Hundreds Mourn Basketball Great
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Hundreds of mourners heard basketball great ″Pistol″ Pete Maravich eulogized Saturday as a man whose evangelical Christian zeal surpassed his love for the sport that made him a superstar.
″His last 45 minutes on this earth were spent at a church, playing basketball, which seems rather fitting,″ said Dr. James Dobson, who was with Maravich when he died of heart failure Tuesday.
Maravich, 40, had just finished playing a pickup basketball game with Dobson and several other men at a Pasadena, Calif., church when he collapsed. He had traveled to California from his home in Covington, La., to tape a Christian radio show for the Focus on the Family program, a ministry directed by Dobson.
His funeral was held at First Baptist Church of Baton Rouge, not far from the Louisiana State University basketball campus where he wowed fans with his unique brand of athletic showmanship from 1968 until 1970, when he moved on to a 10-year pro career that led to the Hall of Fame. He played with the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Jazz and Boston Celtics.
More than 600 people braved icy winds and temperatures just above freezing to attend the service. Maravich’s widow, Jackie, cried and put her head on the shoulder of a relative as Dobson delivered the eulogy. Their sons Jaeson, 8, and Joshua, 6, were not at the funeral.
″Basketball at one time was his greatest love,″ said Dobson. ″But his greatest passion was the love of the Lord he served.″
Among Maravich’s LSU teammates in attendance were Rusty Bergman, Bill Whittle and Rich Hickman. Also there was Collis Temple, LSU’s first black basketball player, who was recruited by Pete’s father, Coach Press Maravich.
Burial was at Resthaven Gardens of Memory.
The Maravich family has asked that donations be sent to the Pete Maravich Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 1321, Covington, La., 70433.
Medical experts said preliminary autopsy findings indicated Maravich could have had an undetected blockage of arteries supplying blood to his heart. Also, he could have suffered a sudden disturbance in his heart’s electrical system.