After a battle with a heart condition, Wichita State University basketball legend Dave Stallworth died at the age of 75 on March 16.
Stallworth, who earned the nickname “Dave the Rave”, was known for leading the Shockers to national prominence during his collegiate days and then playing a key role for the New York Knicks. He was born in Dallas, Texas and was listed as a 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward/center.
Here’s what you need to know about Stallworth and his death:
1. Stallworth Set Wichita State Basketball Records
Stallworth graduated from James Madison High School in 1961 in Dallas and went on to have a successful basketball career at Wichita State.
He played three seasons for the Shockers and set 18 school records in the span, including having the highest career point per game average in school history (24.2 points). His tenacity on both ends of the court helped the Shockers to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 1964, the same season he earned Associated Press First Team All-American honors.
In his final season at the school, Stallworth helped the Shockers to a Final Four berth in 1964-65, but he didn’t play because he had used up his collegiate eligibility by the semester break. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of the team’s Final Four run in 2015 in a ceremony at a game, but was constrained to a wheelchair.
He was the first player in Wichita State history to have his jersey retired by the school.
2. He Won an NBA Championship With the Knicks
Despite not playing in the last half of his senior season at WSU, Stallworth was the No. 3 pick in the 1965 NBA draft and went on to have a solid professional career.
During his rookie season, Stallworth averaged 12.6 points to go along with 6.2 rebounds, but took second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Rick Barry of the San Francisco Warriors. The next season, he improved upon the marks and averaged 13 points with 6.2 rebounds once again.
His highest professional accomplishment came in 1969, playing a key role when the Knicks won the NBA championship against the Los Angeles Lakers, who had a star-studded cast with Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor among those on the roster.
Most notably, the Finals series was tied, 2-2, and Knicks star Willis Reed suffered a leg injury in Game 5. Reed’s replacement and Stallworth’s former WSU teammate Nate Bowman was tasked with trying to stick with Chamberlain, but struggled. So the Knicks turned to Stallworth, and he thrived.
Stallworth, along with Knicks forward Cazzie Russell, led the Knicks to the Game 5 win in LA with a couple of huge plays.
Led by Reed’s return to the court in Game 7 in the Finals, the Knicks won the championship against the Lakers. That season, Stallworth averaged 7.8 points to go along with 3.9 rebounds. He remained on the roster for one additional season until he was traded to the Baltimore Bullets in 1971. His NBA career lasted six seasons.
3. Stallworth Was Hospitalized In the 1960s & Missed 2 Seasons
On March 8, 1967, it was reported by the Lawrence Journal that Stallworth’s NBA career may be have been coming to an end. He was hospitalized with a heart condition that kept him sidelined.
“Stallworth suffered a heart attack,” said Dr. Kazua Yanagisawa said in the article. “He had twinges a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t think anything of it. He got hit with the heart attack Saturday night.”
The heart attack and surrounding issues forced Stallworth out of the league for two seasons.
He was eventually able to regain his strength and played amateur basketball for a while before making a return to the Knicks. He resumed playing for the Knicks in 1968 at 28-years old.
4. Stallworth Coached Basketball During His Professional Career
During the two seasons that Stallworth was sidelined with the heart ailment, he was never officially away from basketball.
Instead, he spent time living in both Compton, California and back in Wichita. While he recovered, he returned to WSU work for the team as an assistant. He was able to rehab there a bit and get back into basketball shape.
After working as an assistant, Stallworth coached a team in the National Amateur Basketball Association, the Wichita Builders. Soon enough, Stallworth was back playing the game that he loved, working out with the team as he got ready to resume his NBA career.
5. He Worked for Boeing When he Retired
Stallworth retired from basketball in 1975 after playing one more season — seven games — with the Knicks.
After his playing days were through, Stallworth got a job at Boeing in Wichita. The New York Post reported that he worked for the company as a manager.
At the plant Stallworth made many friends, including CEOs and executives. He told The Wichita Eagle in 2013 that he gets embarrassed when people speak about his “greatness” or ask about his health.
“People don’t know what kind of condition I’m in, so it doesn’t bother me when they ask. Like I said, I’m OK,” he said in the article.