealer?

You see Pete's influence everywhere in the league. Steve Nash goes between his legs three times just bringing the ball up the court. What is common now was extraordinary when Pete was doing it. Nobody was making behind the back passes. Pete used to say that there was a method behind throwing a behind the back pass, that it gave another option for the defender to think about. Pete was all about misdirection, like a great close-up magician. Not like David Copperfield who makes entire airplanes disappear.

4. Bird won three MVPs and Nash has won two, but there hasn't been a white scoring champ since Maravich. Do you root for Pete to maintain this legacy?

Wow, I hadn't thought about that. I guess I'm just color blind when it comes to the NBA. I just see ballplayers. But now that you mention it, I guess Pete was white.

5. A young Dick Bavetta made a dubious charge call that led to Maravich fouling out of his career-high 68-point game in 1977. Do you feel a measure of satisfaction with Bavetta's loss to Charles Barkley on Saturday?

Bavetta still can't keep up with the speed of the league, even if the league is a 44-year-old, 300-pound, hungover TV commentator. Tom McMillan still hasn't gotten set on the one charge call where Bavetta waved off a Maravich basket. The bucket should have counted and Pete should have gone to the line. That would have been 71 right there.

6. Pete must have loved the All-Star game, the one game every year where nobody else played any defense either.

He was playing zone defense when the rest of the league was playing man-to-man. It's just another example of his artistry. Of course there are a couple of people, including Pat Riley, who had their career highs against Pete.

7. Doesn't the All-Star skills competition look like something right out of a Maravich instructional video?

It's almost like it was designed by his dad Press Maravich, except he would make Pete do it blindfolded hanging out a moving car.

8. Wouldn't Pete have owned the 3-point contest?

He loved the idea of the 3-point shot. Anything that made the game more exciting to the fans, he liked. Pete said, "The game is entertainment for the fans. It's not for the coaches, it's not for the players, it's for the fans. If you don't have the product that's marketed right, that's out there, that's entertaining, nobody will show up." In his one NBA season with the 3-pointer Pete went 10-for-15 from behind the arc as a part-time player for the Celtics, so the mind boggles at what might have been had he had the 3-pointer for his whole career.

9. Is it just me or has the All-Star game lost a little of its luster?

It's just you, you've lost a little of your luster. Pete had an idea for the All-Star game. Instead of teams of 12, he wanted to go five-on-five for the whole game. That's a game you wouldn't forget. There's always a point in the second quarter of the All-Star game where the subs come in and the game loses some juice. Pete's idea would have solved that. Not sure what his contingency plan was for guys getting hurt.

10. What can the hoop world learn about Pete Maravich that it doesn't already know by reading your book?

Well, one thing people don't know is that Pete's teams won 82 percent of the games in which he scored 40 or more points. What that tells me is Pete should have shot more. Also, Pete is the only player in NBA history to score 50 points on Super Bowl Sunday, which he did in 1972 against the Sixers. But you probably knew that.

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