5 Influential Former NBA Players Who Died In 2015

Photo: The White House 
Death is never an easy concept to grasp, even though it’s a natural part of this crazy game we call life. No matter your lifestyle, your profession, or your age, death does not discriminate. The NBA is no exception. The league has been built on the shoulders of some of the most influential figures in sport, and it seems as though we’ve had to say good-bye to far too many of them recently. However, as the season’s new beginning approaches, it seems an appropriate time not only to grieve the loss of these individuals, but also to celebrate their lives and their careers. Here are five players who died in 2015—but not before leaving a mark that will never be forgotten.

Anthony Mason
Mason died earlier this year in February due to a massive heart attack. It was his massive heart that he left on the floor every night, as he had a reputation of putting it all on the line on the defensive end. He was as tenacious as they come, and also a physical specimen to behold. Mason spent his tenure with five teams in his 13-year NBA career. Perhaps his most notable stint was with the New York Knicks during the 1993-94 season, where he was named the Sixth Man of the Year and helped the Knicks reach the NBA Finals where they squared off against the Houston Rockets. He was also named to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team in 2001 when he played for the Miami Heat.

Rod Hundley
Affectionately known as “Hot” Rod Hundley, he passed away earlier this year in March, although the details of his death were left undisclosed. In 1957, Hundley was selected first overall by the then-Cincinnati Royals before being traded to the then-Minneapolis Lakers. Due to bad knees, Hundley was forced to retire six years later, but quickly became a popular voice in the sports broadcasting world announcing play-by-plays for the Jazz in both New Orleans and Utah from 1974-2009. He called a total of 3,051 games for the franchise. NBA legend Jerry West has cited Hundley as an influence in his basketball journey, stating that Hundley was the one to convinced him to attend West Virginia. It was Hundley’s alma mater.

Earl Lloyd
Lloyd passed away earlier this year in February. Lloyd’s death brought upon much grief, as he was the first-ever black player to play in the NBA, paving the way for what is now a predominantly African-American and black-diasporic league. Lloyd played for the Washington Capitols in the 1950-51 season, but then underwent military service after the season was complete. He returned in the 1952-53 season and played for the Rochester Royals for six years, winning a championship with them in the process in 1955. After finishing off his career with the Detroit Pistons, Lloyd yet again made history by becoming the first black assistant coach in the NBA when he signed on with the Pistons’ staff.

Darryl Dawkins
Dawkins died near the end of the summer in late August, succumbing to a heart attack. Dawkins was easily one of the most vibrant personalities of the NBA and one of the forefathers of the art of dunking. His dunks were so creative that he even gave them names such as “Look Out Below” and “Yo Mama.” Creativity aside, his dunks were so powerful that on two separate occasions he shattered the backboard. Dawkins spent 14 years in NBA, seven of them with the Philadelphia 76ers with whom he played his best statistical season (points-wise) in 1983-84 when he posted an average of 16.8 points per game. Once his NBA career was over, he had a short stint with the Harlem Globetrotters, then played overseas in Italy. He also coached in both the minor league and junior college levels.

Moses Malone

The most recent passing on this list, Malone died last month in September. Malone left a mountain of a legacy that few can even compare to. A three-time league MVP and also one of the 50 greatest players of all time, Malone was one of the NBA’s premier big men, posting career ABA averages of 17.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game over 126 games. Upon his move into the NBA, he remained consistent, posting averages of 20.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. Malone is also credited as being one of the first players to go from high school to pro, and he played for 21 seasons. He won his first and only title in 1983 with the Sixers alongside Julius Erving.
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