The basketball world has lost one of the game’s pioneers as three-time NBA champion and former All-Star Willie Naulls has died at the age of 84.
According to a report from Richard Goldstein of The New York Times, Naulls wife, Dr. Anne Van de Water Naulls, confirmed to the paper that her husband had passed after respiratory failure resulting from Churg-Strauss syndrome, a rare condition that can restrict blood flow to vital organs and tissues.
A former UCLA Bruins standout during the John Wooden years, Naulls helped the Boston Celtics win three consecutive NBA championships from 1964-1966 and was also a three-time All-Star (1958, 1960 and 1962) during his time with the New York Knicks.
In the early 1960’s, Naulls became the first African-American in any of the major American sports to serve as a team captain as his Knicks teammates chose for him to serve in that role during his time with the franchise.
Naulls made 716 career appearances as a member of the Knicks, Celtics, San Francisco Warriors and St. Louis Hawks and owned career averages of 15.8 points to go along with 9.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 28.8 minutes per game.