Five-time NBA champion and seven-time NBA All-Star Slater Martin died Thursday at a skilled nursing facility in Houston after falling ill. He was 86.
Fox Sports reports Martin, a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, is considered one of the league’s all-time defensive greats and most accomplished winners. Martin won four NBA titles with the George Mikan-led Minneapolis Lakers and another with the St. Louis Hawks in 1958.
The New York Times described Martin as the archetype of today’s point guards. While the Lakers’ success stemmed from star center Mikan and an accomplished front court, Martin was the man who put the ball in motion and stopped the other team’s best scoring guards.
”I think he’s the best defensive guard that ever lived. That includes all the ones right now,” Sid Hartman, 92, who served as the de-facto general manager of the Lakers, told Fox Sports.
Martin’s last season with the Lakers coincided with the Lakers’ last season in Minneapolis, the team departing Los Angeles. In 2002, the current Lakers’ honored Martin and the other surviving stars from the Minneapolis Lakers with a ceremony. Six of the Lakers 30+ National Titles were won while in Minneapolis.
Martin played collegiate ball at Texas, once scoring 49 points in a win against TCU. He later became a coach in the ABA.
Most stories on the web after the five-time NBA champion’s death on Thursday mentioned Bob Cousy, the talented guard for the Boston Celtics whom Martin was particularly adept at guarding.
“Cousy could do all that stuff, going behind his back and everything, but of course they let him get away with palming the ball,” Martin once said. “But he went behind his back on me, and I told him that if he did that again that I would break his nose. He didn’t do it again.”
Slater Martin averaged 9.8 points per game for his career, which took place before the advent of the shot clock, and 4.2 assists per game.
Martin is survived by sons Jim and Slater Jr.