Longtime NBA fixture Paul Westphal — a multi-time All-Star as a player in the 1970s and ’80s who later found success as a head coach — has been diagnosed with brain cancer. New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica, who has been a close friend of Westphal for the last five decades, shared word of the Hall of Famer’s diagnosis via Twitter on Sunday.
“I’ve been close friends with Paul Westphal since his 1972-73 rookie year with the Boston Celtics and had the pleasure of celebrating his wonderful career with him last September when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame,” wrote Lupica in an image accompanying his tweet. “With his permission I am letting the basketball world know he has just been diagnosed with brain cancer. Specifically glioblastoma. Please pray for [my] friend, No. 44.”
Per the Mayo Clinic, glioblastoma is an aggressive form of cancer that forms from nerve-supporting cells called astrocytes and occurs in either the brain or spinal cord. It can occur at any age but does so more often in older adults. Symptoms include worsening headaches, nausea, vomiting and seizures. The firm further states that glioblastoma can be very difficult to treat and that a cure is often not possible.
The 69-year-old Westphal last worked in the league as an assistant for the Brooklyn Nets under head coach Lionel Hollins, however, he had been a presence in the association and around the basketball world in general for 50-plus years.
After averaging 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game as a senior for the USC Trojans, Westphal was drafted 10th overall by the Celtics in 1972. Following a three-year stint in Boston — during which his team won the 1974 NBA championship — he moved on to the Phoenix Suns, with whom he enjoyed his best years as a professional player. Over six seasons with the Suns, he enjoyed a five-year run of averaging 20-plus points per game every season and made four All-Star teams.
He was selected as an All-Star for a fifth and final time during a brief stint with the Seattle SuperSonics. Westphal also spent time with the New York Knicks toward the end of his career. Over 823 games played, he averaged 16 points and four assists per contest while making better than 50 percent of his shot attempts.
After his playing career concluded, he spent parts of 10 seasons as a head coach in the league, leading the Suns, Sonics and Sacramento Kings at various junctures. In 1993, he and star forward Charles Barkley led Phoenix to the 1993 NBA Finals, where they eventually fell to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
In other news, Barkley recently opined that Giannis Antetokounmpo’s situation with the Milwaukee Bucks could come to mirror Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City and messy divorce from the Thunder.