Rick Barry is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He played in both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the short lived but extremely influential American Basketball Association (ABA). Rick Barry is the only player in history to lead the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), NBA and ABA in single-season scoring. When the NBA celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996, Barry was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in history. Aside from all these amazing accomplishments, Rick Barry is perhaps best known for his extremely effective but comically unorthodox underhand ‘granny style’ free throw shooting action. The effectiveness of that action however, was unquestionable and Barry’s free throw numbers don’t lie. When he retired in 1980, he had made 89.3 percent of all the free throws he took in his career. At that point of time, it was the highest career free throw percentage in NBA history (2 time Most Valuable Player Steve Nash is the current number 1 with a 90.43 career free throw percentage).
Seven years after Rick Barry retired, he was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall Of Fame at Springfield, Massachusetts. Two of his sons, Brent Barry and Jon Barry also had successful NBA careers. Brent Barry won the 1996 Slam Dunk Contest and two championship rings with the San Antonio Spurs. Currently, Brent Barry works as a commentator for NBA on TNT and Jon Barry works as a basketball analyst for ABC and ESPN.
Rick Barry starred for the University of Miami as an All-American basketball player for three seasons. During the 1964–65 college basketball season, Barry averaged 37.4 points per game, and led the NCAA. He ended up being one of just two basketball players to have their number retired by the university. Upon the completion of his college basketball career, Rick Barry was selected by the San Francisco Warriors with the second pick of the 1965 NBA Draft.
He made an immediate impact for the Warriors team as they improved from 17 to 35 wins. During that year’s All Star Game, Rick Barry exploded for 38 points as the underdog Western Conference All Star team upset the Eastern Conference All Star team loaded with hall of famers like Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell.
Nicknamed the ‘Miami Greyhound’ for his remarkable quickness and slender frame, Rick Barry went on to win the Rookie of the Year award. The following year, he won the All Star Game MVP award and averaged 35.6 points per game to lead the NBA in scoring for the season. Along with superstar center Nate Thurmond, Barry took the Warriors to the NBA Finals where they faced the mighty Philadelphia 76ers. The Warriors lost in six games but Barry averaged 40.8 points per game. This Finals record stood for almost three decades until it was broken by Michael Jordan. However, Rick Barry still holds the record for the highest career scoring average in the Finals at 36.3 points per game.
At the end of the season, Rick Barry became upset at the unpaid financial incentives from the Warriors’ side and left the NBA for the Oakland Oaks of the ABA. He had a very successful career in the ABA. He returned to the NBA with the Golden State Warriors in 1972. Two seasons later, the Warriors won the NBA championship with a four game sweep of the Washington Bullets. Rick Barry was named the Finals MVP and has been a part of Warriors folklore ever since. With a host of knee injuries taking their toll, Rick Barry retired from the NBA in 1980, forever etched in the heart of every Warriors fan.
Which is the reason why his opinion on the situation involving current Warriors superstar Kevin Durant, holds a lot of weight. During the 2016 NBA playoffs, the Golden State Warriors famously came back from a 3-1 deficit during the Western Conference Finals against an Oklahoma City Thunder team led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Ironically, the Warriors went on to lose a 3-1 lead against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. During the off season, Kevin Durant shocked the world by leaving Oklahoma City as a free agent and signing with the Golden State Warriors. The move was heavily criticised with ESPN‘s Stephen A Smith going as far as calling it the ‘weakest move by a superstar in NBA history’.
Durant however, has managed to reduce some degree of criticism by winning back to back NBA championships and Finals MVP trophies with the Warriors. Even then, a lot of people still blame Durant for his alleged ‘lack of loyalty’ towards the Thunder team and Russell Westbrook. However, if there is one proponent of player mobility in the NBA, it has to be Rick Barry. He played in both the NBA and the ABA as per his choice and he is fully in Durant’s corner in this situation.
The 74 year old praised the Warriors offensive system and how it helps Durant be the best version of himself. He also took not-so-subtle shots at Durant’s former ball dominant teammates, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. This is what he had to say: “Kevin Durant is going to become a better basketball player by becoming a Golden State Warrior. He’s going to be involved in a system where he’s actually going to have the ball, he’s going to play with a bunch of unselfish players, he’ll get more easy shots than ever before and he’s going to have more fun playing basketball.”
He went on to say this about Westbrook and Harden: “They are fantastic players. The skill and the things they do are unbelievable, and how hard they both play. Except I wouldn’t want to be standing around on the wing when my point guard has the ball for 22 seconds and then he can’t get a shot off and he throws it to me with one or two on the clock and I’ve got to throw up a prayer. How much fun is that? It’s no fun to watch. And it’s worse to have to be a part of it playing under those circumstances.”